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The Nvidia Shield TV suddenly has the best menu for streaming

After years of ready, I’ve landed on the the perfect menu system for streaming, one which helps you discover new issues to look at with out overcomplicating the essential job of launching apps. And it’s landed within the unlikeliest of locations: the Nvidia Defend TV, a $150-and-up streaming participant that runs on Google’s Android TV platform and primarily appeals to tech fanatics.

Earlier this month, the Defend TV obtained a brand new interface that makes all of your streaming apps a lot simpler to entry, whereas additionally including useful suggestions on what to look at. It’s smarter than different streaming platforms like Roku and Fireplace TV, and it has some large benefits over the same trying—however in some ways completely different—interface on the Chromecast with Google TV.

Now for the unhealthy information: I’m unsure Google is even conscious of its personal accomplishment. Whereas Google has made the brand new interface out there on the Defend TV and another present Android TV units, it’s pushing the separate Google TV interface on newer streaming gamers and sensible TVs. Meaning the Defend’s menu system is unlikely to look on any new merchandise going ahead.

Apps and content material mixed

The outdated Defend TV interface consisted of a single house display, with a row of your favourite apps on the prime and a number of other rows of “channels” beneath. Every of these rows represented a distinct app, which might spotlight suggestions or not too long ago watched movies, and customers might disguise or reposition these rows as they happy.

That fundamental idea hasn’t gone away, and it’s nonetheless a pleasant solution to look at some prime picks out of your favourite apps, however now Google has added a pair new tabs to the House Display as nicely. The “Apps” tab supplies an enormous grid for all of the apps you’ve put in, changing the outdated system of getting to scroll and click on on just a little purple “apps” icon. (Underneath that system, your apps additionally appeared in a slim overlay that was tougher to navigate.)

shieldtvapps Jared Newman / IDG

The Apps tab enables you to see all put in apps with none hidden menus or clumsy distant management shortcuts.

In the meantime, the “Uncover” tab suggests much more films and exhibits to look at, grouped by classes corresponding to “Comedies,” “Oscar-winning films,” and “Trending on Google.” These suggestions come from throughout completely different apps, together with Disney+, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and HBO Max, so that you don’t have to leap into each to see what’s on.

shieldtvdiscover Jared Newman / IDG

The Uncover menu enables you to browse streaming service catalogs in a single place.

To me, this one-two punch represents the platonic best for the way streaming menus ought to work: Make it simple to get suggestions, however not on the expense of a easy and simply accessible app launcher.

Different streaming platforms haven’t fairly figured that out but.

The Apple TV 4K comes close. Its “TV” guide app is a helpful way to see what’s streaming, and from there you can click the home button for your full app list. Still, I find that double-click mechanism to be too clumsy, and while you can always reassign the remote’s home button to go straight to your app list, that in turn makes the TV app harder to reach. Apple really ought to streamline this all into one menu, like Google is doing.

Amazon’s Fire TV devices, meanwhile, stray a bit further from the mark. The Fire TV’s newly updated interface only lets you pin six favorite apps to the Home Screen, with the rest hiding behind a secondary menu. Underneath, you’ll find row after row of recommendations with no real sense of organization. While Amazon still has some smart ideas—like the ability to filter shows from your subscriptions—the whole system still feels too chaotic on the whole.

As for Roku, its home screen makes no attempt to serve up recommendations outside of its “Featured Free” section, which only covers ad-supported streaming services. Roku’s focus on the app grid is part of what makes it so simple to use, but it’s a little too simple for my liking. The Shield TV’s interface offers the best of both worlds.

Now, I should note that not everyone’s thrilled with the new Shield TV interface. As 9to5Google reports, some customers are incensed by the brand new promotional carousel on the prime of the display, likening it to a type of intrusive promoting and even review-bombing the home screen’s Google Play Store listing in protest.

I’m not too bothered by it myself. The carousel doesn’t actually impede navigation just like the mid-menu ads on Fire TV, and it doesn’t reduce the available screen space for apps, like the banner ads on Roku players. If anything, the large teaser art gives the Shield TV’s Home Screen a more modern look, in line with other streaming platforms and apps.

Android TV vs. Google TV

Sadly, there’s a strong chance you’ll never get to use this new menu system, because it’s only available on the Shield TV and a small number of other devices, such as smart televisions running Google’s Android TV operating system.

For new Android TV devices, Google has indicated that it’s pushing a different interface that it calls “Google TV,” as seen on the Chromecast with Google TV streaming dongle. While the underlying operating system is the same, the menu system has some key differences.

gtvshowpage Jared Newman / IDG

The separate Google TV interface, as seen on the brand new Chromecast, has some distinctive options like Watchlist assist.

Accessing your grasp app checklist, as an illustration, is extra of an ordeal on Google TV. To succeed in it, you could scroll all the way in which to the tip of your favourite apps row, then choose “See All” to deliver up a separate menu. Google TV additionally places it suggestions front-and-center on your property display, omitting Android TV’s channel row idea completely. Meaning you possibly can’t get any authentic content material suggestions from Netflix or every other app that isn’t absolutely built-in with the brand new Google TV system.

The Google TV interface does have its personal benefits. It enables you to save movies and shows to a watchlist from any device, for instance, and it has a “Live” menu that lets you browse the channel guides of either YouTube TV or Sling TV straight from the home screen.

And yet, I prefer the Shield TV interface for the way it executes on the basics. It still provides recommendations from across different apps, but it makes those individual apps easier to reach when you already know what you want. Other streaming platforms should take note of how well it works. And, perhaps, so should Google.

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