Nvidia Shield TV 2019 review: excellence is added to a good idea

The Nvidia Shield TV is a new generation of the well known Nvidia brand that excels in manufacturing brilliant Android TV boxes. If you have the slightest knowledge about TV boxes and IPTV, chance is you have already known about Nvidia company and their products.

Shield TV is equipped with an Nvidia Tegra X1 SoC equipped with a Custom GPU by Nvidia and it can broadcast content in 4K HDR with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos compatibility.

At the end of 2019, the Nvidia Shield TV came back in two versions, the classic and the Pro. The first now offers a tubular box while the second retains its wiser TV decoder look. However, they are even on several points. For example, they both carry Android TV 9 and they are powered by the new Tegra X1 + chip from Nvidia.

To put it simply, the 2019 Shields retain all the functionality of previous generations, while adding new strings to their bow, including a remote control, more modern and much more practical to use to control a multimedia box.

This is the classic version of the Shield TV 2019 that we are testing here, sold at $149 with its brand new remote control. The previous edition of Nvidia’s Android TV box really won us over. There is therefor, no reason why we would believe it wouldn’t keep the same promises.

Full-fledged multimedia

Do not be fooled by its all-round little boil, the classic Shield TV 2019 is an ultra powerful multimedia player. Its purpose is to transform any screen or Full HD or 4K TV, not connected, into a model with all digital options, spinning on Android TV 9. And if you already have a connected TV, do not think that the Shield will, however, be devoid of interest!

The Shield TV embodies the new way of consuming audiovisual content: video on demand, catch-up, via specific applications (Molotov, Arte, France 24, RMC Sport, etc.). Or even using the built-in Chromecast 4K, that is to say, launch the playback of content from your Android smartphone and project it, wirelessly, on the TV or monitor connected to the Shield.

The format of this new Shield TV 2019 contrasts sharply with what Nvidia could offer in the past. The tubular shape fits in rather well and offers the possibility of hiding it behind the TV or in a corner of the TV table. You can even lay it on the floor, behind it.

Its connectivity comes with an HDMI 2.0b output, a wired network socket (Wi-Fi ac is also present), a microSD card reader, and a power socket. Clearly, once you have connected it to the screen, to the Internet box and to the power source, that you have swiped a card in the reader, you will normally no longer have to touch it.

This is why Nvidia perhaps thought that miniaturizing the device as much as possible was not a bad idea.

Consumption down

By default, when you turn off the Shield, it will indeed go to sleep. Switching it off completely is however possible via the Android menu but, as soon as you proceed in this way, it cannot be switched on again using the remote control. It is mandatory to go to activate the small button which is just above the HDMI output. Not practical, especially if the Shield is behind the TV cabinet.

Resuming from standby is immediate while the cold start takes approximately 15 to 20 seconds.

Please be aware that this is not Nvidia’s Android box that could balloon your electricity bill at the end of the year. The power measurements told us that it consumes no more than 2 watts in standby, an average of 4.8 watts in conventional use (YouTube, some Android games), up to 8 watts when we stream content 4K from Netflix or take advantage of the GeForce Now cloud gaming app. The old model, as a reminder, often exceeded 10 watts in conventional use and could even climb to 20 watts when streaming 4K, over Wi-Fi.

We noticed that the small case tended to heat up after several hours of heavy use. Also, if you plan to hide it, still make sure it can breathe fresh air.

Better remote control

The all new Shield TV remote control is everything we wish we had a generation ago. It is certainly longer and thicker, but its triangular shape provides a good grip. The keys are now backlit and clearly identified. You can even customize one of them to launch an application or open the Settings menu.

Nvidia shield remote control

Difficult to miss the large button dedicated to Netflix. Once pressed, it launches the application and the well-known “Toudoum” sounds in seconds (as long as you have an active subscription). Don’t forget to mention the little microphone that will pick up orders and requests that you can give to Google Assistant. It is only activated when the microphone-shaped button is pressed.

I should also mention that Alexa – Amazon’s assistant – can control the box, provided you download a small app (from the Store) and have an Echo Dot or any other compatible device.
Finally, Nvidia is switching back to battery power. Two AAA sticks are required and delivered in the box.

Shield TV 2019: a compatibility monster

With the tip of the remote control, the Android TV 9 interface can be controlled without slowing down. It’s so flexible that we would like Samsung, Sony and others to take it from the seed and offer the same browsing speed in the connected interfaces of their skylights.

A pleasure of flexibility that we owe to the Tegra X1 + chip and to the 2 GB of memory embedded in the small tube. Android is installed on the 8 GB of storage present, like all the applications that you can add to your Shield. This is why we advise you, once again, not to hesitate to invest in a microSD card on which you will store all your digital content. Note also that all formats, codecs and other containers are managed by the Shield.

Several color ranges are supported (such as HDR10), as are Dolby Vision and Atmos. If you have the right equipment to enjoy it and movies or reports can take advantage of it, you will have a great time. Any incompatibilities that you may encounter will be sought from the viewing apps used. To avoid any trouble, bet on safe values (VLC at random).

AI at the service of multimedia

As we explained at the release of the Shield, the Tegra X1 Plus processor offers more power than the classic X1. It is also better engraved and has an appetite for image processing by artificial intelligence. In other words, it is capable of implementing algorithms created from long AI sessions on Nvidia’s servers. Here, it is a question of applying an upscaling on a 1080p60 content (maximum) to achieve a sharpness of image close to that which one would obtain on a 4K television set (30 Hz / fps).

Besides, the TV or screen must be a 4K model for upscaling to work. Otherwise, a message politely informs you that it is not possible to improve the image. Is it worth mentioning that trying to improve 4K content with Nvidia’s AI will end in failure?

Note also that you can adjust the intensity of “IA Improvement” according to three levels (Low, Medium, High). For this technology to be most effective, the film or series must be properly encoded at the base. After a few hours spent watching content of different natures (YouTube videos, movies, series streamed or read locally from microSD), I must admit that the improvements made by the AI are stunning, I do really mean my words.

The result is particularly visible on scenes where the action is not too fast or on close-ups of faces, in the dialogue phases for example. In YouTube video clips, on Netflix series and even on content downloaded (legally) and whose encoding may vary, Nvidia’s IAmoulinette produces its effect.

Excellent first results and the best is yet to come

In action films like Marvel where everything goes too fast or in works whose backgrounds tend to be very blurred, even with a fixed camera, upscaling sometimes tends to be zealous and has create more embarrassment than pleasure, identical printing on aging content and on certain subtitles, especially those in yellow. They seem to pose a little concern to the AI. It strives to make them sharper and causes a slight halo effect.

This improvement via artificial intelligence can only improve over time. The brand’s spokespersons made that clear formal; the algorithm continues to be refined, submitted to new content and trained on a regular basis. The new versions will be injected through the system updates that Nvidia will make in the coming months.

Note also that, on this point, Nvidia has always made sure to keep the Shields as up-to-date as possible, whether in terms of development of Android TV versions or home apps. The same cannot be said of all brands!

A classic Shield TV less “gamer” than the previous ones?

Nvidia has chosen to no longer deliver a gamepad with the Shield. To justify itself, the GPU designer specifies that their device is compatible with all the major Bluetooth controllers on the market, as with all sets of wireless keyboards and mice.

Is it a nail in the coffin of the Shield? No, not particularly. It is always possible to have fun with the games specially developed for the platform.

Not to mention that the Shield TV 2019 gives access to GeForce Now, Nvidia’s cloud gaming service that allows you to play many of the PC titles you own on Steam, Uplay, etc., without having to install or configure them. The quality of the video stream then transmitted by Nvidia servers depends very much on speed of your connection, as with any streaming service.

And what about Stadia? Nvidia ensures that if Google offers an Android TV application from its cloud gaming service there is no reason why it should not be ported to the Shield. It will be the same for Shadow, the 100% French cloud gaming PC, when the Android TV application of the service will be available in final version.

However, Nvidia does not hide it: if you want a real small 80% Android, 20% PC game console, combined with a multimedia server to which you can connect hard disks or USB keys, this is the Shield Pro you need. It costs more but also offers more possibilities.

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