The Edge is Android’s answer to the set-top box. Users can connect to a treasure trove of content and entertainment from the comfort of home with one sleek, powerful package. Still awaiting details on performance, we can speak to its standout aesthetic that takes on an edgier form that its competitors. You won’t find any buttons or flashy logos, rather, this minimalistic rectangle sports only a single LED accent light that indicates its status. The remote control is equally void of frill but features at least twice as many buttons as an Apple TV. Of course, we’re not complaining because everyone knows just how tricky that remote can be to operate! With its simplistic UI and easy-to-operate control, its aim is to make the overall navigation and entertainment experience as seamless as possible.
Designer: Haoxiang Hu
The main challenged faced in designing this product where achieving the balance between a broad market appeal and being able to be identifiable in a crowded market.
The TV box market is very crowded with very similar designs, small black boxes, this is because the industry is very conservative, and everyone just wants to fit in and be discrete. Conversely, a lot of broadcasters use images of their products to promote their service and therefore require a distinctive design.
Another significant issue is that of cost. The cost of this type of consumer electronic product is heavily subsidised by the broadcaster and therefore costs need to be minimised to increase the rate of return on investment. At the same time a broadcaster will want to create an impression of quality consistent with their brand and therefore the design must appear to have a quality finish. Another factor in the cost is the cost of manufacture and assembly, the design needs to easy to produce and quick to assemble.
The final challenge is that the design must work as a functional piece of electronics, it needs to meet international safety and EMC regulations, it needs to have good Wi-Fi performance and it must not get too hot.
The challenges are then, it must look the same as everything else, but a bit different. The design must be cheap but look high quality and it needs to function reliably as a sophisticated piece of electronics.
The design focuses on a simple minimal user interface, the removal of buttons and the reduction to one LED for status indication is a very different approach to broadcast box solutions. Previous generations of designs have tried to provide the user with full navigational control of the UI via the front panel and multiple status indicators duplicating the functionality of the remote control. By removing this duplication, the design is simplified, cost reduced and the poor UX of cheap buttons is removed. Tradition remote control designs have tried to use short cut keys to access different features of the UI, which has resulted in designs consisting of 40-50 buttons. The focus for the design UI has been moved to the remote control, where the intention is again to simplify and reduce. By reducing the number of buttons, the box UI can be made a lot more flexible and dynamic.
If your TV set-top box is going to sit there in plain sight, it might as well do more work for you! That’s the idea behind the Smart TV Box. Slimmer and sleeker, it takes up less space than the average box and is less intrusive on your aesthetic. The top serves as a charging station for the remote control. If you misplace the remote, simply press a single button on the unit to locate it! In addition, the front of the unit also displays useful information such as the time, weather conditions, and more!
Designer: Zhang Yinlei
The graphics card manufacturer has just unveiled at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco the next member of the Shield family: a set-top box that focuses on gaming.
SF’s GDN 2015 may not be the best scheduled event in the world, since it takes place at the same time as the Mobile World Congress exhibition in Barcelona, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any launches there worth reporting. The NVIDIA Shield set-top box carries a price tag of $200, which really may seem a lot for an Android TV-powered device. However, Jen-Hsun Huang emphasized at the press conference that included the launch of the product that the Shield set-top box brings together “revolutionary TV,” a “gaming console” and a “supercomputer.” Well, my other computer is a Cray, so I’m curious of what’s under the hood of this innovative thing.
Touted as the “world’s first 4K Android TV,” the NVIDIA Shield set-top box won’t run into any problems while streaming (via Gigabit Ethernet) or playing local content (via HDMI) at that resolution. After all, it includes the Tegra X1 super chip, which at the moment is the best SoC NVIDIA has to offer. In case the two connections aren’t available and users want to play content directly from the Shield, they can rely on the internal memory, and if those 16GB aren’t enough, then the microSD slot and the two USB 3.0 ports might come in handy.
The Shield supports voice commands either via the gamepad’s mic or via a remote control that’s not that different from the one of Amazon’s Fire TV. However, the new Shield isn’t as much about watching movies as it is about gaming. According to Huang, NVIDIA’s set-top box is 35 more powerful than the next such device, and twice as powerful as the Xbox One. That’s a really courageous statement, and the first reviews of the device should confirm or infirm that.
Android gaming is really catching up, and in the not-so-distant future, I can see mobile games competing head-to-head with their console counterparts. The Tegra X1 packs not only a lot of processing power, but also an extremely competitive GPU, so there will be no such things as glitches while gaming on the Shield set-top box. Some of the console games that got an Android port specifically for the launch of the new NVIDIA product include: Borderlands: The Presequel, Doom 3: BFG Edition, The Talos Principle, Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance. More titles will surely follow once the device is available.
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