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Review: Nvidia Shield TV (2019) – Still the best media player

Nvidia Shield TV
Review: Nvidia Shield TV: the new Nvidia Shield corresponds to the previous version. Think of the container, video and audio formats, the OS are the same.

The Nvidia Shield TV is still a trusted and much-loved 4k media player. Nevertheless, a new version is now available. In this version we take a closer look at the regular 2019 version, not the Pro variant. The regular version has a suggested retail price of 160 euros.

At the end of last year, Nvidia launched two successors to the Nvidia Shield models from 2017: the Shield (2019) and the Shield Pro (2019). The regular version has a cylindrical design, with ports on both sides of the device. The Pro variant has the characteristic design of the Shield, as you may know it: with sharp corners and a relatively flat design. Where that model can be placed in view, the intention is that the new, cheaper Nvidia Shield is behind the TV (cabinet).

If we look purely at the prices of the Nvidia Shield products, then we quickly conclude that they are considerably higher than other 4k media players. The new, cheaper Shield is easily three times more expensive than, for example, an average player from China, but for good reason. In addition to media player with special features, this is also a game console. Moreover, you could even use the player as a kind of central point for your smart home, with which you address the Google Assistant via the remote control.

Nvidia Shield hardware less in many areas

to the two regular Nvidia Shield models, there are some big and notable differences. Not only in terms of design, of course, but also in terms of internal hardware and software options. For example, the new model features the better Nvidia Tegra X1 + processor, which should deliver up to 25 percent better performance. And admittedly: the device feels fast, but it is not really much faster compared to the previous model. In addition, there is (only) 2 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage space.

In both cases, that is a downgrade if you place it next to the Nvidia Shield from 2017, which has 3 GB and 16 GB respectively. Both players are therefore not suitable as a Plex media server, for example, and that is due to the lack of space. You can put a little bit of content on it, but it won’t be very much. Fortunately, this Nvidia Shield does have a micro-SD card slot, with which you expand the storage memory. In contrast to the Pro version, which has 16 GB of space and no SD card slot.

In addition, the new Nvidia Shield does not have a USB port and you do not have any devices, like a hard drive. A controller is also not included, but you will immediately receive the new remote control. The new model does not sound very attractive, but it is understandable adjustments that keep the price low. Fortunately, there are also a lot of positive elements that we do not find on the older models, in addition to functions and features that are offered again.

The new Nvidia Shield remote control

It is not that bad that no controller is included. Nowadays you can use all kinds of bluetooth controllers with the Nvidia Shield. Think of the older Shield controller, other Bluetooth controllers and the gamepads that you use for your Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Chances are that you already have one of these controllers, so you are not forced to spend money on unnecessary hardware. Connecting the controllers is easy, so in our opinion a great solution.

The big star of the show here is the new remote control. The design resembles a prism. When you put it on the table, it is in fact always on its side. This allows you to pick up the remote effortlessly and it is quite comfortable to hold. Unlike the previous remote, you now have access to many more buttons. There are also normal volume buttons, which makes operating your media feel a lot more logical. There is also a Netflix button and it is nice to see that there is lighting in the buttons.

That lighting is automatically activated when you pick up the Nvidia Shield remote control. Especially in a dark environment this is very nice, because you can always see the buttons well. Another big difference is that the remote now needs two AA batteries and therefore no longer works with a button cell battery. That means you can probably replace those batteries a lot easily. Also, you don’t have to bother with charging while using it, which benefits usability.

Software and apps

The Nvidia Shield runs on the latest version of Android TV. That’s perfectly fine since you get access to the latest improvements and security updates. The software feels incredibly fast and smooth on the hardware. Moreover, Android TV itself is getting better and better software. Users are given more options when it comes to personalization, so that you are not stuck with “recommended content” that you are not waiting for. You now have control over your home screen and thus determine what you see.

Furthermore, the Nvidia Shield also has Chromecast built-in. As a result, it is possible for everyone on your Wi-Fi network to share photos and videos with the device, which you then view on the TV. The Shield is and remains an excellent game console. Not only can you play games that you get from Google Play, you can also stream your PC games from your own PC. You can do this for free or with a subscription, which costs you 5.49 euros per month. And yes, you can also install emulators on it.

Geforce Now and streaming games

Although the latter sounds very nice – playing PC games on your big TV, including a graphical upgrade from Nvidia’s servers – still sit some hooks and eyes. In any case, three major publishers have already withdrawn from the service in the last few weeks, making their games unavailable. Consider, for example, Activision and Bethesda, from Call of Duty and Fallout games respectively. Fortunately, there are still plenty of games that you can play via Steam or Epic Games, including the titles available for free.

Although it is not always easy to find out which games can and cannot be played , the service basically works very well. This is mainly a great feature for users with a large library on the PC. You can stream games in two ways: from a server that is parked somewhere or from a server in your house. In the latter case, the quality of the service depends on your own hardware, which is an important caveat. We used the first option for this review.

You still have to take into account your setup: how far is the Nvidia Shield from your router and how fast is your WiFi connection? In our case, the Shield is about a meter away from the Google Wifi puck and speeds of just under 250 Mbps are achieved. That is more than enough for video game streaming. In general, we are very pleased with the quality of the service. Games can be streamed in 1080p and 30 to 60 frames per second. And lag is virtually absent during gaming.

Other content AI Upscaling

The Nvidia Shield has support for Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10 (not HDR10 +), as well as Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Atmos . The device supports the video formats HEVC and VP9 and audio formats AAC, AAC +, eAAC +, MP3, WAVE, AMR, OGG Vorbis, FLAC, PCM, WMA, WMA-Pro, WMA-Lossless, Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD (pass-through), DTS-X and DTS-HD (pass-through). There is also support for the Xvid, DivX, ASF, AVI, MKV, MOV, M2TS, MPEG-TS, MP4 and WEB-M containers.

This means that you can go in all directions with the Nvidia Shield. As for video and audio formats, there is no difference from the older Nvidia Shield models. But that is not a problem, since there are already a lot of them. Although it is also nice that the Shield can play content in 4k HDR, it is unfortunately not the case that HDR content can be viewed via YouTube. Nvidia does not support the correct format for this (VP9.2). It is being looked at in the meantime, but it is not certain whether the support will come soon (or ever).

Another important feature is AI Upscaling. This is perhaps the most important new feature of the popular media player. With AI Upscaling, the Nvidia Shield can upscale content in 1080p, so that it looks like you are looking at a higher resolution. In general, this illusion stands: films and series not only look sharper, but also somewhat more detailed than when the function is not on. The images presented are close to a 4k resolution. The results are impressive.

However, you have to take into account that there are caveats. For example, AI Upscaling does not work with content in 60 fps or with video games. But for all other content in lower resolutions and with a lower frame rate, it can certainly provide a better picture. Fortunately, you can adjust the improvements yourself with simple options such as high, medium and low. There is even a demo mode that clearly shows the differences. If you come across artifacts, you can lower the AI ​​up a notch.

Nvidia Shield TV

Nvidia Shield TV (2019) – conclusion

Basically, the new Nvidia Shield TV corresponds to the previous version. Think of the container, video and audio formats that are supported, the operating system (Android 9) and the HDMI port (2.0b). The maximum resolution is also the same, namely 4k at 60 fps. Unfortunately, the hardware has further deteriorated. For example, there are no USB ports, you get less work and storage space and you cannot run a Plex media server. Is the new Shield worth an upgrade then?

Well, perhaps not for the casual user, who brings in such a media player for paid streaming services or his own media library. However, if you are looking for a media player who has more to offer in other areas, then you may be at the right place. The new Nvidia Shield offers cool features that you will not find anywhere else. And if those functions are there, then they are not as well worked out as on this media player. Think of a feature like AI Upscaling, which can improve image quality.

But also the new version of the Nvidia Geforce Now game streaming service is a perfect addition to all games that you can already play via Google Play. With Geforce Now you can play your own PC games on your big TV, with a controller or keyboard of your choice. Then you can do for free (with limited capacity) or for a fee. We also find the remote control an improvement over the previous model. In addition, the Tegra X1 + is about 25 percent faster, but if you don’t put the players side by side, you won’t notice it quickly.

It’s a difficult device to recommend for those who own a 2017 Nvidia Shield . Yes, the processor is slightly faster, but there is less working and storage memory. Furthermore, you really have to attach great importance to playing content in Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10, as well as Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Atmos. In addition, AI Upscaling is another reason to make an upgrade, but otherwise the player offers little news. Don’t have a Shield yet? Then this is the media player with Android TV you want now.

Negatives

  • No USB ports
  • Internal hardware less good
  • Few reasons for an upgrade

Pros

  • AI Upscaling
  • Geforce Now
  • Dolby Atmos / Dolby Vision

 

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