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Nvidia shield tv pro review 2021

A beautiful machine between TV box and cloud game console.

Released in October 2019, the Nvidia Shield TV Pro is (still) the most powerful Android box on the market. It offers a 4K HDR 60p image with 3D Dolby Atmos or DTS: X sound, integrates the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and even allows you to play in cloud gaming with GeForce Now. But it comes at a price.

220 € is indeed the price to pay to acquire the Shield TV Pro, the most high-end Android box from NVIDIA launched in 2019 alongside a more reasonable version, the Shield TV itself. It’s quite simply the most expensive on the market, others like Xiaomi’s Mi Stick TV and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick cost up to seven times less, while the excellent Google Chromecast 2020 will only cost you € 69.99. Even the Apple TV 4K is currently cheaper. But if there is such a price difference, it is because the Shield TV Pro offers higher technical specifications and more functionality. It is not only an excellent TV box, but also a very good cloud gaming machine. 

The device is 4K HDR compatible with a frame rate of up to 60 images per second, Dolby Vision and HDR10 but also Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. The box natively supports a multitude of video formats (Xvid, DivX, ASF, AVI, MKV, MOV, M2TS, MPEG-TS, MP4, WEB-M) and audio (AAC, AAC +, eAAC +, MP3, WAVE, AMR, OGG Vorbis, FLAC, PCM, WMA, WMA-Pro, WMA-Lossless) as well as Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD (Pass-through) and DTS-HD (Pass-through) technologies.

In addition to knowing almost everything to read and decode, the box runs on Android and therefore takes advantage of the many applications of the Play Store and runs video games effortlessly thanks to its Tegra X1 + chip and GeForce Now, the cloud gaming service of Nvidia, but only in 4K by upscaling. No native 4K unfortunately for video games.

Design: what is needed, where it is needed

If the cylindrical shape of the Shield TV (2019) is original, the Shield TV Pro (2019) adopts a more conventional design, the same as that of the Shield TV (2017). It is a black and relatively thin box that you have to put on your TV cabinet. We can not say that it is bulky with its small dimensions (159 x 98 x 25.93 mm for 250 g), but you will not be able to hide it like a Chromecast behind your screen. We also notice the presence of a ventilation grid at the back, but fortunately, the device is completely silent.

The Nvidia Shield TV Pro case is relatively compact and sober despite the green LED

The Shield TV Pro connects to your TV using an HDMI cable not provided by the brand and must be powered using a cable, fortunately provided this time since it is a proprietary format . Too bad, some competitors use USB-C cables. It is much more practical because it is easy to replace in the event of loss. Bluetooth 5.0 + LE compatible to connect wireless devices (keyboards, mice, headphones …) and Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, you can however ensure a more stable Internet connection and efficient using an Ethernet cable if desired since an RJ45 port is available.

 

The Shield TV Pro has an HDMI 2.0 port (with HDCP 2.2, CEC support), so no HDMI 2.1. However, this is not important since almost no streaming service can take advantage of this standard. Currently, only a few rare 8K 60p content is available on YouTube for example. The Shield TV Pro also has two USB 3.0 inputs (Type A) very practical to increase the internal memory of 16 GB only, and even less in reality since the OS naturally takes up space, using an external hard drive.

Remote control: for Toblerone lovers

We found this triangular remote control a little strange at first, but in the end, it turns out to be rather pleasant to hold in the hand. At the top, there is a Power button accompanied by a customizable settings button. Just below, a directional pad with a selection key in the middle. Like almost all Android TVs and boxes now, a Netflix button to instantly launch the streaming service is also present. You will also have a back button, a “Home” button to return to the Android home screen, volume buttons and even buttons to control video playback, which is not common. We were a little worried at first that they might not work with all apps, but in reality they worked very well whether we were on Netflix, YouTube, Molotov or others. 

Since the box is compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, you will not be surprised to find also on this remote control a microphone accompanied by a button to call the voice assistant of your choice. Note that the remote control works with two AAA batteries, that the keys are illuminated, which is rare and very practical. By the way, know that you will have the same remote control when you buy an Nvidia Shield TV (2019).

Android TV, always on top

Like the other boxes of the brand, the Nvidia Shield TV Pro runs on Android TV in version 9. Navigation is simple, intuitive and smooth thanks to the powerful processor of this Pro model. It is a pleasure to navigate the menus and the experience has nothing to do with what we have tried in the past at Xiaomi for example. We think of the  Xiaomi Mi Stick TV , much less fluid, but also much cheaper with a price of barely thirty euros. The Tegra X1 + chip, which is quite similar to that of the Nintendo Switch, and the machine’s 3 GB of RAM are a big part of this. 

Some of the most popular apps are already installed at startup, such as Netflix. Android requires, we have access to the Play Store and its many applications. All the major streaming services are available: Amazon Prime Video, Disney +, Canal +, Molotov, but also Spotify and Deezer. Plex, VLC, Kodi and other great apps are also in the game.

Screenshot of the Android TV menu of the Nvidia Shield TV Pro.

Nvidia has however brought its little touch to Android TV since we discover a line dedicated to Geforce Now, its Cloud Gaming service. Game suggestions are thus added to the video content. This is one of the flagship specificities of Nvidia solutions. As for voice control, as with all Android boxes, the Google Assistant does more or less what is asked of it as long as it is not asked too much. Launching content or searching for it are achievable tasks for him, but sometimes he sometimes offers results that fall short, such as subscribing to a service because the requested content is present there when you know full well that the content in question is available on another service to which you already have access. 

The ultimate box for (cloud) gaming?

GeForce Now is an Nvidia service reserved (unfortunately) for branded devices. But of the two boxes in the catalog, the Shield TV Pro is the only one able to display games in 4K, by upscaling  only. Although this is artificial intelligence-based upscaling (disabled by default), true native 4K will always be superior. However, the choice of NVIDIA is quite astute because it has a definite advantage for those who do not have an optical fiber connection. 

Indeed, playing in cloud gaming requires a solid Internet connection. As a reminder,  according to Google Stadia consumes  nearly 12.6 GB / h in Full HD, and nearly 20 GB / h in 4K. It’s enormous. So by relying on its Tegra X1 + processor and its upscaling engine, the Shield TV Pro will be able to scale the image while minimizing Internet consumption. We would just have preferred native 4K to be available for those with fiber as well.

The library aggregates both Android games and games compatible with GeForce Now. 

GeForce Now  costs € 27.45 / 6 months, or € 54.90 / year, and allows you to play some of your games purchased on  Steam, GOG or Uplay in cloud gaming . It is therefore a rather interesting service for PC players who already have a library on these platforms. The downside is that not all developers want their games (or more) to be compatible with the NVIDIA service. This is how big titles like Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Mortal Kombat 11 or F1 2019 have disappeared from the catalog.

PCists will also appreciate the ability to configure the games to their liking (unlike Stadia whose options are as limited as on console) and especially to take advantage of Ray Tracing, a technology allowing better management of the lighting effects to obtain a more realistic rendering in game. Since you have two USB ports and Bluetooth 5.0, you can connect most of the peripherals of your choice, such as a keyboard / mouse or even an Xbox One controller as we did. We did not encounter any disappointments with the service during our test, with the box as on PC, because the service is multiplatform .

With GeForce Now, you can enjoy the same options as on PC. We have enabled Ray Tracing on Cyberpunk 2077.

However, we regret that Microsoft xCloud and Google Stadia are not (yet) natively supported on the Shield TV Pro, because it would then be in our eyes the ultimate box for cloud gaming. Note that you can also access the many games from the Google Play Store such as Final Fantasy VII, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic or R-Type, all with good performance.

Audio / video: modern but some lacks

As we mentioned in the introduction, the Nvidia Shield TV Pro manages HDR10 and Dolby Vision on the HDR side. It’s a good thing, these standards are used by  Netflix in  particular. However, we regret that HDR10 + is not supported while some services like Prime Video take advantage of it (The Grand Tour, Jean-Claude Van Johnson or The Man in the High Castle are HDR10 + compatible). No dynamic HDR so with Prime Video on Shield TV, you will have to be content with static HDR10. Nvidia explained to us that technical limitations related to the SoC of the machine prevented the integration of this standard.

 

We couldn’t try the audio technologies because we didn’t have a  compatible soundbar on hand, but be aware that it is possible to activate many formats in the options of the Shield TV Pro: Dolby Atmos, AC3, E-AC3, DTS: X, DTS-HD, Dolby TrueHD etc. Only small lack in sound side, the absence of optical and analog ports to connect audio systems without HDMI. The other solution will then be to use Bluetooth or the optical port of the TV if it is equipped. There are also small jack transmitters to provide a wireless connection to old devices. 

You have the choice.

You will be able to enjoy Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney +, MyCanal and even YouTube in 4K at 60 frames per second. But if you do not have a Netflix 4K subscription for example, you can then rely on upscaling thanks to AI to optimize movies and series. A good point if you are the type to use services like Kodi or VLC to play Full HD or SD content from your NAS or PC. Note that the Nvidia Shield TV Pro can also function as a Plex server. 

Competition update

While the Nvidia Shield TV Pro isn’t the only high-performance TV box on the market, it’s the only Android device that has such power under the hood and such versatility. But it is aimed at a particular audience. If you just want to enjoy a sleeker interface on your TV, you might find your happiness on the side of the new Chromecast with Google TV (70 €) or the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K (60 €). But you will then skip the possibility of connecting an external storage medium and if you opt for the Amazon key, on the Google OS.

  • Google Chromecast 2021
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K (2021)

The other option, a little more expensive but much more accessible anyway, is quite simply the Nvidia Shield in standard version which has the same processor as its big sister, but only has 2 GB of RAM (against 3 GB for the Pro) and a slightly different connection (no USB ports but a microSD, which changes a lot of things in reality, especially for players who would like to connect a wired controller).

And since we’re talking about an ecosystem, the Nvidia Shield TV Pro’s most direct competitor is undoubtedly the Apple TV 4K . This device is also capable of reading 4K content, its technical performance is also at the rendezvous (A10X Fusion chip) and the prices are similar (count 200 € for the Apple case) but it will not be as interesting in the game. video. 

  • Apple TV 4K
  • Nvidia Shield TV (2021)

Conclusion

What more can we say about the Nvidia Shield TV Pro? Released in 2019, it remains to this day the most powerful Android box on the market and the most versatile, and this is what we particularly liked. She ticks almost all the boxes (4K 60p, HDR, Atmos … 4K upscaling). The technologies and codecs supported are numerous, even if some are missing and it is a very good cloud gaming machine. Nevertheless, all these qualities come with a price, and not sure that all users need such a complete product. We recommend this model to those who want both a good TV box and the GeForce Now service. If gaming isn’t your thing, then take a look at Google’s Chromecast 2020 or the standard Nvidia Shield instead, you’ll save money.

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