NVIDIA's Tube

NVIDIA Shield TV (2019)

Old faithful

NVIDIA Shield TV (2015, 2017)

The new NVIDIA Shield TV is a streamlined streamer in almost every way. It's got a sleek new design built around the all-new Tegra X1+ chipset that allows for cool new features like AI-Enhanced upscaling and delivers smooth performance for all your streaming needs.

$150 at Amazon

Pros

  • Upgraded Tegra X1+ processor
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Better integration with Google Assistant
  • Re-designed hardware compact and portable
  • New remote is lovely to use
  • AI-enhanced 4K upscaling is cool

Cons

  • No USB ports
  • Less storage space and RAM than older models
  • Fan might collect dust if left on floor

The older models of the NVIDIA Shield TV, either released in 2015 or 2017, are still running great thanks to NVIDIA's outstanding software support. But it's a great time to upgrade if you've got a new 4K TV or have grown tired of the old Shield remote.

$190 at Amazon

Pros

  • Still a great Android streaming box
  • More internal storage and RAM than new model
  • USB ports for expandable storage and accessories
  • Bundled with NVIDIA's gaming controller

Cons

  • Lacks support for Dolby Vision
  • Old remote style is more flash than substance
  • Priced higher with limited availability

NVIDIA has been owning the Android TV streaming box market ever since the first Shield TV came out back in 2015. Clearly satisfied with its hardware design, it took NVIDIA four years to offer the public a new look and design for the standard Shield TV. If you're looking to buy your first Shield TV, your choice is clear. If you already own an NVIDIA Shield TV and are pondering upgrading to the 2019 model, it gets slightly more complicated.

Faster and sleeker with better controls

The all-new NVIDIA Shield TV remoteSource: Phil Nickinson / Cordcutters

There are some obvious reasons why you would want to upgrade to the NVIDIA Shield TV (2019), the most notable being the new remote. The old Shield TV remote was too thin and sleek to a fault, all too easily slipping between couch cushions. It was easy to use, but it lacked physical buttons for volume control or media navigation and wasn't intuitive to use for anyone picking it up for the first time.

The new remote is much thicker and more comfortable to hold. It offers more dedicated buttons for media and volume controls with a motion-sensing backlight. There's even a programmable button that you can set to do any action you want. If nothing else, upgrading your remote when NVIDIA make them available for individual purchase will give your older Shield TV new life.

In terms of actual hardware specs, I guess you could say it's two steps forward and one step back. While you probably don't think too much about the processor used in your streaming box, NVIDIA's Tegra X1 chipset, found in the older Shield TVs, is a big reason why it's dominated the market. It's still a great processor as we head into 2020; it can handle practically anything you throw at it with relative ease.

NVIDIA Shield TV (2019) NVIDIA Shield TV
Processor NVIDIA Tegra X1+ NVIDIA Tegra X1
Operating System Android TV 9.0 Android TV 9.0
RAM 2GB 3GB
Storage 8GB 16GB
External Storage Yes, via microSD Yes, via USB
USB Ports No Yes, two ports
Bluetooth support Yes Yes
4K Resolution Yes Yes
HDR10 Yes Yes
Dolby Atmos Yes Yes
Dolby Vision Yes No
Smart Home hub No No

That didn't stop NVIDIA from unveiling the new Tegra X1+ chipset in the new Shield TV, which offers a significant 25% performance bump over its predecessor. You should definitely notice speedy performance using the new Shield. NVIDIA also included AI-enhanced upscaling, which uses machine learning to improve details in 1080p content played on a 4K TV. This is a very cool feature that, when turned on, will do its thing in the background whenever applicable and you'll just get to enjoy the results.

The 2019 Shield TV offers a faster processor and a much improved remote control for a smoother streaming experience.

So where did NVIDIA step back? The new Shield TV only has 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage compared to 3GB of RAM and 16GB of storage on the older Shield TV models. NVIDIA is banking on the fact that most people will use streaming services rather than loading up their own content. Even if you have a big media library you want to migrate over, there's expandable storage via microSD. The RAM downgrade also means the 2019 Shield TV is unable to run 64-bit applications, which means you aren't able to play as many games as on older modes. However, if gaming on your Shield TV is that important to you, there's the Shield TV Pro (2019) that you should consider instead.

Upgrading from an older model of the Shield TV to the 2019 edition only makes sense if you've started to notice your Shield's performance slowing down, or if you want that AI-enhanced upscaling on your 4K TV. The fact that the new Shield is cheaper than the older models ever were makes it an easier purchase to justify, and you can always plug your older Shield into a different TV in your home.

But honestly? If you're still getting good use out of your older model of Shield TV, and especially if you make use of the USB ports for external hard drives, wired gaming controllers, or a Tablo Tuner for pulling in OTA channels, then don't upgrade. The new model would only be worth it to snag that new remote. If that describes your situation, I'd recommend waiting for NVIDIA to start selling the Shield Remote as a standalone accessory. You can sign up to be notified when it is available at NVIDIA.com.

New champion

NVIDIA Shield TV (2019)

Redesigned to be plug-and-play simple to use.

The new Shield TV tube is powerful in some regards and just way easier to set up and use for casual streamers. It lacks some features that hardcore users enjoy, but is best suited for most entertainment situations.

Still kicking strong

NVIDIA Shield TV (2015, 2017)

Still a great option… if you already own one.

If you still own and love your NVIDIA Shield that's great and you should be fine to keep using it. But it's hard to recommend the old style of Shield TV to new users considering the higher price and lack of availability compared to the new model.

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