Nvidia Shield TV Review

Nvidia’s Shield TV is a high-end 4K media streamer with some gaming chops. Now the company has refreshed the Shield TV unit with a cylindrical shape, faster processor, AI upscaling, Dolby Vision support, redesigned remote, and lower price. While the odd, cigar-like shape of the Shield TV itself and the strangely triangular remote control will get your attention, the biggest change to the Shield TV is its newfound ability to harness AI to convincingly upscale HD video to 4K. And true to Nvidia’s primary calling, the Shield TV provides a number of gaming outlets, from the usual fare of mobile games in the Google Play Store to streaming AAA titles from its GeForce Now service or your own PC.It’s also less expensive than the previous model ($150 MSRP, down from $200), no longer holding the crown of most expensive streaming box, a title the $179 Apple TV 4K now inherits. Does its faster performance, AI upscaling and lower price make the Nvidia Shield TV the streaming box (or, in its case, cylinder) to own? Let’s dig in and find out.

Design and Features

Streaming boxes are usually cube-like in shape, but the new Nvidia Shield TV arrives in a drastically different form factor: the humble cylinder. With an HDMI port on one end and the power connector on the other, it’s meant to be stashed behind your TV among your tangle of cables. Next to the HDMI port is a microSD slot for expanding the Shield TV’s internal storage, and an Ethernet jack sits next to the power port if you’d rather use a wired connection to your network rather than Wi-Fi. There’s also a button that makes the remote emit a series of beeps if you ever need help locating it.

The remote control is less likely to slip between your couch cushions than the previous Shield TV remote or the skinny remotes for Apple TV or Fire TV. Unlike those thin slivers, the Shield TV remote is triangular in shape and noticeably more substantial, like a Toblerone chocolate bar. And it has some heft to it – in large part because it’s powered by two AAA batteries instead of a smaller, rechargeable battery.

The remote makes it easy to navigate the Android TV interface. It has a navigational ring that surrounds a Select button. Below are Home and Back buttons, media control buttons, volume buttons, and a voice search button via Google Assistant. Above the navigation ring are two buttons – the power button and a programmable button you can set to perform one of a variety of tasks, including opening the settings menu, muting the volume, or toggling AI upscaling on and off. After testing the AI upscaling, I ended up setting the button to act as a mute button. The bottom-most button is a Netflix button that I wish wasn’t so wide because I constantly hit it by accident. I also still haven’t gotten used to the layout of the media control buttons – fast forward, play/pause, and rewind are lined up vertically. It helps, however, that the buttons light up when you pick up the remote.

To get the remote’s volume buttons working, you’ll need to head into the settings of Android TV and connect it with your TV, speakers, or soundbar. You can do the same thing in order to have the remote’s power button turn your TV on and off with the Shield TV. Both volume and power buttons were easy to set up and seamless to use.

Like the previous model, the newest Shield TV supports HDR10 and Dolby Atmos. Unlike the last model, it also supports Dolby Vision, which is good news for watching 4K content on Prime Video, Apple, Netflix and Vudu. It lacks the HDR10+ format, which provides an even more realistic, dynamic picture – a feature you get with the Amazon Fire TV Cube. The Shield TV can also act as a Chromecast for streaming content from your phone, tablet or laptop.

Powering the Shield TV is Nvidia’s own Tegra X1+ processor and 8GB of flash storage. The new Tegra chip is up to 25% faster than the Tegra X1 chip in the previous Shield TV, according to Nvidia, but the storage capacity is half that of the previous model. You can, however, expand the Shield TV’s storage via the microSD card slot. (The previous model had a USB port for expanded storage.) Then again, given the sheer amount of streaming content available, you may not even fill the 8GB of internal storage.

Unlike the previous Shield TV, the current model does not ship with a game controller. This helps bring the price down by $50 from the previous model, and isn’t a terrible omission if you have an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 controller, either of which work just fine. I quickly and easily paired at Xbox One controller with the Shield TV, although it wasn’t always smooth sailing – more on that in the next section.

Setting up Shield TV is a snap, requiring only a power cable and HDMI connection to your TV. You will, however, need to supply your own HDMI cable; Nvidia curiously doesn’t include one in the box. With the Shield TV connected to your TV and powered on, you simply need to connect to your home network, either wired or wirelessly. The entire process took me less than 10 minutes, and that included running a system update for Android TV and pairing the Shield TV remote with my Vizio soundbar and Insignia TV.

Running Android TV 8.1, the Shield TV is easy to navigate. A row small icons sits at the top of your favorite apps; you can add and remove apps to this list and drag and drop to reorder the list. Below that sits a row of Nvidia games you can play or stream; most of the titles listed are streamable via Nvidia’s GeForce Now service, but any games you purchase from the Google Play Store also show up here. Below these top two rows of apps and games are rows of your “channels.” That is, the streaming services you use, from the Google Play Store and YouTube to Netflix and Hulu. For each channel row, you can scroll sideways to see thumbnails of recommendations.

You can customize your rows of channels, but some services, including YouTube TV and Amazon Prime Video, don’t get their own channel in this column. I accessed these two streaming services from the row of favorites at the top, which isn’t terribly inconvenient, but doesn’t show recommendations that would let me jump directly into a show.

On the whole, the Android TV interface is well organized and easily customizable – with some limitations in terms of which services can be added as a channel. And since Nvidia doesn’t offer its own streaming service outside of GeForce Now for games, it isn’t tipped toward one service. The Fire TV Cube, for instance, heavily favors Prime Video content. With Shield TV, it is a more equitable layout among the services, although it is disappointing that not every service is available to add as its own channel, including Amazon’s.

I cut the cord last year, moving from cable TV to YouTube TV, and my only complaint has been the slow speed with which my Roku TV switches channels. That lag all but disappeared with Shield TV. Flipping through channels on YouTube TV via Shield TV is much faster than with my Roku-enabled Insignia TV and on par with the speed of the Apple TV 4K.

One major Shield TV feature that you won’t find on other streaming boxes is the ability to play AAA games. In addition to downloading casual games from the Google Play Store and playing them, you can stream games via Nvidia’s GeForce Now service and from your own PC – as long as it has an Nvidia GeForce GPU. With the Nvidia Experience app open on my PC, I was able to stream games to my TV, but navigating menus of some games with a controller on my TV proved challenging, to the point that on more than one occasion I had to retreat to my PC and press enter or use a mouse to move the cursor. For the most part, games played smoothly, but I did encounter a problem with CS:GO I couldn’t solve. Although my Xbox One controller worked perfectly for the game on my PC, the controls weren’t right when playing on my TV – I couldn’t move forward without also panning up, which made the game unplayable.

While only gamers with GeForce-based PCs are able to use GameStream, any and all Shield TV owners with a 4K HDTV will enjoy its AI upscaling, which takes 720p and 1080p video and upscales it to 4K. I am generally skeptical of such upscaling, but it’s very effective and convincing on the Shield TV. It’s easy to toggle on and off, and the Shield TV even includes a demo mode that lets you move a vertical line across your screen to compare the upscaled and original image side-by-side. I found the differences between the two images to be slight but appreciated – surfaces appeared more textured and edges were crisper with AI upscaling, and it didn’t introduce any artifacts. I ended up leaving it enabled on its Medium setting (there’s also Low and High settings for Detail Enhancement), but I was disappointed to find it didn’t work with YouTube with Live TV or games. I wish I could watch live sports with AI upscaling, but I was more than happy to stream content on Netflix and Hulu with it.

Purchasing Guide

The Nvidia Shield TV is available at its MSRP of $149.99 direct from Nvidia’s site as well as online retailers, including Amazon and Best Buy. It was briefly discounted to $129 in late January, but is back to full price as of this writing.


For its speedy performance, AI upscaling, well-designed remote, and lower price, the Nvidia Shield TV is one of the best media streamers you can buy. Its ability to stream games makes it even more attractive for gamers with GeForce-based rigs.

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