Nvidia Shield TV (2019) review: totally tubular

I’ve spent a few days checking out the tube-fashioned Shield TV, and I deem it’s going to appeal to a just wider target audience than the home theater enthusiasts who’ve been drawn to the Shield for its sheer horsepower and instrument (Android TV) that enables for varied of tinkering. Would love to load the Shield up with emulators and sport ROMs? Fill at it. Sideload to your heart’s sigh.

Both the Shield TV Educated and Shield TV consist of Nvidia’s Tegra X1+ chip, which is “up to 25 percent sooner” than the older device. The Shield has steadily been solid via efficiency, and I don’t deem you’ll receive a sooner Android TV ride anyplace. This roughly roam and fluidity is rivaled finest by the Apple TV 4K. Netflix, YouTube, High Video, and different apps open as regards to-at once and are buttery tender as you scroll round for something to deem. Google Assistant responds rapidly, and Android TV can now be incorporated in routines created with the Google Dwelling app.

I’ve grown rather bullish on Android TV in my time using the Shield. The house camouflage is correctly customizable and isn’t laced with commercials love a Roku or Fireplace TV. I love that I’m in a position to scroll via most modern movies from my YouTube subscriptions proper on the home camouflage. But now not many apps provide these horizontal carousels. Bizarrely, now not even YouTube TV does. It’d be nice to indulge in my popular channels proper there for easy accessibility to live TV, but nope. This lack of enhance for Android TV positive aspects (including image-in-image) from third-rep collectively builders and Google itself is disappointing.

You will most certainly be in a situation to Chromecast to the Shield TV, and issue commands via Google Assistant work reliably. Google is also within the extinguish bettering the Play Store on Android TV for more uncomplicated discoverability.

The Shield TV’s plot is undoubtedly unconventional. You’re now not going to mistake this thing for an Apple TV or Roku. And at over 6 inches long, the Shield TV is by no way a streaming “stick.” It’s now not intended to grasp off out of your TV’s HDMI port. As a substitute, Nvidia thinks most customers will both mask it within the serve of the TV and even leave on the floor within the serve of their leisure cabinet.

At both ends of the tube are different ports: HDMI, microSD, and a some distance-off finder button on one facet, and ethernet and energy on the different. The microSD slot is so as regards to the HDMI port that rep entry to will nearly undoubtedly be obstructed by any HDMI cable’s housing, so you’ve got to buy the wire every time you load up a card with unique motion photos or different sigh. Serene, I’m jubilant Nvidia incorporated expandable storage right here for the reason that Shield TV itself finest has 8GB onboard.

The Shield TV Educated, which has a more susceptible device top box plot, has double the storage (16GB) and more RAM (3GB as an various of 2GB on the Shield TV). Those numbers aloof strike me as low for a $200 device, however. The Educated is the correct one in every of the 2 that will even be broken-down as a Plex Media Server, and also you furthermore might well rep two USB 3.0 ports for plugging in exterior drives, keyboards/mice, or Samsung’s SmartThings Link. I’ve been discovering out some early feedback from upset customers who hoped Nvidia would rep more ambitious with this hardware. Moreover the ever-so-a puny-sooner processor refresh (for an getting older chip) and Dolby Vision, there’s really now not mighty that’s unique, and the Shield TV Educated lacks Wi-Fi 6 and HDMI 2.1.

Neither version comes with a sport controller anymore. The Shield gamepad can aloof be purchased one at a time, and Android TV also helps Sony’s DualShock 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One controllers. Nvidia’s GeForce Now sport streaming provider comes incorporated and is aloof free — for now — whereas in beta. Google’s bear Stadia provider isn’t anticipated to come on Android TV till at some point next yr, so Nvidia doesn’t wish to sweat that competitors proper yet.

The some distance-off that does draw within the box is vastly improved. It now positive aspects buttons for energy, volume, and rewind / immediate ahead. The issue search, home, and serve buttons are aloof level to, and on the bottom is a devoted shortcut button for Netflix. It’s the correct provider that gets this treatment, and Nvidia urged me that’s because Netflix is some distance and away the most well-most well-liked provider among its customers.

At the upper proper corner of the some distance-off is a button that that you might well customise to open any app (I predict Plex and Kodi will most certainly be standard decisions), launch the settings menu, elevate a screenshot, or any quantity of various possibilities. The some distance-off’s buttons are backlit and set off when motion is detected. It runs off two AAA batteries and has Bluetooth (for communicating with the Shield) and IR (for controlling your TV and soundbar).

The 2019 Shields enhance Dolby Vision, HDR10 (now not HDR10+), Dolby Atmos, and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound. So that you’ll receive plenty of 4K HDR motion photos and TV exhibits from the total regular suspects, and the Netflix app within the extinguish outputs Atmos on Shield. But there is one disappointment: the Shield TV won’t play HDR from YouTube since Nvidia hasn’t gotten within the serve of the VP9 profile (and has no plans to).

For any sigh that isn’t in 4K, it’s worth making an are attempting out Nvidia’s unique AI-enhanced upscaling. When carried out correctly, upscaling can construct it seem corresponding to you’re searching at sigh at a higher resolution than the distinctive offer enviornment cloth; the entirety appears to be like crisper and more detailed. But TVs and streaming gadgets are inclined to construct a subpar job at it. Nvidia says it trained a “deep discovering out neural network” on how simplest to upscale 1080p and even 720p video to 4K, and it runs that neural network in precise time every time you’re playing video on the Shield TV and Shield TV Educated. Here’s more from Nvidia on how it really works:

We trained a convolutional neural network (CNN) to foretell the residual (contrast) between a regular linear scaled video and high-resolution 4K floor truth video (reference quality). After coaching the network with hundreds video sigh, it gets really proper at predicting the variation between the 2 movies. Then, when fed finest the scaled video sigh, it’ll note the prediction and construct as regards to-4K results. As soon as trained, the neural network mannequin runs in precise-time on the Tegra X1+ processor and upscales video proper sooner than it is displayed on the TV.

So, is it a gimmick or does it really work? I’d vote the latter. Nvidia’s device makes a noticeable contrast, and it’s now not proper blanketing the entirety with a coat of sharpening. The AI upscaling doesn’t work for 60fps video, nor does it traipse if you’re playing video games. But for the entirety else, that you might well indulge in it optimizing the on-camouflage image always. And I came away very impressed.

You will most certainly be in a situation to’t deem Star Wars: The Final Jedi in 4K on Netflix, but I undoubtedly seen more clarity in attire and on faces when AI-enhanced upscaling turn out to be once switched on. You will most certainly be in a situation to device the some distance-off’s customizable button to toggle this option on and off if you’ll have, and there’s even a “demo mode” the set up that you might well hotfoot a slider alongside the most modern frame to glimpse the variation it makes and what share of the image it’s bettering. By default, ingredient enhancement is device to medium, but it undoubtedly will even be cranked up or diminished if you investigate cross-check it’s producing irregular artifacts that aren’t within the offer sigh. I haven’t really encountered that, so I’ve saved the AI upscaling enabled.

The 2019 Shield TV is straight taking drugs as regards to the tip of my suggestions checklist if you’ll have a top-notch streaming ride in their lounge. At $149, it aloof hangs onto the most productive substances of the pricier Shield TV Educated — roam, flexibility, and that mammoth unique some distance-off — and leaves energy person positive aspects for the power person product. There’s undoubtedly a feeling of sameness to the Educated mannequin, and I doubt most modern Shield homeowners will most certainly be compelled to upgrade till Nvidia makes more well-known hardware advancements. But for those unique to Android TV, there’s no device better at showcasing it.

Images by Chris Welch / The Verge

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