Reigning Android TV Champ

NVIDIA Shield TV

Fresh Hot Fire

All-New Fire TV Cube (2019)

The NVIDIA Shield TV continues to be the best streaming box running on Android TV. NVIDIA has also done a great job with software updates that continue to upgrade the experience. The Shield TV offers Google Assistant baked in along with support for Alexa voice control.

$179 at Amazon

Pros

  • Best support for Google apps and services
  • Works with Alexa voice controls
  • Capable gaming console
  • Expandable storage
  • Support for 4K and HDR content

Cons

  • No support for Dolby Vision
  • Doesn't ship with an HDMI cable
  • Gaming accessories are extra

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, and it still works as a voice-controlled Echo speaker when the TV is not in use.

$120 at Amazon

Pros

  • 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 4K Ultra HD and HDR10+

Cons

  • Limited support for gaming
  • No support for Google Assistant

Amazon and NVIDIA are polar opposites when it comes to streaming media box philosophies — Amazon continues to update its Fire TV product line up year after year with new hardware whereas NVIDIA continues to stick with the same great hardware while offering regular software updates. And yet, Amazon still manages to undercut its competition even with its newest releases.

More than just the specs

The days of comparing products only by their internal processors and specs are over. Both the Fire TV Cube and Shield TV do a great job streaming content in up to 4K quality, offer limited internal storage with external expansion, and do practically everything with relative ease.

Where the two really differ is in software and operating systems. Amazon has its own Fire OS, which it uses for its tablets and smart TV products and 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 that's just recently been updated to version 9.0. It also offers the best access to everything the Google Play Store has to offer for Android TV, along NVIDIA's game streaming services.

Category Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019) NVIDIA Shield TV
Processor Hexa-core ARM Mali G52-MP6 NVIDIA Tegra X1
Operating System Fire OS 6.2 Android TV 9.0
Storage 16GB 16GB
External storage Yes Yes
4K resolution Yes Yes
HDR10 Yes Yes
Dolby Atmos Yes Yes
Dolby Vision Yes No
DTS-X No Yes

With the Fire TV Cube, you'll get seamless integration with any other Amazon Echo products in your house plus the added benefit of the Cube acting like another speaker when the TV's off and the included smart home hub capabilities. 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.

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 HD resolution.

The NVIDIA Shield TV, meanwhile, has Google Assistant baked right into the core operating system and will listen via the microphones built into the Shield remote and game controllers. 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, but it can also control your smart home as long as it's all set up through the Google Home app.

The Shield TV is also marketed as an Android-based gaming console, and you can buy the Gaming Edition for an extra $10 that comes with a gaming controller. There are a growing list of Android TV games to check out, and NVIDIA offers some cool gaming services such as GeForce Now, which lets you stream a free library of games to the Shield, or Gamestream, which lets you stream your own PC games straight to the Shield setup. This positions 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.

Lastly, it's worth talking about the form factor of these two stream boxes. Both are compact and relatively portable in their own ways, but the Fire TV Cube is way more of a product that you'd set up and use exclusively in one room of your house. Meanwhile, the slim build of the NVIDIA Shield has allowed me to stow it if I'm visiting at my parent's place, testing out some portable projector, or simply just don't like a big cube with microphones sitting under my TV.

Bottom Line

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 HD resolution. Aside from the form factor, the internal specs and overall performance in that regard are pretty well matched.

The main differentiators here are the specialized features that each company is known for. Amazon's focus is to make the Fire TV Cube a central hub for Alexa in your home, and giving you another Alexa-enabled device to control smart home products. The Shield TV is capable of similar feats using Google Assistant, but NVIDIA is also a venerable presence in the PC gaming community and 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.

Even if the NVIDIA Shield TV's gaming chops aren't that 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 an easy choice.

All the best of Android

NVIDIA Shield TV

Still a great option

In spite of older hardware, the NVIDIA Shield TV still shines strong in 2019, and is a great option if you're a huge fan of Google and its services.

Updated internals

All-new Fire TV Cube (2019)

Amazon's latest cube

The Fire TV Cube is a great streaming box that's capable of doing so much more as long as you stay in the Alexa Amazon ecosystem.

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