The NVIDIA Shield TV Pro (2019) is my favorite purchase of the year

NVIDIA Shield TV Pro (2019)
NVIDIA Shield TV Pro (2019) (Image credit: Android Central)

There's no shortage of smart TV platforms, but in our household, we went all-in on Android TV. It started with a Sony 950D back in 2015, and over the last four years, we amassed three additional TVs that ran Android TV out of the box.

The end result is that I didn't need a standalone Android TV box. I bought a Mi Box S (opens in new tab) to use with my Xiaomi Mi Laser Projector (opens in new tab) (the U.S. model comes with Android TV, but not the Chinese variant), but aside from that, there wasn't a good enough reason to get a device like the Shield TV.

That changed earlier this year when I noticed just how laggy Sony's Android TV interface has gotten. The TV still gets security updates from time to time, but it is running Marshmallow. And while the Mi Box S is a decent product for under $50, it doesn't handle 4K content well. That meant I had to look for an alternative, and I inevitably ended up with the Shield TV Pro (2019).

I used the Shield TV for just over two months, and in that time, it has become my favorite purchase of 2019.

At first glance, the Shield TV doesn't make that much sense. It costs three times as much as Android TV boxes that offer the same set of features, but the difference is in the details. The Shield TV is powered by NVIDIA's Tegra X1+ chipset, and you have to use it to see how much faster it is than any other streaming box or the native user interface on your TV.

I had no idea Android TV could be this responsive.

I had no idea Android TV could be this responsive, and the Shield TV is on an entirely different level when it comes to the hardware side of things. There's a level of immediacy here that you just don't get with any other streaming media player. There are other features that make the Shield TV stand out: it has 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos, and the new AI upscaling mode is a game-changer.

It has all the basics that you're used to seeing from an Android TV box — you can easily talk to Google Assistant for everything from controlling smart home devices to getting weather updates and sports scores. The Shield TV also has your favorite streaming services, with everything from Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and others included out of the box.

With four years of software updates, the Shield TV basically pays for itself.

But what makes the Shield TV truly stand out is the software updates. The first-gen Shield TV has been updated for over four years, considerably more than any Android phone or tablet. Because NVIDIA uses its custom Tegra chipset in the Shield TV, it is able to work closely with Google to deliver continual updates. So even though you're paying a premium for the streaming box, it pays for itself over the course of four years.

Another great feature with the Shield TV is GeForce Now, NVIDIA's cloud gaming platform. The service is in beta right now, and you can stream a host of free AAA games or link your Steam account to play games that you already own. All you need to do is pair a controller over Bluetooth, and you can jump into your favorite games. The convenience on offer makes the Shield TV the ideal showcase for GeForce Now.

Oh, and the bundled remote is pretty great too. The triangular design makes it easy to hold and use, and there's even a remote finder feature that lets you locate the remote should it go missing.

My coworkers have constantly raved about the Shield TV over the last four years, and I never understood the enthusiasm. But after using it for two months, I now understand that all the praise the streaming box has received is fully justified.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.

  • The pricing on this thing is terrible. What does it really do that you can't on the $50 Mi Box, play games? If you want to play games, $200 is about $50 more than an Xbox One S. Maybe if it were priced at $99 it would be worth a look, but for $200 I just think most people would be better served by a Chromecast or Roku, and the gamers can get a real game console (which they probably already have).
  • I'm on my second Roku Ultra box and they are a piece of crap that I constantly have to reset.
  • I love my Roku Ultra. I've had it for 6 months and it's been flawless.
  • 200 is what your spending on support. In 5 years and 5 Android updates the shield will be current and relevant. It will still be the best Android TV box around.
  • Maybe, but Roku devices and Xboxes also get firmware updates, and will for years and years to come. The CPU in the Shield (the ARM cores) are literally 5 years old at this point. It should cost less, or it should have a more powerful chipset. At $99, people would buy it. At $200, there are a lot of better options. Unless all you care about is having Android TV, that is -- which you shouldn't. Android TV is an afterthought for Google, just waiting to be canceled. I mean, if it has zero traction in the market beyond the Shield and Mi Box (and Sony TVs, which I have), why should Google keep it going?
  • I beg to differ: at $200 and below, there aren't any options that come even close. You mention the four ARM cores being several years old, but why would anyone care about that? Under heavy load, they aren't even hitting 5% of capacity! Now, why is that, you might be wondering. Because modern video processing, just like gaming, isn't CPU-bound: it's GPU-bound. That is to say, it is the GPU cores, not the CPU cores, that are doing the heavy lifting. The Maxwell architecture GPU of the Shield TV just so happens to sport no less than 256 CUDA cores, which puts it way ahead of anything within its price range (the closest competitor is the new Beelink GT-King Pro, which has about 35% of the video processing power of the Shield TV and costs $139). That GPU processing power is why you're able to watch native bit rate 4K HDR Dolby Vision content at a rock-steady 60 FPS (do note the "native bit rate" part; I'm talking rendering an UHD movie from the native/raw blu-ray file). If you want to get better GPU processing power, you'll have to buy the cheapest version of the XBox One S, which is currently 50% more expensive. Do note that the XBox One S doesn't support Dolby Vision, can't play games in 4K (it is only able to upscale them to 4K), doesn't support casting (since it doesn't run Android TV), doesn't have Google Assistant, and worst of all, in my view, it comes with an extremly noisy cooling fan, whereas the Shield TV is utterly silent. Finally note that you're able to run games on an Nvidia card-equipped cutting edge PC that even an XBox One X can't handle, then stream the rendered images to your Shield TV, giving you a seamless experience of playing on your Shield TV with its controller while actually leveraging the rendering power of the Nvidia card in your gaming rig. It's called Nvidia GameStream and only works with the Shield TV.
  • Maxwell, 256 cores... So, were talking roughly half the GPU power of a GTX750, a low-end GPU from 2014. I mean, I guess it's cool they're able to get that into an SoC that probably maxes out at 15 watts, but I still don't see why it costs $200. The SoC uses an older TSMC process (maybe 16nm), so it shouldn't cost much to manufacture. Meanwhile, the Xbox One S is selling for $169 on Amazon right now, and it actually DOES support Dolby Vision -- Microsoft added Dolby Vision support in the fall 2018 update. And fan noise? Not an issue at all, even while gaming. If you live in a house with a refrigerator, heater, or A/C, you won't hear the fan.
  • They will keep it going. Millions and millions of devices run Android TV because of not only standalone boxes like this, but because it is in so many TV's. And the CPU/GPU is current. It was created for not just this but also for the Nintendo Switch.
  • The Nintendo Switch only manages to play Fortnite at 720p, 30 FPS. I don't know if it's the CPU or the GPU that's the bottleneck in that case, but it's certainly not a high-quality gaming experience. Also, the Switch is almost 3 years, so the fact that it has a 5 year old CPU is a little more forgivable. The Shield is new though, so it doesn't make sense to release a new product with such an outdated CPU.
  • The Shield came out in 2015, it makes complete sense. What are you on? The X1 was invented *for* the Shield.
  • My point is that they released a new Shield in 2019 with basically the same CPU as the one from 5 years ago (using a newer but still old fab process and new memory) and they're charging $200 for it. Things usually get cheaper over time.
  • Have you ever heard of media center software? As in, "Kodi", "XBMC", or "Plex"? It's unmatched ability to run those programs is the primary reason why the Nvidia Shield TV is considered the best streaming box around. Sure, you're able to run those programs on many other streaming boxes, but the GPU rendering capacity of that hardware has limits. I've thus far only found one single platform below $300 able to handle playing 50+ GB 4K HDR files at 60FPS in Plex and Kodi, and that's the Nvidia Shield TV (any edition).
  • Throw a $60 RX 550 into any 10-year old (or newer) PC that you can find. That will significantly outperform the Shield TV, and you don't need to worry about living inside Google's little walled garden. Also, very curious about what 50+ GB 4K 60 FPS HDR content you're watching. Movies are all 24 FPS, and most are not HDR (or 4K for that matter).
  • Oh cool, you can just shove a computer under your TV and then get a way to hook up a remote control, listen to the fans all day, etc. It's the exact same thing as this device that's smaller than a blu ray case!
  • I'm not saying it's exactly the same, but the guy I was responding to was talking about the Shield's unmatched ability to run Kodi and Plex. But it's not unmatched. It's actually worse than a 10-year old PC. If you don't like fan noise, it's not tough to make a PC virtually silent. Anything without a spinning hard drive and a slow 120mm fan will basically get you there. The Shield is nice and small I'll give it that. But it should cost $100. For a dumb little streaming box with a 5 year old CPU, it's way overpriced.
  • Really? A 10 year old PC will play my Blu Ray and UHD rips and output Dolby True HD/Atmos, DTS-HD MA and DTS X sound? I will get HDR10 and Dolby Vision?
  • I have had mine about two months now, and it's absolutely brilliant. The performance is superb, voice search works fantastically, and I love the remote. Lighting up upon being picked up is a nice touch. I definitely recommend it. Coming from bog standard smart TV apps, it is a nice step-up. Also used to have a Roku, and that thing was not very good.
  • Moonlight or AMD Link is better!
  • Still mad they ditched the 500GB hd. I put an SSD in mine so I have no reason to upgrade it.
  • I got the 'tube' version. I don't game on it because I have an Xbox and a PC. I really like the new remote and the AI upscaling. I don't need the features the Pro version gives. I just wish they had a browser like Edge on the Xbox.
  • In same boat...I upgraded TV and had Android TV, but...sloww, but really loved the interface so got a 2019 Shield it. As others have said it is really smooth and also has a very nice 4k upscale feature as well.
  • Interesting conversation. A few years ago I went Roku because they had the most available services. It may not be that way now, however. How is the sound output?
  • The sound depends on your sound system as this is a 'pass-through' HDMI device except for DD+ to DD decoding and 2.0 to 5.1 upconvert. There are limited choices for sound over USB with the right DAC.