The Android 9 Pie upgrade for the NVIDIA SHIELD TV is now here.
If you have yet to receive the update then you will soon enough. It started heading out to devices early on Wednesday morning, July 31 and will arrive as SHIELD Software Experience Upgrade 8.0. The upgrade is rolling out to both the 2015 and the 2017 versions of the SHIELD TV.
Android 9 Pie is not the sum of SHIELD Experience Upgrade 8.0 (more details on the other enhancements can be found here) although it is the bulk of the upgrade and this will certainly be true for owners of the device who have been waiting for their SHIELD TV to be updated to the most currently available version of Android TV.
In the main announcement, NVIDIA summed up the Android 9 Pie portion of Upgrade 8.0 as a "redesigned settings menu and faster and easier setup for new users" and here we'll be taking a closer look at that redesigned settings menu to see what's changed.
First off it is worth noting you will immediately be aware of the redesign as it is not as subtle as many might expect, bringing a bolder and more appealing look throughout the settings.
The next major change is the addition of a new "Device Preferences" tab. Here you will find many of the core sections including "About," "Display & Sound," "System" and "Storage" as well as "Date & time," "Language" and "Google Assistant."
Android Oreo also used "Device" and "Preferences" sections but they were separate and not combined like they are here in Pie. In addition, the subsections "Device" and "Preferences" were one level up in the settings navigation menu and did not require clicking through to. The downside of this is that you now have to click once more to get to these sections, but the upside is the main (first) settings level is a lot cleaner and tidier.
The main setting level is where the "Quick Settings" section is located (as it was in Oreo) and the result of the new design is that it now seems to place a greater focus on making use of those Quick Settings.
Speaking of which, it appears as though the "Power off" no longer appears as a default Quick Settings option with that status now reserved for "Active mic" ("OK Google" detection). 'Power off' remains accessible through the "About" section and as with many of the Quick Settings this can be remedied fairly easily by enabling the Quick Settings shortcut for "Power off" – located under Device Preferences > System.
Also subject to the redesign is the "Apps" section has this is one of the areas that appears to have seen more major changes than others. Like the main settings tier, the Apps section also now pushes the bulk of the app information further down a level. For example, in Oreo the app section immediately generated all of the apps installed on the system with "Downloaded" apps showcased first followed by "System" apps. Now the Apps section immediately opens to a "Recently opened apps" subsection.
This one might prove quite interesting as none of the apps shown in the image above were manually opened at the time suggested. Therefore this is likely to be a good way for users to see what apps are running in the background and/or frequently being opened without user interaction.
With the emphasis now on recently accessed apps, the bulk of the apps are now accessible by clicking through the "See all apps" tab. From here, a similar layout is in effect as Oreo's "Apps" section although "Downloaded" has been renamed to "Installed" and "System" apps no longer show on the same page but are also buried yet another level down. In other words, "System" apps are now two levels down compared to Oreo.
One nice change is that you can now see if you have any apps that have been disabled as these now even take list priority over system apps with the "Disabled apps" section appearing directly below "Installed" apps and before the option to "Show system apps."
Another, and probably more important change is the access to app permissions. These were also on offer with Oreo but the app permissions section is now far more advanced with Pie and this is particularly true when it comes to the new "Special app access" section.
Here you'll find more information on what apps currently have access to core features and also better and quicker control over changing that access. This also includes the ability to choose which apps can make use of picture-in-picture.
One of the new features with Pie is Match Content Color Space. NVIDIA specifically referenced this feature when announcing the upgrade and the general idea here is for the system to automatically switch display modes to match what is happening. For example, when navigating the interface compared to watching a movie in HDR.
This feature is off by default but can be enabled by heading to Device Preferences > Display & Sound > Advanced display settings.
There are some other changes as well, although they appear to be more minor and universally visible throughout the settings. For example, even the "Check for upgrade" section now looks a lot bolder and more vibrant than it did before, while also sticking with NVIDIA's color scheme.
Overall, this appears to be a nice upgrade for SHIELD TV owners. Yes, there's little in the way of amazing new features to get excited over but the settings section has always been a bit of a chore on Android TV and Pie in particular seems to be looking to make it less work now by pushing up the navigation tiers the settings a user is most likely to access, while also hiding further away more of the system settings.
This approach won't suit everyone as some will prefer quicker access to those more technical sections but for most everyday users it will be a nice functional, as well as visible improvement to the Android TV experience on SHIELD TV.