These are two of the best streaming boxes that you can purchase right now, and while they share some technical capabilities, they couldn't be more different as far as these kinds of devices go. One is a dead-simple device that's part smart speaker, part media box, while the other caters more to those who like to tinker and game. There's also the differences in operating systems and user interface. With so much to sift through, we're here to help you decide which device is the better companion to your TV.
NVIDIA Shield TV 4K vs. Amazon Fire TV Cube: Side-by-side
Since both of these streamers saw a relatively recent refresh, let's take a look at how their new specs stack up against each other.
|Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019)||NVIDIA Shield TV 4K (2019)|
|Video output||4K Ultra HD with HDR 10/10+ and Dolby Vision||4K HDR 10 and Dolby Vision|
|Operating system||Fire OS 126.96.36.199 based on Android 9||Android 9|
|Processor||Hexa-core S922||Tegra X1+|
|Expandable storage||Not without adapters||Yes
|GPU||ARM Mali G53-MP2||NVIDIA GPU|
|Bluetooth||5.0 + LE||5.0 + LE|
|Built-in AI assistant||Yes
Works with Alexa
Also on remote
|Dimensions||86.1 mm x 86.1 mm x 76.9 mm||6.5 x 1.57 x 1.57 inches|
As you can see, both of these devices have everything you need for the ultimate viewing experience, including HDR 10 and Dolby Vision, 4K output, Dolby Atmos, and the latest in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support. With so much of the output experience similar, let's dive into where they really differ — the software experience.
NVIDIA Shield TV 4K May the GeForce be with you
The NVIDIA Shield TV has been a favorite product of Android faithful around the world, and was long considered the only Android TV device worth buying. It has always had top-notch specs thanks to NVIDIA's chip prowess, and the device has continued to be supported for years (no small feat in this space).
Thankfully after many years, the product line was updated in late 2019 with the Shield TV 4K and the more premium Shield TV Pro. For this comparison, however, we're looking at the Shield TV 4K, as it is more closely balanced against the Fire TV Cube in terms of price and specs.
Let's see you try to play Fortnite or Wolfenstein on a Fire TV!
Unlike previous set-top configurations, this version of the NVIDIA Shield TV 4K doesn't have to be displayed front and center alongside your TV. Its tubular shape can be set in a cabinet or even along the floor, tucked out of the way. One of the things we love most about this version is that it retains all of the ports you want without the need for additional dongles or extensions like with the Fire TV Cube. Here you get a built-in HDMI port, a built-in microSD port (capable of holding at least 512GB), and a built-in Ethernet port.
One of the things we didn't expect to love but raved about in our review of the Shield TV 4K was the remote. Yep, you read that right. With its triangular shape and clicky buttons, this thing is a joy to use. There is a microphone button to summon the Google Assistant, but you can also control your device through Alexa if you so choose.
Aside from the great hardware, the software experience is good here as well. Say what you will about Android TV, the simple fact is that NVIDIA's streamers are still the best Android TV devices around. Combine that with NVIDIA's processor design chops, and you get enhancements like AI Upscaling, which results in an even crisper and clearer viewing experience.
And when it comes to gaming, this thing has the Fire TV Cube beat by a country mile. Not only do you have access to games from the Google Play store, but you can also play AAA titles with folks all over the world through NVIDIA's impressive GeForce Now streaming game service. Let's see you try to play Fortnite or Wolfenstein on a Fire TV device!
Amazon Fire TV Cube is a smart home play
It's clear that the NVIDIA Shield TV 4K has quite a lot going for it, but let's not be too hasty when deciding on the best streaming device. Even though the traditional set-top streaming box form factor is getting tired, the Fire TV Cube has some arrows in its quiver.
For starters, the Fire TV Cube is the better device for controlling your smart home. It just is. With its hands-free Alexa voice control (plus Alexa access via the Alexa Voice Remote), it's super easy to ask your assistant to turn on a light, begin a timer, or start a routine. You can do much of this on the Shield TV 4K through the remote, but it's not as seamless. And if you want more privacy, you can just press the mute button on the top of the device to prevent Alexa from listening in.
The Fire TV Cube is a better smart home device than the NVIDIA Shield TV. It just is.
Amazon has gotten pretty good at creating these multi-use, 2-in-1 devices, such as the Fire HD 8 Plus with wireless charging dock, that turns a capable tablet into a handy smart screen. In the same vein, the Fire TV Cube gives you not only a top of the line streaming box, but what is essentially an Amazon Echo smart speaker that can be used even when the TV is off.
The 2019 update to the Fire TV Cube saw improved processing power for a faster and more responsive UI, but that upgrade also enabled Amazon to incorporate local voice control for quicker Alexa responses. Now users don't have to wait for most of their requests to bounce to an Amazon server and back!
Speaking of that interface, I know this is subjective, but to me, the Fire TV interface is simpler and more intuitive than NVIDIA's implementation of Android TV. Fire TV apps generally get updated more frequently and have more of a consistent design than those on Android TV. On the flip side, since Amazon has become such a content behemoth of its own, it has regularly butted heads with some of the more popular streaming services. For example, it was one of the last platforms to add Disney + last fall (though it did at the eleventh hour), and it is not a launch partner for either NBC's Peacock or HBO Max at the time of writing. Those are big misses and if you're keen on either of those services, that might make your decision.
Which one should you get?
These are both great media streamers with their own benefits and drawbacks, but I think that despite both being good options, prospective buyers will self-select and fall pretty easily into one camp or the other.
If you are someone who is already invested in one smart voice assistant ecosystem, you'll choose the device that slots better in with your other gadgets: Fire TV Cube for Alexa, or Shield TV 4K for Google Assistant. I think you can make the decision even simpler than that.
Get the Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019) if what you want is a dead-simple streaming media player with easy voice controls. To my eyes, at least, the Fire TV interface is much more straightforward and intuitive and is updated regularly with content and suggestions. The Alexa Voice Remote is really good, and having what amounts to a smart speaker next to your TV is a bonus. Plus, as of right now, it's $30 cheaper than the NVIDIA Shield TV 4K.
Get the NVIDIA Shield TV 4K if you want the added flexibility of microSD storage, of the benefit of Google Assistant Integration, or if you're going to play more than basic runner games like Crossy Road. Oh, and the remote on the Shield TV may be the best we've seen — just saying. While we love Android TV, that OS could also be the biggest drawback here, though. Apps can languish on this platform, and while some services may appear here first, they don't get timely updates.
Whichever of these streaming devices you choose, you're guaranteed to have a great entertainment experience, but the Fire TV Cube will likely be the best choice for most people, especially those who just want a well-priced streaming box.
The best for most
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019)
Smart home streamer
The Fire TV Cube not only provides high-end specs for a great viewing experience, but it is essentially a streaming media box and smart speaker rolled into one. Plus, hands-free Alexa controls make this a convenient set-top companion.
The best for Android TV fans
NVIDIA Shield TV 4K (2019)
Android TV and GeForce gaming
The NVIDIA Shield Android TV is one of the best ways to experience Android TV. This small and compact gadget brings Android TV to your living room with full support for 4K HDR streaming, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, online gaming, and AI upscaling tech that converts HD content into 4K.
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