There's a race to the bottom in the home entertainment world, created by the lower pricing for set-top boxes, the near ubiquity of built-in "smart" features for new televisions, and not least, Google's own low-priced efforts with the Chromecast. Compared to the rock-bottom pricing of gadgets like the Chromecast, the Amazon Fire TV Stick, and the market-dominating Roku boxes, Android TV is in a pickle. Stand-alone ATV units start at around $100, which is more expensive than the Roku you might buy (or the apps that come free with your TV), and less expensive than the home game console you might already have.
The official first-party remote control for NVIDIA's SHIELD Android TV set-top box is great. It uses more or less the same mini-remote design as the Nexus Player, Fire TV, Roku, and any number of similar streaming boxes, but it's made out of metal, the buttons are backlit, it has a built-in headphone jack for private listening, and it recharges via a MicroUSB port.
So you've read our exhaustive review of the NVIDIA SHIELD and decided that it's the Android TV device for you. Whelp, it's available for purchase right now in the US, from both NVIDIA's own store and Amazon.com. The standard 16GB SHIELD is $199.99, but it looks like the SHIELD Pro ($299.99) with its 500GB internal hard drive won't be available until June. According to the NVIDIA Store it's coming on the 3rd, while Amazon says it won't be in stock till the 12th.
SHIELD comes with $30 of free Google Play Store credit and 90 days of Google Play Music All Access.
Let's be honest here: there hasn't been much movement for Android TV since the Nexus Player was released way back in November. Though Sony has committed to using ATV in its upcoming smart TVs, the actual availability of Google's latest set-top box is depressingly low. But two gaming-centric Android TV units are on the horizon, and one of them is from veteran PC accessory vendor Razer. The Forge TV now has an unconfirmed release date (May 1st) and at least one pre-order retailer (Amazon).
The only thing available at the moment, and indeed, the only hint of the Forge TV we've seen since its unveiling at CES in January, is the "Forge TV Bundle." This includes the tiny Android TV set-top box and a premium "Serval" controller for $150.
In a lot of ways, NVIDIA's SHIELD (not to be confused with this SHIELD or that SHIELD) is a typical set-top box. And in many ways it isn't: though NVIDIA has built its living room invader on Android like the previous products in the line, the OS underneath is merely a means to an end. And that end is selling you games, in every form and fashion that the company can come up with.
SHIELD will release its Android TV-powered console sometime in May with a suggested retail price of $199. We took a good long look at both the hardware and the games that NVIDIA hopes you'll play on it.
We've known that Razer was working on its own branded version of an Android TV set-top box for more than half a year, but at CES 2015 the well-known gaming peripheral company has given the gadget its coming out party. The Razer Forge TV hopes to be the go-to choice for gamers, with support for up to four simultaneous players, keyboard and mouse input, and (eventually) streaming high-end games from a local gaming PC.
The Forge TV box itself is a nondescript slab that looks something like a blacked-out version of a Mac Mini with Razer's triple snake logo on top.
Roku already gave users the ability to stream content from their Android devices to their set top boxes, but now the company is taking things a bit further. Instead of select files, the company will give people to capability to stream whatever is on their screen. We've seen this from Miracast devices, we've seen it from Chromecast, and now we're seeing it from Roku. Update: In fact, Roku is using Miracast to deliver this functionality.
This feature, which is still in beta, will be available to people who own a Roku 3 or a Roku Streaming Stick. It is rolling out to folks starting today, and it should become available to everyone within a matter of weeks.
Last month I took Amazon's Fire TV for a test drive and came away pretty damn impressed. It's a nice box with a lot to like – but there's also some pretty stiff competition in the streaming box arena. Companies like Google and Roku are both ready to take your money in exchange for enhancing an otherwise stale television experience.
Since there a variety of options on the market today, we decided to take four of the most popular and put them in a head-to-head deathmatch. We've got Google's Chromecast, the Roku Streaming Stick, Roku 3, and Fire TV all ready to duke it out and answer one question: which one is worth your money?
Let's face it: at this point, Google TV is a certified flop. For all its good points, its adoption was hampered by expensive hardware, limited apps, and a clunky interface. Google is hoping to revive their set-top plans with "Android TV," an as-yet unverified platform revealed by The Verge last month. Others found more details of Android code powering a Google set-top box in the Android 4.4.3 changelog. Now anonymous sources tell GigaOM that the device will get a formal introduction, if not a full rollout, at Google I/O in June.
According to the report, which comes with no verifiable information of its own, Google will introduce Android TV as its next-generation television platform.