NVIDIA’s New SHIELDs Step Up the Features, but Downgrades the Value

Score:
8/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Scorching Rubbish
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Rubbish
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Execs, Tons Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Sufficient to Purchase On Sale
  • 7 – Nice, However Not Finest-In-Class
  • 8 – Unbelievable, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Cash
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana
Worth: $150-200
The new SHIELD TV with its remote and a PS4 controller.
Michael Crider

For years, the NVIDIA SHIELD has been the king of streaming set-top packing containers, justifying its worth with top-shelf {hardware} and implausible help. At the moment NVIDIA introduced its greatest {hardware} improve to the SHIELD but, together with a brand new, cheaper type issue.

Here is What We Like

  • New distant is healthier in each approach
  • AI upscaling actually works
  • Xbox, PlayStation controller help

And What We Do not

  • Decrease storage on new design
  • No controller on SHIELD Professional
  • Worth would not examine effectively

The brand new cylindrical SHIELD TV inherits the identify, with the SHIELD Professional moniker going to the upgraded model of the oblong design. Since that mannequin will get the upgraded processor and redesigned distant, however in any other case stays kind of the identical because it ever was (together with the worth), we’re going to maintain our enthusiastic suggestion of that machine.

The new cylindrical SHIELD versus the original SHIELD TV.
The brand new cylindrical SHIELD versus the unique SHIELD TV. Michael Crider

However what of the brand new SHIELD, which seems sort of like a can of spray deodorant or a sizzling canine? It’s an fascinating proposition, stripping out a number of of the options of the extra typical SHIELD for a small worth lower (down 25% to $150) however getting the quick new processor, too. Whereas it’s nonetheless a implausible streaming machine, that $50 worth lower brings it to inside placing distance of different wonderful streaming gadgets just like the Roku Extremely and Fireplace TV Dice, out of the blue making it appear to be a clumsy center little one, caught between each worth factors and platforms.

The brand new SHIELD TV is a superb streaming machine; I’m simply undecided who it’s for. These wanting to economize have loads of cheaper choices, and people on the lookout for probably the most highly effective and versatile streaming system gained’t have an issue upgrading to the SHIELD TV Professional (or simply sticking with the SHIELD they already personal).

What’s Totally different

What’s new within the new SHIELD? Right here’s a short have a look at the upgrades which can be unique to this design era, each on the smaller SHIELD and the bigger SHIELD Professional.

  • New Tegra X1+ processor, with 25% higher efficiency
  • Assist for 4K “AI” upscaling
  • Assist for Dolby Imaginative and prescient HDR and Dolby Atmos audio
  • A brand new (and far, MUCH higher) distant, included in each {hardware} packages

Notice that the brand new SHIELD Professional doesn’t embrace a spinning arduous drive, like the older, larger $299 mannequin. It’s a small improve of the flash-based SHIELD, with the identical 16GB of storage.

The NVIDIA Shield TV logo.
The one adornment on the brand new SHIELD is a tiny brand. Michael Crider

Right here’s what’s totally different concerning the $150 SHIELD TV (sans Professional):

  • New cylindrical type issue
  • Lowered RAM (2GB vs 3GB). This implies it’s not suitable with some NVIDIA-published Android recreation ports, like Metallic Gear Rising or Tomb Raider.
  • Lowered storage (simply 8GB)
  • No USB ports

And there are different software program enhancements, which can be coming to older SHIELD models by way of over-the-air replace:

  • Upgraded Android TV interface
  • Compatibility with default Xbox One and PlayStation Four controllers
  • Up to date TV interface, Play Retailer and SHIELD cellphone app
  • Compatibility with all Google Assistant options

Alright, now that that’s out of the way in which, let’s take a look at the brand new design.

New Kind Issue

NVIDIA says that the cylindrical SHIELD TV is “designed to vanish,” and that it does. It’s a thick tube of plastic, 6.5 inches lengthy and 1.5 inches in diameter—it seems like a kind of Maglite D-cell designs my dad used to maintain in his automobile. On one facet is the HDMI port and MicroSD card slot, with an influence button you in all probability gained’t use, and on the opposite is an influence twine port and Ethernet port (sure, it nonetheless has an choice for wired web). Other than one seam and an embossed NVIDIA brand, that’s it.

The SHIELD TV, power cord, HDMI cable, and remote.
It’s sort of like a laptop computer energy twine with a distant. Michael Crider

In use, the brand new SHIELD seems sort of like a laptop computer energy provide, which for some motive, is operating from an influence outlet to your TV’s HDMI port. It’ll conceal on or behind your leisure middle—there’s no want for line-of-sight to your sofa for the reason that distant and all equipment use Bluetooth.

The top and bottom ports of the new SHIELD TV.
Michael Crider

It’s actually a novel method, particularly contrasted with the SHIELD’s earlier bombastic, recreation console-style physique. I believe that the designers have been going for an unobtrusive Chromecast-style gadget, however the house, energy, and weight necessities of the Tegra {hardware} have been simply an excessive amount of for an HDMI dongle to deal with.

The new SHIELD form factor versus the original.
NVIDIA

Does the shape issue make a distinction? Probably not. Those that need to use exterior inputs like a mouse and keyboard simply will miss the USB ports, however that’s about the one change in on a regular basis use. (Mice and keyboards can nonetheless join by way of Bluetooth.) The drop in cupboard space is a way more important differentiation—extra on that later.

New Distant

The most important user-facing change, for each the entry-level SHIELD and the SHIELD Professional, is the brand new distant. It’s a drastic departure from the thin distant that shipped with the unique SHIELD and has been paired with new fashions and packages ever since. As a substitute of a flat shiny slate, you get a triangular prism with typical AAA batteries and extra devoted buttons with a motion-controlled backlight.

The original and new SHIELD remotes.
That lengthy groove on the unique distant was quantity management. It was dangerous. Michael Crider

These embrace energy (for the SHIELD, not your TV until you may have HDMI-CEC enabled), menu, play/pause, ahead and again, and quantity up and down (for the SHIELD or your TV or soundbar, due to IR), plus a devoted Netflix button. The Android Dwelling, Again, and voice management buttons stay, together with the D-pad and central choose.

The unique distant was a particular low level within the SHIELD’s design, if solely as a result of quantity management was so spotty with that touch-sensitive strip. The brand new design is healthier in each approach. Devoted quantity buttons may be skilled to your TV’s infrared indicators like a common distant (urgent each up and down directly will ship the mute sign), and the menu button may be assigned to any variety of helpful features, like a devoted mute button, toggling the AI upscaling, or opening a selected app. Even the bodily design is less complicated to carry, and switching to AAA batteries is effectively well worth the change. It helps that this triangular design gained’t slip between the cushions on my sofa!

The remote button programming menu.
Gadget reviewers in every single place thanks, NVIDIA.

Even so, there are a few methods it might be improved. The ability management gained’t work to your TV (once more, until you utilize HDMI-CEC, which may be sketchy), and there’s no technique to swap inputs to a recreation console or Blu-Ray participant (although NVIDIA says they’re wanting into including these options). Which means the SHIELD distant can’t change your TV distant, as you may need hoped while you heard about that infrared function. It’s additionally a significant trouble to get it again open, so the few occasions you’ll want to swap out these batteries you’ll must take look after the sake of your fingernails.

The new SHIELD remote with battery cover removed.
The battery cowl on the distant is hard to get off. Michael Crider

The excellent news is that this new distant design can be obtainable as a $30 buy, and it’s suitable with older SHIELD TV models. If the distant is what actually excites you about these upgrades, you will get it simply.

New Software program Choices

For me, the spotlight of the brand new upgrades is compatibility with Xbox One and PlayStation Four controllers. I paired each of those with the brand new SHIELD, they usually labored flawlessly, identical to the unique SHIELD controller (minus the quantity and Android buttons, naturally). Once more, it is a function that’s coming to older SHIELD TV models by way of a software program replace.

The SHIELD TV connected to an Xbox and PS4 controller.
The SHIELD TV concurrently related to PS4 and Xbox controllers.

The issues that gained’t be coming to older SHIELDs are “AI” 4K upscaling and Dolby Imaginative and prescient HDR and Atmos help.

I used to be actually ready to dismiss this AI-based upscaling at first. It’s native, operating on that juiced-up Tegra X1+ chip, making it distinctly totally different from NVIDIA’s DLSS seen on some latest PC video games. And having seen makes an attempt at computerized content material upscaling earlier than, I believed it might be a gimmick that made the picture sharper however not essentially “higher” on 1080p content material displayed on my (admittedly low cost) 4K TV.

An NVIDIA example of AI 4K upscaling.
NVIDIA

However you understand what? It really works. The SHIELD features a helpful demo mode, permitting you to take a look at the impact side-by-side with an unaltered picture. Watching Netflix content material, I might see a rise in sharpness within the options of the Jessica Jones intro, or the delicate background options of Coco. However what actually offered me on it was the Star Wars Episode IX trailer: in a shot of C-3PO, I might make out the delicate particulars of the grid-based lights in his eyes significantly better with the AI upscaling turned on.

It’s too dangerous Android TV isn’t really able to capturing this impact in a screenshot because it’s operating in real-time, so I can’t present it to you in a direct comparability. Um, sorry.

A screenshot of a Star Wars trailer using the AI upscaling effect.
Sadly, Android TV can’t really seize a screenshot of this impact operating. Bummer.

This function isn’t going to completely rework all that previous 1080p content material into one thing worthy of your fancy 4K TV. However for those who’re questioning if the function simply makes stuff look higher, the reply is “sure.” That’s in all probability not sufficient to promote you on a brand new SHIELD for those who’ve nonetheless received the previous one, but it surely’s undeniably spectacular. I do should report that testing the upscaler had an unlucky tendency to crash the Netflix Android TV app, however primarily based on the remainder of my testing, that appears to be a Netflix-specific difficulty.

Dolby Atmos features in the Settings menu.

I don’t have a high-end setup obtainable to check the brand new Dolby Imaginative and prescient HDR and Atmos options. However these are usually digital in nature: they’re both obtainable, or they’re not. It might actually make a distinction for those who’ve invested 4 or 5 grand in your house theater setup.

Worth is Missing

Now we come to the true bitter observe of this replace. At $150, the SHIELD TV is about double what you’d count on to pay for a stand-alone set-top field just like the Roku and $50 greater than you’d count on from one with 4K and different superior media options.

The storage menu for the SHIELD TV.
With the OS put in, the SHIELD TV now simply has a number of GB of storage left over.

And that may be superb. NVIDIA’s demonstrated a dedication to its {hardware} and software program that justifies the premium. Besides that the storage on the brand new SHIELD, frankly, sucks. 16GB was already a bit anemic on earlier SHIELDs, however 8GB is an embarrassing lack of storage for any {hardware} with pretensions of “premium” standing, now that even funds telephones are coming with 64GB of house. Positive, you may broaden it with an inexpensive MicroSD card (not a USB-based drive, since there aren’t any ports). However why ought to you need to spend the additional cash and take care of the extra administration?

It’s price mentioning that, for simply $200, the Nintendo Change Lite features a Tegra-based recreation console, display, battery, management buttons, and 32GB of storage. There’s simply no approach to have a look at this with out NVIDIA seeming stingy on built-in storage capability. For those who’re not planning on utilizing the SHIELD for any native media or video games, this isn’t an issue. However for those who’re taking a look at a SHIELD in any respect, the chances are that you just need to do extra with it than your customary Roku.

An SD card inserted into the SHIELD
This SD card is the other way up as a result of it’s powerful to see the picture the opposite approach. You’re welcome. Michael Crider

The SHIELD Professional isn’t getting out of this unscathed, both. Its $200 price ticket is similar because the older “Gaming Version” bundle, which included NVIDIA’s wonderful controller ($60 by itself). Positive, the SHIELD can now use an Xbox or PlayStation controller, which you in all probability have for those who’re within the SHIELD for gaming. However deleting the controller and preserving the worth the identical continues to be a poor transfer for worth.

The new SHIELD with the original SHIELD and controller.
The unique SHIELD got here with a controller—neither new fashions do. Michael Crider

All this combines to make the SHIELD far much less aggressive by way of worth, for various causes at each ranges. It’s a disappointing step down.

Nonetheless the Finest Round

For 4 years, we’ve really helpful the SHIELD as the perfect set-top field for critical media and gaming, and that suggestion hasn’t modified. If you’d like the perfect expertise for 4K streaming, plus entry to NVIDIA’s wonderful software program (together with the considerably much less wonderful NVIDIA GameStream and GeForce NOW options), it’s nonetheless a implausible product. And it’s solely enhanced by NVIDIA’s demonstrated dedication to software program and have updates.

I’m lukewarm on the brand new type issue for the entry-level SHIELD TV however offered on the redesigned distant. It’s extra snug, extra practical, and far more simple to make use of. I want it might management my TV’s energy and enter along with quantity, however that may come as a future replace. And fortunately, this distant is offered as an inexpensive improve to homeowners of the older SHIELDs, too.

The new SHIELD TV as a hot dog.
I wasn’t kidding. It seems like a sizzling canine. Michael Crider

Sadly, the brand new SHIELDs are a poorer worth than their older counterparts, even with the lower cost for the cylindrical unit. The teeny-tiny storage, MicroSD however, is an actual downer on in any other case wonderful {hardware}. AI upscaling and new Dolby Imaginative and prescient and Atmos compatibility, whereas appreciated, don’t totally counterbalance these points.

For those who’re not involved with comparative worth, the SHIELD continues to be undeniably good. In case you are…effectively, it incessantly goes on sale. SHIELD die-hards, decide up the brand new distant whilst you watch for one.

Score: 8/10
Worth: $150-200

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *