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Amazon Fire TV Cube vs. NVIDIA Shield TV: Which should you buy?

Best Cheap Alternatives to the NVIDIA Shield TV (2019)
Best Cheap Alternatives to the NVIDIA Shield TV (2019) (Image credit: Android Central)

NVIDIA Shield TV (2019)

NVIDIA Shield TV (2019)

The NVIDIA Shield TV (2019) has been redesigned to be more compact and easier to hide behind your TV setup while continuing to deliver the best Android TV experience. The new Shield remote is a significant upgrade, and NVIDIA offers support for Google Assistant, which is baked into the software. It can also be controlled via Alexa.

NVIDIA Shield TV (2019)

New and improved

Best support for Google apps and services
Works with Alexa voice controls
Supports Dolby Vision and Atmos
Expandable storage via microSD
Supports 4K and HDR content with AI-enhanced upscaling
Doesn't ship with an HDMI cable
Gaming accessories are extra

Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019)

Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019)

The Fire TV Cube (2019) offers a bit of everything that makes Amazon's smart home offerings so appealing. You get an improved set-top streaming box that also works as a smart home hub for your other connected devices. It also still works as a voice-controlled Echo speaker when the TV is not in use.

Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019)

Fresh Hot Fire

Improved processor and specs
New features like Local Voice Control
Best in class voice control for entertainment
Acts as Echo speaker and smart home hub when TV off
Support for Dolby Vision and Atmos
Supports 4K Ultra HD and HDR10+
Limited support for gaming
No support for Google Assistant

NVIDIA has delivered a fresh new look for the Shield TV, which ditches the classic Shield TV hardware in favor of a sleek, tube design that's almost a dongle, but still makes sense behind your TV. This is in contrast to the Amazon Fire TV Cube, which is clearly meant to be put on display and pull double duty as an Echo speaker that also connects to your TV to deliver Amazon's Fire TV platform.

Choosing which one to buy might just come down to your allegiance to Google Assistant or Alexa, and how much value you place on the gaming capabilities of each device. Let's put the NVIDIA Shield vs. the new Fire TV Cube to see which comes out on top.

NVIDIA Shield vs. New Fire TV Cube More than just the specs

NVIDIA Shield TV (2019) vs Amazon Fire TV

Source: Phil Nickinson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Phil Nickinson / Android Central)

The days of comparing products only by their internal processors and specs are over. Both the Fire TV Cube and Shield TV (2019) do a great job streaming content in up to 4K quality, offer limited internal storage that's buoyed by external expansion, and let you stream practically anything with relative ease.

Where the two differ is in software and operating systems. Amazon has its own Fire OS, which it uses for its tablets and smart TV products. It offers a clean and polished user experience that's backed by the power of Alexa. Meanwhile, NVIDIA is using the best optimization of Android TV. It also offers the best access to everything the Google Play Store has to offer for Android TV, along with NVIDIA's own game streaming services.

CategoryAmazon Fire TV Cube (2019)NVIDIA Shield TV (2019)
ProcessorHexa-core ARM Mali G52-MP6NVIDIA Tegra X1+
Operating SystemFire OS 6.2Android TV 9.0
RAM2GB2GB
Storage16GB8GB
External storageYesYes
Bluetooth supportYesYes
4K resolutionYesYes
HDR10YesYes
Dolby AtmosYesYes
Dolby VisionYesYes
DTS-XNoYes
Smart Home HubYesNo

With the Fire TV Cube, you'll get seamless integration with any other Amazon Echo products in your house and smart hub capabilities. You also get added benefit of the Cube acting like another speaker when the TV's off. This means the Cube can really be the central hub for Alexa and all of your connected devices, like smart bulbs, switches, Ring security cameras, and more. It's also the cheaper of the two options, as Amazon continues to undercut the competition with its smart home offerings.

Both the Amazon Fire TV Cube and NVIDIA Shield TV are great products that are more than capable of streaming all your favorite media in up to 4K.

The NVIDIA Shield TV, meanwhile, runs on Android TV and has Google Assistant baked right into the core operating system. That means you can pull up personalized results from your Google account and have the information displayed on your TV using the microphone built into the new Shield remote and NVIDIA's game controller. NVIDIA also offers an Alexa Skill that lets you control the Shield, control volume, open media apps, and navigate around the UI using Alexa voice commands. It's not quite the all-in-one hub that the Fire Cube TV is — NVIDIA does offer smart home hub capabilities with the Shield TV Pro — but it can still control your existing smart home devices as long as they've been previously set up through the Google Home app.

One of the more unique features of the new NVIDIA Shield TV models, made possible because of NVIDIA's updated Tegra X1+ processor chipset, is AI-enhanced upscaling. NVIDIA used machine learning to train the Shield on 4K content so that it knows how to fill in details while upscaling HD content to 4K. In practice, you'll notice textures and human features in close-ups enhanced with sharper details and more definition. It's a system-level feature that works across most streaming apps — as long as the video content is the right format and you're using a 4K TV — and the effect is noticeable. Both the Shield TV and Amazon Fire TV Cube support 4K content, but only new Shield TVs are capable of this slick upscaling trick.

The Shield TV is still marketed as an Android-based gaming console, although again, the updated NVIDIA Shield TV Pro is probably a better option if you're keen on a streaming box that goes all-in on gaming. The tube Shield TV is still capable of playing most Google Play Store titles and streaming select games from NVIDIA GeForce Now. There is also a growing list of Android TV games. This has always positioned the Shield as an intriguing streaming box with added value for casual gamers who don't have the money to keep up with console gaming but still want to enjoy some fun couch gaming from time to time.

NVIDIA Shield vs. New Fire TV Cube Bottom Line

NVIDIA Shield TV 2019

Source: Russell Holly/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Russell Holly/Android Central)

Both the Amazon Fire TV Cube and NVIDIA Shield TV (2019) are great products that are more than capable of streaming all your favorite media in up to 4K HD resolution. Amazon and NVIDIA each offer a radical take on streaming box hardware design, with the Fire TV Cube designed to be more forward-facing and the Shield TV sporting a tube design that's meant to be set up and left behind your TV.

Choosing which one to buy might just come down to your allegiance to Google Assistant or Alexa.

The main differentiators in terms of user experience are the specialized features that each company brings to the table. It should come as little surprise that Amazon wants the Fire TV Cube to act as a central hub for Alexa in your living room, and is a better fit if your home is already outfitted with other Alexa-enabled devices.

By contrast, the Shield TV runs on the latest version of Android TV, which includes full integration with Google Assistant, but it can also work with Alexa via the NVIDIA Shield TV Alexa Skill. NVIDIA is also a venerable presence in the PC gaming community. It continues to focus on making the Shield TV an ideal hub for all forms of digital entertainment, whether that's streaming video, music, or games. However, the Shield TV is not quite as powerful as the Shield TV Pro, which will be the one you want if you're after NVIDIA's full suite of features for gamers.

Even if NVIDIA Shield TV's gaming chops aren't as important to you, I'd still recommend it over almost any Fire TV product unless you're firmly entrenched in the Alexa ecosystem. As an Android user, I'm quite comfortable with everything offered in the Google Play Store and rely on Google Assistant far more than I do Alexa. If you're in the Alexa camp, you'll love the idea of a 4K streaming box that also doubles as an Echo Plus with built-in smart hub functionality making the Fire TV Cube a natural choice.

Jeramy is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.