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Nvidia Shield owners rejoice: You now have Amazon and more

The powerful streaming and gaming box has gotten better and better since its 2015 debut. The latest upgrade makes the original just as good as the all-new version. We go hands-on.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Software upgrades can be a beautiful thing.

The original Nvidia Shield streaming and gaming box made its debut in May 2015, and at the time we gave it a middling rating of 6.9 with 2.5 stars. It was too expensive and buggy, and didn't come close to the app selection of competitors like Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

What a difference 20 months and numerous software upgrades makes. We've revisited that review and increased the rating numerous times with the release of various software updates, which stabilized the system, added apps and introduced novel features like Plex server and storage expansion.

The latest, Shield Experience 5.0.2, adds the following capabilities to every Nvidia Shield Android TV box:

  • Amazon Video app, complete with 4K and HDR
  • New Games app with Android, GeForce Now and GameStream in one place (see below)
  • GeForceNow performance upgrade for streaming games
  • GameStream gets 4K and HDR capability, and access to Steam's Big Picture mode
  • Access to new games like No Man's Sky and The Witness
  • New Nest app lets you watch Nest Cams live or their video history
  • New apps including NFL, an upgraded Twitter for TV, Comedy Central and Vimeo
  • Android 7.0 Nougat, with a recent apps page, picture-in-picture and a new Settings menu

With these upgrades the "old" Shield achieves what Nvidia describes as "software parity" with the brand-new 2017 version, which launched a couple of weeks ago.

nvidia-shield-comparison-shots-05.jpg

The new controller (left) is slimmer and easier to grip, available for $60, and works with the original Shield box.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Since the new box has the exact same processing and graphics brains as the old one, according to Nvidia, any of the hardware differences between the two are found in the new, slimmer (and all-around better) controller.

Users of the original Shield can buy the new controller for $60 and get all of its functions, complete with far-field mic action for Google Assistant integration, coming later this year. The new controller (and the new remote) also offer infrared (IR) control so they can more easily command TV volume and power. Check out our full review of the updated Shield for more information.

shieldupgrade.jpg

Yes, please!

Screenshot by David Katzmaier

I tried out the update on an original Shield and it worked pretty much as advertised. Amazon videos played in 4K/HDR on my test TV with no problem, GeForce Now streaming worked as well as on the new box, and the new apps were all present and accounted-for.

There was one exception though. On the OG box with the new software there's no consolidated "Games" app. Instead, the three gaming sources (Shield Games, Game Stream and GeGorce Now) remained separate and on a row above the home page's main Apps line. I asked Nvidia for an explanation and was told the app would roll out separately from the main update.

Nvidia deserves credit for the constant updates and feature additions that allow original Shield owners to keep pace with hardware released nearly two years later. Rather than make Shield TV obsolete, the company just keeps making it better.

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