NVIDIA SHIELD

$200 (16 gigabytes storage); $300 (500GB drive)

Streaming player gets a jump on Apple version

With Apple expected to further delay an update to its already outdated Apple TV, consumers should take a look at Nvidia's new Shield device to get a sense of the future of streaming media players.

The Shield has many of the capabilities that are rumored to be in the works for Apple TV. But unlike the rumored Apple TV, the Shield was built to be a powerful game device as well. Better yet, the Shield is available today.

The Shield is a streaming media player with a speedy processor that's built on the latest version of Google's Android TV software. That means that it has access to the Google Play app store and to Google Now (kind of like Apple's Siri).

You can use Google Now to launch apps or look for things to watch. Android TV also includes a universal search feature. If you search for "The Avengers," it will look for the movie not only in the Google Play store, but in apps such as CinemaNow and Plex.

Nvidia ships the Shield with a game controller. For now, the company is providing free access to its Grid game service. That service allows users to stream some 50 console-quality games to the device, including popular titles like the "Batman: Arkham" series, Lego games and "Saints Row 3." Users also can download games from Google Play.

That's not the only advantage the Shield may have on Apple TV. The Shield supports 4K video, something the next Apple TV reportedly won't have. 4K is a new standard for ultra-high-definition video.

To be sure, the Shield isn't perfect. Its interface is clunky. To get to any particular app on its home screen, you have to scroll through rows of icons that aren't ordered in any particular way.

And the universal search feature is anything but. It can only search certain apps for movies or shows. One of the most notable apps whose listings it can't yet access is Netflix, which seems like a huge oversight.

The Shield is also pricey. At $200 for the base model, it costs nearly three times as much as the current version of Apple TV and significantly more than every other major digital media player on the market.

But it's a well-built machine with some cool features that make it a lot of fun. Apple would do well to take a closer look.

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS