For some time I’ve been wanting to move media serving off of my Mac Mini because the design of the available servers requires the machine to be running and logged in which vastly increases its attack surface. I’d been looking for a number of alternatives, particularly one that was energy efficient, had a low footprint, and would be doing what it was designed to do. nVidia came to the rescue about a year ago with nVidia Shield TV, an Android TV. So I’ve allowed the Android camel into my tent.
- https://support.plex.tv/hc/en-us/articles/221099988-Setting-Up-and-Managing-Plex-Media-Server-on-NVIDIA-SHIELD retrieved 2 December 2017.
Before you buy
Do two things. First, read the fine manual at . Go through the FAQS at . I didn’t include any video links as most are long on talk and low on information density. The links above will take you to the setup screens so you can review them.
You will need internet service. Shield has both WiFi and Ethernet interfaces built in. Both work well. If you have Ethernet available in your media cabinet, wired service works well. Shield just knows what to do. A wired interface speeds firmware updates. WiFi is adequate for media playback.
What’s in the box?
The base kit consists of a game controller (left) and the Shield machine (right but just the fin part). The nice aluminum base and the nice aluminum Android TV remote are optional extras. The kit also includes a power adapter, HDMI cable, and USB cable for recharging controllers and remotes. And there is a quick start guide and all the warranty and compliance statements.
What’s not in the box?
The shiny nVidia Shield remote and the nice base are not normally part of the nVidia Shield TV package. From time to time nVidia and partners may offer promotional pricing on the three but not at Christmas :(. I purchased the base and remote separately.
Also not in the box is an Android TV Remote App from Google. Android folk retrieve it from the Play store. iOS folk retrieve the iOS version from the Apple App Store. This is a useful stand-in for the game controller and nVidia remote. The nice feature is that it lets you use the phone keyboard to set up the usernames and passwords needed for setup. It also stands in for the remote or game controller while they are charging
Shield TV and Sheld TV Pro
nVidia makes two models of Shield TV, the regular edition and the Pro edition. Pro has 500 GB of internal storage (laptop disk?) in addition to the standard 16 GB of SSD storage while the regular edition has only the 16 GB of SSD storage. The base configuration is adequate if you intend to use the machine primarily as a set top box (it supports anything from the Google Play store). If you want to serve media using Plex, you will want additional storage.
nVidia has deliberately left out standard SATA and power connectors for a laptop drive making it impossible to turn a Shield into a Shield Pro in the field and also impossible to replace the disk when the time comes.
I opted for the regular nVidia Shield TV and a WD Passport external disk. Old-school disks last about 5 years before needing replacement. Shield has 2 USB 3 ports that accept external storage. This storage can be NTFS for Windows people or HFS+ for Mac people. This is nice because you can mirror your media library to the device and update it periodically.But Shield mounts removable storage read only as there are no Linux file system knockoffs that are reliable writing to these disk formats.
Initial power up
Before initial power up, locate and read the quick start guide. It will show you obvious things like connecting the power supply, Ethernet, TV, etc. But it will also explain the special Vulcan nerve pinch needed to have the game controller come to life. Before proceeding further, you will need to charge the game controller or remote. Your mobile’s Android TV remote app is a convenient stand-in for these devices while they are charging.
Initial power up has you connect the game controller or a remote, configure your wifi or connect to Ethernet, sign in to nVidia, update firmware, and sign in to Google. At this point, the machine is usable. As part of setup, you can configure a Bluetooth keyboard and pointing devices. This is entirely optional.
Shield TV Media Sources
Shield TV will work with your existing Netflix, Hulu, and Google Play accounts. These apps and PLEX media server are already on board. PLEX expects you to have a media library either on the device, on a file server, or on a PLEX server elsewhere on your network. PLEX can play content you have bought from Google Play or other media sellers and saved locally. The regular Shield can’t do much of this (my media library runs 400 GB).
Play Store offers numerous media source apps for Shield. Most everything but Amazon Prime is there (story for another day). Third party media apps are a story for another day. Most offer in-app purchases.
nVidia Shield ships with PLEX client and PLEX server installed. PLEX Media Server is an XBMC project fork developed as a commercial product. You may use it within the lifelines for free. PLEX makes some money by offering server for free but selling the Android and iOS client Apps. PLEX also offers a $5/month Premier service that allows PLEX to sync media to phones and tablets but not to Plex servers. This allows PLEX to stand in for iTunes as a iThing media manager. Content syncing between PLEX servers is a frequently requested enhancement and PLEX may have it in the works.
A subscription is not essential and I’ve not tried it to this point.
The TV launcher tile starts PLEX client. On launch, it will ask you to register for a PLEX account (do this if you don’t already have one) or log in to your PLEX account. To do anything useful requires an account with https://www.plex.tv. This portal allows your device to find your server without you having to know the server’s IP address or the port on which it is listening for call ups. So you can’t blow this off. PLEX will offer you mail notification options to keep you abreast of product developments and new program channel partners. They’re decent about this.
At initial launch Plex will ask if you’d like to configure PLEX server. Select this option. The setup script will then ass if you’d like to create media directories on the internal storage and create libraries for them. I skipped this step knowing I would bring a media library over on external storage. I’ll explain external storage in a next. PLEX documentation at Ref  is excellent.
Storage and Media Libraries
Android TV supports 2 types of storage, internal and external. Internal storage is the built in disk and any removable storage (microSD slot and USB 3 ports) that you allow Android TV to format in its favorite file system format (Linux EXT2/3/4, unsaid). External removable storage is any storage media that already has a PC file system on it. Android TV supports FAT32, HFS+, and NTFS. It can also mount CIFS/SMB shares. Any storage considered external is mounted read only. That means it must already have media on it.
Prepare your external media on your library computer and dismount it. I purchased a new i TB WD Passport drive, formatted it HFS+ journaled, and used rsync to transfer my media to it. I set up the rsync action as an Apple Automator script that I saved on the root directory of the external drive. This allows me to freshen my library. Reference  explains how to do this and shows the proper rsync options.
Once your USB storage has your media on it, connect it to a USB port. Shield will discover the device and auto-mount it. You can confirm this in the Android settings views.
No user actions are needed at this point. Be really careful as Android will let you change the device type to internal which will reformat the drive for Android. Your PC won’t know what to do with it after that. Oh, and your media will be gone.
Adding a Media Library to PLEX server
Once your media storage is mounted, you use the PLEX web browser application to add media libraries. The dialog for doing this has a simple work flow that is easily accomplished once your storage is mounted. The dialog first asks for the library type. It will then ask for the volume. It will take the volume name from the label you gave the volume when you created it on the USB drive. I called mine “Shield”. Then it will walk you down the tree to the proper folder. For music, I added iTunes_Media/Music and HD Music.
Pro tip. Spaces in path names can be problematic. I don’t know if normal Unix shell quoting works, so I took the spaces out of folder names in my master library and corrected the path in iTunes advanced settings.
How the Moocher Does Playback
I have a good HiFi that includes a Parasound Halo P5 preamp with built in audio digital playback interface compatible with SPDIF, TOSlink, and USB audio. nVidia Shield supports three interconnects: HDMI to a home theater receiver or Telly, USB connection to a USB audio playback device, or Chromecast to a Google Chromecast receiver. I have a Chromecast device connected to a TOSlink switch lettting me choose between 2 Apple TV’s and the Chromecast receiver. I don’t use the internal converters in the Chromecast. Rather, it sends the bit stream to the P5 for high fidelity reconstruction.