Last week was when NVIDIA rolled out their much-awaited operating system update. The Shield Experience 5.0 is based on Android Nougat, 7.0. A lot of the new features were covered in our original first look last year, but NVIDIA has added a number of small tweaks as well. In our dedication to Android TV, we’re taking a careful analysis at every difference that has been added. Our deep dive is below.
In every update, NVIDIA replaces the default wallpaper on the launcher. You can’t customize this background, although that would be neat, but NVIDIA does try to find fascinating images. In this update, they replace the previous image with one that seems to be of cells under a green neon light.
The settings are in fact now implemented as a panel that overlays the screen. As Daydream is now the name of Google’s VR efforts, so the previous feature is now named more aptly “screen saver”. The details of this feature are unchanged.
Down a little more you’ll see the settings for NVIDIA accessories. You’ll be able to look at current devices and pair new ones if necessary. One component of the original menu was battery details. You could go there to see if your controller had a low battery. Now this is made much more apparent through a low battery icon on the homescreen.
In addition to overlaid changes, the media toggle now displays “Media” above the seekbar. This change doesn’t seem justified. In Android there are three system volumes: media, notifications, and alarms. As the latter two lack interfaces on Android TV, there doesn’t seem to be a reason for differentiating. Each volume has a custom icon as well, further reducing any apparent confusion.
The biggest new addition is the Amazon Instant Video app that now is pre-loaded (can’t be uninstalled) on the Shield. It is just like the sideloaded version, and has roughly the same playback experience. Still, it’s much better for new users, and makes the Shield a more complete media device.
Aside from new apps, current apps have gotten a few changes. You may notice that the Apps and Games rows are now switched back to their original positions. Previously, it would be Recommendations, Shield Apps, Games, and Apps respectively. The priority of the Games row was contrary to every other Android TV. Now this has been corrected. Another notable omission is Netflix from the Shield Apps row. Don’t worry, it has moved out of that and into the standard Apps row. The app is still pre-installed.
With regards to gaming, the SHIELD Games app has added numerous changes that are detailed in this article.
Another small series of changes are around hardware. The Shield remote now adds a pause/play toggle when you double tap on the volume slider. The new Shield gamepad that ships with the 2017 model can be paired to the original, although it must be done as a Bluetooth device and not a through the standard interface.
Overall, NVIDIA seems to have done a pretty decent job of integrating all these changes and delivering another big update for their users. It’s great to see them accommodating older users, especially when the hardware is still fast and robust. They have made smart choices, such as implementing the Recents menu with a double tap instead of long tap on Home, and should be prepared for what comes next. Google Assistant will run great on the device thanks to the microphones embedded in the remotes. It should be even better once the Spot is released for the 2nd generation model.