From its initial release in 2015 and all subsequent iterations of the device, the NVIDIA Shield has been a niche set-top box with a cult following. However, you should avoid an NVIDIA Shield today?
Primarily advertised as being for gamers, it boasts much stronger specs in comparison to your average set-top box. The Shield device is also capable of streaming video games directly to your TV via NVIDIA’s GeForce Now subscription service.
A Brief History of the NVIDIA Shield
As previously mentioned, the very first iteration of the NVIDIA Shield was released in 2015. The NVIDIA Shield runs on the Android TV operating system. As such, the device can run games from the Google Play store, which is another advertised feature for gamers.
The device is shipped alongside video game-like controllers, as opposed to TV controllers. TV controllers are available as a separate add-on purchase should people want them.
Alongside the original NVIDIA Shield, there is also an upgraded version called the Shield TV Pro. The Pro iteration of the device comes with increased internal storage, allowing users to download more games and apps without the need for an SD card.
This is particularly important as one of the fan-favorite ways to use the NVIDIA Shield is as an emulation console. This can be achieved as the device allows you to side-load apps and files not from the Google Play store.
NVIDIA Shield 2017 Refresh
In 2017, NVIDIA released a new version of the smaller NVIDIA Shield device (not the Pro). This new version of the NVIDIA Shield was smaller in form and dropped support for SD cards and infrared. The controller for this version of the device was also updated, but the rest of the hardware is identical.
NVIDIA Shield 2019 Refresh
The most recent iteration of the NVIDIA Shield TV launched in 2019. Once again, the device was just called the NVIDIA Shield, so unless you are aware of what to look for, they are all difficult to tell apart. This new iteration of the device had an upgraded CPU and was once again made smaller in form. This time, the storage of the device was made even smaller (and again could not support an SD card).
The 5 Reasons to Avoid the NVIDIA Shield
Despite the cult following of the NVIDIA Shield believing it to be the single best TV set-top box for years, that public perception is slowly beginning to fade. Some people will still argue that the device is the best, but it has a growing list of flaws that we need to discuss.
In 2021, the Android TV operating system rolled out a brand new update for all devices, including the NVIDIA Shield.
Along with this update came the inclusion of forced ads on the main screen of the device. This means that, while scrolling the home page looking for your favorite apps, ads are going to be placed around the screen. While this is not unique to the NVIDIA Shield, it is one of the few remaining devices on the market that run the old version of Android TV OS.
No Recent Releases
As we previously mentioned in the history section of this article, the last NVIDIA Shield was released in 2019. As you likely are already aware, technology generally depreciates in value and quality over the years. The fact that the only NVIDIA Shield device still on the market is nearly five years old places it way behind some of the other modern offerings, both in technology and in how long they’ll be supported.
As it stands, NVIDIA has offered no estimates or implications that they intend to release another NVIDIA Shield. Since the same chip used in the Shield is now used in the Nintendo Switch, it is believed that the product line has been abandoned.
If we do see another iteration, it likely won’t be until after the rumored Nintendo Switch 2 is launched.
NVIDIA GameStream Has Ended
One of the primary selling features of the NVIDIA Shield was the fact that it worked akin to an old Steam Machine. If you had a gaming PC in the house, you could stream your games from the PC to the NVIDIA Shield.
Since the Shield had a controller, this made couch play very easy. However, NVIDIA has ended support for GameStream. This means that current users of the NVIDIA Shield can no longer utilize one of the most advertised features.
Lacking Modern Features
The new generation of TV set-top boxes includes powerhouses from Apple, Google, Roku, and Amazon. It is also an era where most modern TVs are smart TVs and thus do not need a set-top box.
Devices such as the Apple TV offer features like spatial audio, which the NVIDIA Shield lacks. Since Google has also moved on to a modified version of Android TV OS with the Chromecast Google TV, the NVIDIA Shield will lack in sizeable updates and phone connectivity going forward. Amazon offerings also offer nearly everything the NVIDIA Shield did for its time, plus more.
Despite being a relatively old device, the NVIDIA Shield still costs just as much as its competitors. The Chrome Google TV that supports equivalent quality, for example, is nearly $100 cheaper. Even if you’re one of the people who want to take advantage of GeForce Now or emulation, there are cheaper ways to do that.
It’s very difficult in the current market to recommend the NVIDIA Shield at its price point.
Alternatives to the NVIDIA Shield
Chromecast with Google TV (4K)
- Streaming in up to 4K HDR quality
- Dedicated Google Assistant button on the included remote
- Stream over 700,000 TV shows and films
- Supports Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Google TV, and YouTube
- Compatible with most TVs with an HDMI port
As we mentioned throughout the article, the NVIDIA Shield runs on the Android TV operating system. Since the NVIDIA Shield, Google has modified this operating system and now calls it Google TV.
The device that this new version of the OS runs on is the Chromecast with Google TV (4K), and it is by far the most bang for your buck set-top box on the market.
While the Chromecast with Google TV (4K) may lack the gaming-oriented features of the NVIDIA Shield, it still has access to Google Play store games and you can easily pair a Bluetooth controller. It supports the same 4K quality as the NVIDIA Shield, runs a similar enough OS, and most importantly, is $100 cheaper.
You can check out the Chromecast with Google TV (4K) on Amazon.
Amazon Fire TV Cube
- Twice as powerful as Fire TV Stick 4K Max
- Control your devices with hands-free Alexa
- Seamlessly switch between your compatible devices
- Supports Wi-Fi 6E
- 4K with support for Dolby Vision, HDR, and Dolby Atmos
If you frequent communities built around the NVIDIA Shield, many people recommend the Fire TV Cube as the new best set-top box to purchase.
The Fire TV Cube costs exactly the same price as an NVIDIA Shield but was released in 2022, not 2019. It offers the same 16GB that the initial NVIDIA Shield offered and supports all the same Dolby technologies. The Fire Cube TV is also fully integrated with Alexa, for those already in the Amazon ecosystem. The biggest issue people have with this device is disliking the Amazon UI.
The Fire TV Cube can be purchased from Amazon (of course). As a first-party Amazon product, it is likely to go on sale during events such as Prime Day.
Apple TV 4K
- 4K Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos sound and HDR10+ support
- Equipped with the powerful A15 Bionic chip
- Third-generation Siri Remote with improved clickpad
- Wi-Fi and Ethernet options available
It would be remiss to not mention the Apple TV 4K for customers in the Apple ecosystem.
The Apple TV 4K offers the largest memory of the aforementioned devices, with a whopping 64GB. It also offers an extremely fast 4K UI. Despite offering 4K video, most set-top boxes do not have UI menus natively in 4K. Further, the Apple TV 4K offers support for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, includes Siri integration, and runs on the brand-new Apple A15 chip.
The Apple TV 4K can be purchased from Amazon when it happens to be in stock. Make sure you pay attention to the year listed, as Amazon actually sells all generations of the Apple TV 4K. The one we’re recommending was released in 2022 and is the 3rd Generation.
Smart TVs and Video Game Consoles
- Full array LED contrast with amazing depth and detail
- Intelligent processor delivers intense contrast and natural colors
- Perfect for high-performance PS5 gaming
- HDMI 2.1 with 4K/120, VRR, and ALLM.
Most modern TVs on the market already include some degree of smart TV functionality, such as apps and streaming. Some devices, like Sony Bravia TVs, also run on Android TV OS. If you are in the market for a new TV, it is highly likely that you won’t need a set-top box at all.
Considering the largest base for the NVIDIA Shield was gamers, there is a decently high likelihood interested customers already own a modern gaming device. For those who have an Xbox Series S/X or PlayStation 4 Pro/PlayStation 5, your video game console already offers most streaming apps and functionality. The only outcast here is the Nintendo Switch, which offers Youtube and Crunchyroll, but lacks sites such as Netflix.
The NVIDIA Shield was revolutionary for its time, offering the highest specs and most features in the set-top box market. However, as with most tech, it has aged most ungracefully.
With the saddening realization that there likely will never be another NVIDIA Shield, it is time for customers to move on to modern offerings. Customers can rest assured that of the options above, you truly can’t go wrong with any of them. We encourage picking whichever one best fits your needs and the device ecosystem you may already find yourself in.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©History-Computer.com/Skye Gallo.