NVIDIA SHIELD TV (2019) Hands-on: Built for streaming

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NVIDIA may have quit the mobile market a tad too prematurely. Today we have no less than eight smartphones designed and built for gaming. NVIDIA could have probably blown them out of the water at this point and put them to shame with the way it does Android updates. That may no longer matter now since the computer graphics giant may have found its true calling in the entertainment market via the NVIDIA SHIELD TV. and it seems to be finally ready to move forward with not one but two SHIELD TVs. But while the SHIELD TV Pro still has the form and power that fans love, the 2019 SHIELD TV condenses it into a stick that’s not even meant to be seen.

Totally Tubular!

To say that the new NVIDIA SHIELD TV (2019) is small is probably an understatement considering it’s only the same size as its remote control. Then again, that remote is also a bit larger than your typical streaming device remote. To make it short, the two are nearly equal in size, though definitely in girth and shape.

If the previous NVIDIA SHIELD’s design can be described as having some personality, the new one falls flat but definitely not literally. Eschewing the traditional forms of boxes, slates, or even dongles, the 2019 SHIELD TV takes on a more tubular shape. Put away thoughts of the Amazon Echo, however, as both ends of the tube are meant to be connected to cables, an Ethernet and power on one end and an HDMI on the other, so forget about standing it upright. NVIDIA’s suggestion is to actually put it out of sight, behind other members of your entertainment system, perhaps to make it look like your 4K TV has gotten a magical upgrade.

What’s Totally New

It wouldn’t be worth all the fuss if the new SHIELD TV only had a change of form. Of course, there’s a lot more inside, which can be a bit surprising considering its size. Right at the heart is the new Tegra X1+ chip that is promised to be 25% faster than its well-aged predecessor. It shares that processor with the SHIELD TV Pro but, unlike that all-around entertainment device, the 2019 SHIELD TV’s feature set is geared towards a very specific purpose: streaming 4K content.

Double Dolby

While the first NVIDIA SHIELD TV was actually one of the first in the market to support 4K video playback, the 2019 model takes that up to the next level by improving more than just the pixel count. For the first time, the SHIELD TV is getting support for both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos audio.

These two are practically the household names when it comes to immersive and cinematic multimedia experiences even at home and there are far more content and streaming services that no support them than 3 or 4 years ago. But for other movies and shows that don’t, the SHIELD TV also supports the HDR10 standard to ensure vivid colors, no matter what’s playing.

AI see 4K

There is admittedly a lot more 4K content now than when the SHIELD TV first launched but there’s still a lot more that come in 720p HD or 1080p Full HD. The old SHIELD TV offered a very basic 4K upscaling feature but the 2019 SHIELD TV one-ups that with an AI-enhanced upscaling feature.

In a nutshell, NVIDIA employed deep neural networks to analyze loads of videos in various resolutions and to learn from their differences. When playing a new video, it adds predictive AI to the basic 4K upscaling to provide a sharper image, all in real-time and all inside the tiny tube. One downside is that this AI-based upscaling only runs at 4K but users always have the option to switch between different modes or even see the differences in real-time using the special demo mode.

Control Wand

Triangles are the new black or something like that. Just like the unique shape of the 2019 SHIELD TV itself, its partner remote takes on a new form as well, one that could remind you of a Toblerone bar or Neil Young’s Pono portable media player. Of course, that’s hardly the only change and the remote now boasts of more buttons to give quick access to the volume and Google Assistant. NVIDIA is also pretty proud of how the remote features motion-activated backlit buttons so you won’t have to fumble in the dark for what to press.

What’s Slightly New

Despite all the changes that the new SHIELD TV (2019) brings, there’s still plenty of familiar features as well, only now made better. The selection of content, for example, is steadily increasing and will soon include Disney+ on the very day that the service launches. GeForce NOW, which is oddly still in beta, can get you your PC game streaming fix right here and now while Android TV’s selection of games and apps lets you play on the device itself, using any controller you prefer. The new SHIELD TV is still compatible with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, making it the invisible smart home hub you may have always wanted.


If the SHIELD TV is built for streaming, the new SHIELD TV Pro is built for everything. It has all the new features above and, thanks to the upgrade to 3 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage, is capable of supporting more experiences, particularly Android gaming and multi-tasking. The addition of two USB 3.0 ports also makes the tall box an ideal Plex media server.

The NVIDIA SHIELD TV (2019) is designed to meet most streaming needs without much fuss at both setup and price, starting at $149 including the remote. The bigger and more powerful NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro, on the other hand, bumps it up a bit to $199.

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