YouTube TV for NVIDIA SHIELD
YouTube TV finally has a native SHIELD app.
When YouTube TV first launched earlier this year, it had one huge factor in its favor compared to competing subscription streaming services: local channels. The service wasn't available everywhere, but in the markets where it was available, users were able to receive all of their major local networks. This factor, combined with its relatively low subscription price of $35 per month, immediately made YouTube TV one of the best streaming options, but it also had a downside: device support.
At launch YouTube TV was only available via the Chrome browser, iOS and Android, and newer Chromecast devices. There were no native apps for popular media devices like the Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Apple TV. But perhaps the most surprising omission was support for Android TV via devices like the NVIDIA SHIELD. Most of the PC Perspective staff personally use the SHIELD due to its raw power and capabilities, and the lack of YouTube TV support on Google's own media platform was disappointing.
Thankfully, Google recently addressed this omission and has finally brought a native YouTube TV app to the SHIELD with the SHIELD TV 6.1 Update.
Getting the YouTube TV App for NVIDIA SHIELD
The first step to getting the YouTube TV app turned out to be a bit tricky. As soon as the 6.1 Update was installed on my SHIELD, I jumped over to the Google Play Store app and searched for "YouTube TV." Unfortunately, the results that were returned related only to the YouTube app.
I assumed that the YouTube TV app was just rolling out slowly to SHIELD owners, but when I still couldn't find it after a day or two, I searched and found the app via the Google Play Store on the web. From there, as long as you're logged in with the same Google account used on your SHIELD, you can perform a push install of the YouTube TV app straight to your SHIELD, where it will show up in your apps list after a few seconds.
As of the date of this article's publication, the YouTube TV should now be available to all users via the Play Store, but if you don't see it, you can always try the web push method.
YouTube TV on the SHIELD
Once you've installed the app and logged in with your subscribed Google account, you'll see a brand new interface that shares a lot with the design of the YouTube TV mobile app, but is well optimized for the big screen.
"Home" displays recommended content, recent episodes of your favorite shows, and lists of shows and movies arranged by category.
At the bottom of the Home page is a horizontal list of networks offered on the service, and selecting one takes you to a network-specific page showcasing its content.
The "Library" section curates all of the content you've selected to record or "added to your Library." This combines both DVR recorded shows as well as on-demand content.
Heading over to the "Live" section gives you a grid-style programming guide, including all of those local channels that you likely can't get via any other stream service.
Channels load fairly quickly when selecting a show or movie and, in most cases, users can pause or rewind live content, and skip ahead during DVR'd content. If you're watching on-demand shows from one of the networks, however, you won't be able to skip past the scheduled ad breaks.
From an accessibility point of view, the YouTube TV app supports multiple audio streams and fully customizable closed captions when available in the content stream.
Because it's Google, you'll also find links to regular YouTube content sprinkled throughout the app. This includes links to related YouTube videos when viewing a show's information page, as well as "recommended" videos on your Home screen.
The YouTube TV app on NVIDIA SHIELD is relatively good overall, but there are a few issues I've noticed while using it over the past week. The first, and possibly most important, is video quality. Quality varies by channel, and is displayed at either 1080p or 720p based on the source, but something's funky with the bitrate. Compared to the other services I've tested on the SHIELD — PlayStation Vue and Sling TV — many YouTube TV channels appear softer, and issues like compression artifacts appear more frequently.
Picture quality definitely isn't bad, and for someone like my wife the availability of local channels trumps any minor quality differences, but those obsessed with picture quality may not be satisfied.
Another issue is the lack of ability to customize the interface or experience. YouTube TV on SHIELD has a black/gray theme that contrasts with the white/silver theme found in the service's mobile app. Most will probably prefer the darker theme, but there's currently no way to change it for those who don't. You also can't hide channels from the guide or change what's shown on your Home screen. The app's Settings options are sparse and you're basically limited to deciding how you want the shows in your library sorted (by recommended, alphabetical, or recent). To be fair, most subscription streaming apps don't offer much customization but, after years of using HTPCs, it's something I'm hoping for in a future update.
Finally, the YouTube TV app currently doesn't support voice commands from the SHIELD interface. For example, I can hold the microphone button my SHIELD remote and say "Play Return of the Jedi on Plex" and it will automatically launch Plex and drop me right at the movie's page. But if I say "Watch ESPN on YouTube TV," I'm told that "Voice actions aren't available for that app."
This is a relatively minor issue, as you can still use voice to search from within the YouTube TV app, but Google Assistant voice commands are getting so good that you'll want to use them on your SHIELD, and it's kind of a bummer to have to reach for the remote when an app is compatible.
There are other issues with YouTube TV such as the omission of some popular channels, but I was primarily interested in testing the experience of the app on SHIELD, and not reviewing the service as a whole (which we've already done to a certain degree). Overall, if YouTube TV has the content and channels you need, the service's SHIELD app is relatively well designed, fast, and easy to use. There are other ways to watch your local networks on the SHIELD, but if you want a single solution that provides over-the-air and paid subscription content, the YouTube TV app is a nice option, and one that I'll be switching to exclusively now that it's available on my media device of choice.