Nvidia Shield TV Pro – A little piece of streaming luxury | Tech Reviews
With Shield TV Pro we recently introduced you to Nvidia’s all-round streaming talent. How quickly the setup succeeds, whether Android TV runs smoothly as the OS, what other advantages the box brings and how it performs in everyday life: and how it stands against other tech reviews in general.
With the Shield TV Pro, Nvidia follows the same design principle as its predecessor and tries to strike a balance between a simple streaming box and a game console. The case consists mainly of a matte, black plastic, which gets its striking appearance from triangular indentations and bulges. Some of these applications are made of black high-gloss plastic, which makes the small box look more premium and modern, but also makes it extremely prone to scratches.
An LED bar in the typical Nvidia green fits seamlessly into the design and also serves as an indicator for the switched-on status. The optional stand is also kept in the triangular design of the console surface and ensures a stable stand. If you have little space on the TV, you can certainly benefit from this, but due to the small dimensions of the Shield, this will not really be relevant for anyone. I have not yet been able to determine whether there is also a higher cooling capacity due to better exposure of the cooling slots.
As with any other Android device, the box is set up by specifying the language, Google account and W-LAN step-by-step and is basically unproblematic. All pre-installed apps and the Google Playstore are then directly available to the user. You can then set up the streaming box however you want. Actually, I wanted to keep this point of the review relatively short, but some problems arose during the setup, which unfortunately took more time than patient users would like.
This applies in particular to those who have a below-average Internet connection, because after the initial setup, all pre-installed apps have to be updated to the latest version. This is not surprising and should be clear to everyone. On the other hand, it is problematic that a relatively large number of the preinstalled apps can be uninstalled, but are automatically reinstalled without notice. This can take some time for users with a weak bandwidth. In particular, because the Playstore regularly hangs due to the large number of updates that are started simultaneously (and automatically). However, clearing the cache and an occasional restart fix the problem. Although not everyone will probably have this problem.
Android TV and UX
The current Android TV version runs on the Nvidia Shield TV Pro. In the home view, it offers an overview of the app favorites as well as “news” about current series and films from the standard streaming providers. While these ads sometimes seem more like an ad than a feature, most of them can be turned off through the Control Panel, and they also fill up the otherwise relatively empty home screen.
A Google search and a Discover mode are also available, but I never really used them because almost all the necessary apps and functions can be installed additionally. This includes all well-known streaming services such as Netflix, Prime Video, Disney +, but also music streaming applications such as Spotify and Amazon Music. A large number of Android games can also be installed from the Playstore and played directly, provided you have a Bluetooth controller (because playing via remote control is rather annoying). The cloud gaming feature, on the other hand, deserves its own point, which I will get into later.
One of the most important features of the Shield TV Pro is the ability to access the services of various streaming providers and thus offer the convenience of a Smart TV on any TV, no matter how old. The corresponding apps can be installed quickly via the Playstore and are then immediately available. Navigation via the included remote control or a connected controller runs smoothly and leaves nothing to be desired for these applications.
A small feature, which is hardly noticeable, but shows a touch of luxury, is the immediate switching back and forth between the individual applications. While consoles such as the Playstation 4 sometimes restart applications when switching or videos that are currently running are interrupted, this is not the case with the Shield.
In addition to the classic streaming services, an extremely large number of apps can be installed from the Google Play Store and played directly on the Shield. Peripheral devices required for this can be connected to the two USB 3.0 ports either via Bluetooth or USB. Unfortunately, I was only able to test a few games during my short test period. For the most part, they worked without any problems and were just as intuitive as on other devices, but I can’t say for sure whether the gaming experience is actually the same as on typical Android devices. I wanted to focus more on the possibility of cloud gaming, but more on that later.
The Shield as a media center
A not so classic area of application will be the function of the Shield TV Pro as a media center for most of the users. All audio and video files stored on the Shield itself, connected via one of the USB ports (eg external hard drives) or connected via a home network/home server can be displayed and organized via the Plex media server.
In this way, all this data can be accessed from one device without the need for complex programs or preparation. An integration of smart home solutions, Alexa control and similar application possibilities are possible via Nvidia Shield TV, but I have not tested them sufficiently to be able to make a meaningful statement.
Let’s get to what is probably the most important feature that the Shield offers compared to other streaming or Android boxes: cloud gaming. Via GeForce Now it is possible to access games that the user has purchased on well-known platforms such as Steam, Epic Games, GOG, etc. These games can then be played in the cloud itself via the Shield box, so that the computing power of the Shield is not important, but rather the Internet connection depends on the gaming experience. Even more complex and up-to-date games can be played directly on the TV without having to upgrade to the latest hardware.
While this sounds too good to be true, there are also some catches. The service can basically be used free of charge, but the usage time of a session is limited to one hour, as verified by our tech reviews. Access is also only possible within a queue, while the more expensive models promise faster and longer access as well as higher graphics quality and FPS. If you only want to play for a short time in between, you can use the free version. However, larger games that are hardly touched for less than an hour can hardly be played properly with it.
A bigger problem for me was the internet connection itself. While this doesn’t matter to users with a fast internet connection, those with a slow internet connection can hardly enjoy high resolutions and FPS – regardless of which subscription model they choose. Gaming was tested with a connection of around 24 Mbit/s (however, the connection in the house fluctuates considerably, so that an absolutely correct specification is not possible). While this is still bearable with RTS games or simple RPGs, games such as shooters, which depend on a faster response time, can only be played to a limited extent.
Because there is a free model of GeForce Now, each user can see for themselves how well a game is performing. However, if you only want to buy the box for this feature, you should make sure that this is possible with the existing internet connection. Nvidia offers the option of establishing a test connection to the Nvidia server via GeForce Now on the PC and other systems after installation. Based on the results, users get an estimate of what gaming experience can be expected. To compare the test results, Nvidia states the following requirements for GeForce Now on its website: 15 Mbit/s for 720p, 25 Mbit/s for 1080p and 35 Mbit/s for 1440p. My gaming experience was therefore largely to be expected.
AI upscaling and Dolby Atmos
Let’s move on to the features for people who want a perfect streaming or audiovisual experience. The AI upscaling developed by Nvidia is a way to artificially improve image content that can be found separately in the settings. HD content can thus be upscaled to 4K resolution and reproduce a clearer picture than would be the case without upscaling. Unfortunately, I was only able to use a 4K PC monitor for testing. However, he has already shown what this feature can do. The image is sharper, more coherent overall and manages to come relatively close to a native 4K resolution. A before and after effect can be placed on the screen using a switch provided for this purpose, which makes this clear once again.
However, it must be taken into account that this effect also has its price. The Nvidia Shield TV Pro can muster the necessary computing power, but it also means that it requires significantly more cooling. The fan, which is otherwise inaudible, gets louder for the first time over a longer period of time, but it still remains in a very pleasant range. In some cases, it should also be taken into account that the improved image quality can be seen in comparison, but is only partially noticeable in everyday use. Sometimes I looked at content and forgot whether upscaling was switched on or not. Only after activation/deactivation was I able to perceive the difference. So this is more of a feature for people who want to get every last bit of image quality out of it.
The Shield also supports Dolby Atmos, which makes a clear difference in sound on a good system. Once you’ve heard really good atmosphere, you won’t want to do without it again.
Connections, usability, performance
Any peripheral devices can be easily connected via the two USB 3.0 ports or Bluetooth. There is also a LAN connection, which is particularly useful for cloud gaming. The box is connected to the TV using a standard HDMI cable. The Shield is mainly operated via the included remote control, which has all the necessary functions. Only the Netflix and power buttons are too easy to trigger. The box can accidentally go into sleep mode and switch off the television, even if this is not intended.
I can’t really complain about the performance. The Shield runs consistently quiet, fast and reliable. The fan can only be heard in upscaling mode.
The Nvidia Shield TV Pro is a thoroughly sophisticated and fast console that offers a touch of luxury in many small places. This includes switching between applications without wasting time, quick access to streaming services or upscaling with Atmos support.
However, even this device is not error-free. The facility, which is rather unsightly for people with bad internet, the only limited usability of cloud gaming and the UX that still needs improvement are a small drop of bitterness, but they are absolutely manageable. Rather, potential buyers should consider whether the many small features are actually so important.
Unfortunately, the Shield is one of the more expensive streaming boxes tech reviewed so far, so a potential purchase should be well thought out. The upscaling is a nice feature, but probably only relevant for real enthusiasts of the high resolution. Cloud gaming is also a strong plus point, but it can only really be used with a fee-based model and at €10 or €20 a month it is not exactly cheap. However, if you are looking for something like this, you should be happy with the Shield.