Nvidia Shield TV (2019) review
The best Android TV box even more refined
Last year the internet detectives on the web started noticing new shield related code names in the shield code base of an update. Two mysterious accessories called 'Stormcaster' and 'Friday' were listed. We assumed back then that these were new shield controller and remote controls and prolonged on that assumption, we expected a new Shield TV unit.
And yes that did happen as NVIDIA has released a new Nvidia Shield TV (2019 edition), the product is as good and but faster than the previous Shields. From a hardware point SoC of view really it's roughly the same, however, the shield unit now is tubular, so you can tuck it away and hide it more easily. And while I never frowned upon the remote control, some folks did not like it. As such NVIDIA is releasing a new remote control, moar button's man! In this day and age everybody knows what the Android TV box is all about, these are niche streaming boxes that allow for a multitude of functionality as it properly takes over your Smart TV solution, but can also function as a streaming game console. And yes, if you install Plex, Kodi or a media software of your preference, you'll have a fully-fledged Ultra HD, HDR-ready media player, compatible with high-definition audio including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X as well. I mention HDR, but it features Dolby Vision and HDR10
A new feature is an AI-powered upscaling system that makes 1080p and lower quality content look more detailed, closer to 4K quality. Btw there is no HDMI 2.1 support just yet. And of course, while upscaling is noting new, AI, however, is a trendy word applied to many problems and their solutions. We'll talk more about that on the next page though.
The new Nvidia Shield devices are available as we speak, pleural as there are two modes; the $199 Nvidia Shield TV Pro, with a design identical to that of the previous model, and the new $149 Nvidia Shield TV. The Shield TV Pro, looks more like your average set-top box design. This model has twice the storage (16GB) and more RAM (3GB instead of 2GB on the Shield TV). Everything I wrote in the previous line I find to be a little on the shy side, I mean these are 150 / 200 USD Android units, a 16GB storage, and 4 GB RAM minimum would have been more appealing TBH.
Now before we begin I need to clear up a thing or two. There have been subtle changes towards the new 2019 model, but if you already purchased the 2017 or earlier model don't feel bad, there is no need to upgrade unless you simply like to own the now tubular product and/or an updated remote control and that AI enhancement feature. As always, Nvidia still supports the 2015/2016 Shield, and in fact, has recently upgraded the firmware (OTA) already to match the 2019 models 100%. So all features possible at the soft- and hardware level, are all the same (except AI upscaling).
Any of the available SHIELD Android TV models are powered by the very same Nvidia Tegra X1 processor with a 256-core based Maxwell GPU that is paired with 3 or 4GB RAM, running Google’s Android operating system. Small note the new Shield has the Tegra chip tagged as X1+, after checking that out it seems that this revision is 20~25 percent faster. The speed increase isn’t really noticeable overall as the GUI is very fast as well as playback of anything, yet likely was needed for the new AI upscaling feature. The unit supports the latest and fastest WIFI standards including MIMO/AC (but not WIFI6 / AX), once you connect the unit to a viable 2.4 or 5G WIFI network the unit automatically tries to update itself rapidly towards Android v9, yes Shield Android TV already uses the latest Android. Again, the OTA software updates are available for all models ever since the very first one released in 2015 and 2016. This is why we have called the Shield the gift that keeps on giving as not many Android devices available on the market receive such extensive and elaborate support for such a long time.
Before we continue, let me just say this, there are plentiful Android TV-based solutions out on the market that are much cheaper, even Google's own Chromecast at 35 EURO/USD is competing at some level here but we do like to mention the game streaming functionality that Nvidia offers as well as the smooth Ultra HD 60P over HDMI 2.0 playback and compatibility with the latest HDR standards is a bit of a luxury. We have a lot to cover with the unit, have a peek at a photo and then let's head on-wards into the review.