When Google announced that 4K video is now available for purchase or rent at Google Play, it only cited a handful of compatible devices, including the Chromecast Ultra, Sony Bravia Android TV and the Xiaomi Mi Box 3.
Now, Nvidia is scrambling not to get left out in the cold. It has now declared that it is working on an update that will have Nvidia Shield included in Google's list of devices capable of 4K playback.
Nvidia Shield vs. Google's 4K Requirement
Reports confirm that the Nvidia Shield was, indeed, eliminated from the list of supported devices because Google has deemed it unfit. Particularly, it purportedly found that the popular Android TV box lacked VP9 support.
Technically, the Nvidia Shield supports VP9. It is clearly outlined in the device's spec sheet if you head to Nvidia's website.
Under Video Features, there is a specification detailing a 4K playback capability at 60 fps (VP9, H265, H264).
Google has reiterated in a statement issued to Android Headlines that Shield is not supported because it is not capable of VP9. This echoed an earlier announcement last Dec. 6, indicating that nothing has changed.
"Starting in the United States and Canada, you can purchase 4K movies on your Android device or on the web and stream them on your Chromecast Ultra, your Sony Bravia Android TV, or your Xiaomi Mi Box 3," Google said.
VP9 And 4K Playback
Since the VP9 seems to be at the crux of the Nvidia Shield disqualification, it is helpful to explain what it means. Simply put, it is a codec that can process 4K content in a way that is manageable for devices. It is considered a Google technology.
Now, Google's beef with the Shield stems from the manner by which the device claims to support VP9 and H264. The latter is a competing codec that is more identified in the processing of HD and Full HD content.
Everything boils down to the point that it is not possible to offer support for both at the same time. In the case of the Shield, the H264 seems to be in use while the VP9 has been disabled.
Software Fix To Support 4K
Nvidia is, therefore, developing some workaround in order to activate its VP9 capability. The only problem here is whether Google's 4K content requires a higher VP9 profile, one that could entail a hardware upgrade. This is, however, unlikely since Nvidia has already confirmed that it is working on a software fix that would elevate the standard of its VP9 support.
There is still no word about the patch rollout schedule but one can expect that it will be released soon.