NVIDIA Shield TV dropped on October 28th with two models this year; A Tube version and a Pro version (obviously). The 2019 models show off a completely redesigned remote, hardware upgrades, and some software sorcery. Shield TV has been outperforming $50 streaming boxes since 2015 and I have been using the Tube version, testing the features, and jotting down my experience. Here is my review on NVIDIA Shield TV 2019, let’s Begin.
I’ll break down the review in different segments based on the features and upgrades of the 2019 Shield TV. I would also explain how the Tube version is different from the Pro version so that you can make an informed decision on which product to buy this time.
1. Design: Which is which?
The Shield TV 2019 is a completely redesigned Android TV Box with a cylindrical tube design but the Pro version keeps the 2017 design with green accents and sharp edges. Both Pro and Tube get the same redesigned remote which is much better than the last generation’s couch hide and seek champion.
Shield TV Tube is well built, feels premium and won’t grab too much attention when placed near your living room TV but it is an odd choice of design. For starters, the ports are on both ends so you can’t stand it vertically, the smooth body doesn’t often stay in one place and has the potential to roll off the table. Choose the Pro version if you want to set it and forget it.
The remote itself is worth upgrading to NVIDIA Shield TV if you don’t care about Shield TV’s AI upscaling, Tegra X1 processor, and Dolby ATMOS. The new remote is easier to hold, has AAA batteries, and not to mention backlit buttons. If that wasn’t all you can remap existing buttons, and control your TV’s volume with the remote.
I really like that NVIDIA put in equal effort in the remote as well. If you own a 2017 Shield TV, you can simply upgrade the remote because the older device is still mostly the same in terms of features, specs, and design except for a few software features like AI upscaling, and Dolby Vision.
3. I/O Ports
The 2019 Shield TV Pro keeps the same 40-watt power adaptor as the last generation which makes sense as you also get two USB 3.0 Type-A ports for connecting HDD. Apart from that, you get a Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI 2.0 port.
Shield TV Tube has a built-in power supply that connects using a two-slot port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an HDMI 2.0 Port and a micro SD card slot. You’ll also find a small button just below the HDMI port, which lets you find the remote.
Due to its unconventional design, and compact form factor, there are no USB ports which gives it a slight disadvantage against the Pro and even 2015 Shield TV as you won’t be able to connect Hard Disks or create your own media server using Plex.
4. Under the Hood: Internals
The NVIDIA Shield TV has been outperforming its competitors since 2015, thanks to Tegra X1, an accompanying 256-core GPU, and a little bit of NVIDIA software magic. This is still the case with the 2019 Tube version with a few exceptions; it only has 2GB RAM and 8GB internal storage which is not great but still on par with other Android TV boxes.
If you’re going to buy the 2019 Shield TV for streaming and casual gaming then the tube would still work because Just like the Shield TV Pro, the Tube version also has a cooling fan which will keep the internals nice and cool. However, if you want to play games excessively, that extra gigabit of RAM may just give you a little push.
5. Operating System
Shield TV runs on Android TV based on Android (9.0) with a similar interface just like any other stock Android TV. The software also comes with built-in Google Assitant which makes browsing on the TV a breeze. It supports all the Android TV apps which you can install from the Play Store or sideload from the internet. You can also pair it up with Alexa and use your Echo devices to summon the TV from its slumber from your cushiony throne.
NVIDIA does add some exclusive features to the existing Android TV such as a customization button to quickly access apps and Settings, an App Switcher just like smartphones, native AI-upscaling, and NVIDIA apps.
6. Dolby Vision and ATMOS
If I were to explain it as simply as possible then having Dolby Vision and Dolby ATMOS on your Shield TV means you would get a picture with more details(contrast, color definition, and highlights) and better sound output. This varies on multiple external factors, for example, HDR and HDR 10 would work only if your TV actually supports it and the content that you’re watching has that data. Just like Vision, Dolby ATMOS is supported by Shield TV and you can take advantage of the feature by connecting a good quality Home Theatre system. If you want to test these features on your NVIDIA Shield TV, watch the Originals on Apple TV+ on your NVIDIA Shield TV.
You can actually feel the difference in both picture and sound quality when you turn these features on but if you don’t like the sharpened images, you can always turn it off.
7. 4K AI-Upscaling
Everything looks sophisticated when you attach two letters; AI. AI upscaling is one of the key features on the 2019 Shield TV and it works. To see it in action, you’d need a TV with 4K resolution and only then you’d be able to tell a difference. But that’s not why we’re talking about it, AI upscaling sits on the device and upscales the media(720p or above) in real-time. It works with all the apps and goes up to 4K at 30FPS. Not Bad.
The feature does work but I can’t reliably tell you how well because that would require more testing. I will update this review after extensively testing the feature on multiple devices and when I see the results for myself but until then you can assume it is not revolutionary.
Gaming is where NVIDIA Shield TV takes the lead on every other Android TV in the market. With its top of the line processor, 2GB( 3 for Pro) RAM, 4K resolution, an exclusive collection of AAA titles, SteamLink support and NVIDIA games, Shield TV is almost comparable to other gaming consoles. Not to mention, you can connect any Bluetooth gaming controller and start playing.
The only thing you’ll miss out on Shield TV is the app Dolphin emulator. Dolphin Emulator would exclusively be available for the Pro version so if you want to play those Nintendo classics then you may want to go with the Pro.
9. What Else? A Media Server
Plex server can’t be created on Android TV boxes mainly because of hardware constraints which NVIDIA Shield TV doesn’t have. Plex is officially supported by NVIDIA and you can create a server on the device itself and host all the media content on your network from a hard drive. While you can create a Plex Server on the Shield TV Tube and access other content and use plugins but with missing USB ports, there is no way to connect your hard disks. Therefore, this feature unintentionally becomes exclusive to the Shield TV Pro.
Shield TV 2019 still costs significantly more than its competition such as Firestick, Roku, and Chromecast that cost less than $100. However, at $150 it can sell itself easily if you want a powerful processor, compact design, a phenomenal remote, 4K upscaling, Dolby Vision, and ATMOS. You can always shell out $50 more and get the Pro version which would get you all the Shield TV features plus two USB 3.0 ports, Dolphin emulator, and the ability to create a Plex Server using hard disks.
10. Bottom Line: Should you Buy it?
If I were to sum it up, Shield TV is an easy sell if you consider all the features that you get for $150, however, if you are just getting it to browse Netflix, stream 4K content and watch YouTube videos then any other streaming device would let you do that. Shield TV only makes sense at $150 when you want to stream games from your computer effortlessly, play NVIDIA collection of games such as Portal, DOOM 3, Half-Life, Borderlands, etc or emulate your Nintendo ROMS. What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.