October 30, 2019
Nvidia just launched two new Shield TV set-top boxes, making them the third generation after the 2015 debut and 2017 update. The new Shield TV 2019 Editions are both faster and offer a new remote. The Nvidia Shield TV, priced at $149.99, is housed in a new cylindrical form factor, with HDMI and microSD on the top and wired Gigabit Ethernet and power on the bottom. The Nvidia Shield TV Pro, priced at $199.99, maintains its existing design, with an upgraded Nvidia Tegra X1+ SoC, 3GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage.
Ars Technica compares the Nvidia Shield TV’s new form factor to an “in-line computer: you plug HDMI from the TV into the top, then power and (optionally) Ethernet into the bottom, then toss it behind your TV and forget about it.” For those with wall-mounted TVs “who want to maintain a clean-looking setup … Android TV still lacks a quality device in the ideal dongle form factor.” The less expensive Shield also offers “the same faster Nvidia Tegra X1+ SoC, but with only 2GB of RAM and a paltry 8GB of storage.” With no USB-A ports, users will run most games/apps off a microSD slot.
Both new Shield TV devices support Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos surround sound, as well as Nvidia’s “AI-powered” upscaler to convert 1080p content into 4K. The new $29.99 remote control also has a new form factor: a triangle, with “motion-activated backlit buttons, a mic for talking to the Google Assistant, Bluetooth connectivity for talking to the Shield, and an IR blaster for TV control.” Powered by two AAA batteries, the remote also has a built-in lost-remote finder.
The new Tegra chip, Ars Technica adds, “is not a huge upgrade … [but] just a 16nm die-shrink of the original 20nm Tegra X1 that appeared in the 2017 Shield TV and original Switch.” Still, Nvidia promises “25 percent more performance” than the 2017 Shield. By aping Apple’s vertical integration strategy, Nvidia Shield TV is “Android’s longest-supported device ever.”
TechCrunch adds that the Shield TV Pro also offers “support for the SmartThings Link to turn it into a SmartThings smart home hub and advanced Android gaming support.” Since so many smart TVs and devices have shipped since the second-generation Shield TV, Nvidia needed “to really do something special to ask for $149.99 from consumers to invest in a new dedicated streaming media box.”
The reporter opines that, “this new hardware packs in some excellent features not possible with software alone, and that are also unique when you look across the options available in this category,” especially with the AI-powered upscaling made possible with the Tegra X1+ chip. “I can attest to its ability to produce visibly sharper images that look great, especially on my LG C8-series OLED 4K TV,” he said. “The Shield TV’s tech … does a remarkably good job of guessing what the 4K version of the HD image it’s looking at should properly look like.”
Shield TV also supports Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos across many services, including “Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Vudu and Movies Anywhere.” ”That’s absolutely a decision-tipping factor for people looking for the best possible A/V experience in a home streaming device.”