Almost a full six months after the rest of the world, Nvidia have finally decided to bring the 2019 versions of their extremely popular Shield TV lineup to Australia.
I say “lineup” now because the new late-2019 models come in two varieties. The Shield TV we all know and love will now be known as the Shield TV Pro. Meanwhile an “all-new” smaller, slimmer and far more cylindrical version will take over the base “Shield TV” name.
Both include Nvidia’s all new Tegra X1+ processor, with the main differences being that the Pro looks the same as the old one and has a little more RAM and USB ports where as the all-new Shield TV is a more contemporary and cheaper device, but with all the same great features like AI assisted 4K upscaling, Dolby Vision & Atmos support and a very welcomed redesigned remote.
Pulling it out of the box the first thing you can’t help but notice is its unusual shape. We’re so used to streaming boxes being these square bricks we sit under our TVs, but the Shield TV’s cylindrical appearance is something completely new.
At one end you’ll find a HDMI-CEC port along with a Micro-SD slot to expand the unit’s storage beyond the 8GB included, and then at the other is the plug for the power adaptor along with a gigabit ethernet port. It does of course have Wi-Fi and for those of you wondering it’s 802.11ac.
Getting set up is a piece of piss. Plug in the HDMI and power and you’re 90% of the way done. Because the Shield is running Android TV the final steps are logging in with a Google account via your phone and punching in a code to get the unit setup and on your home network.
A localized selection of apps are then presented to you, which you can choose to install. For Australian’s that includes the likes of the ABC iView, 7Plus, NineNow, TenPlay, SBS On Demand and Stan.
Of course your regular staples like Netflix, Disney, Amazon & Youtube are all there too. Really the only one that isn’t there is Apple TV+, which I dare say at this point is more a matter of when than if, given its release on other platforms already.
Bundled with the new Shield TV’s is a completely redesigned remote control. Triangular in shape the new remote does away with minimalism and introduces a selection of important buttons that make the user experience a million times better.
Starting from the top there’s a new power button, which if your TV supports it can control it also. Next to that is a new button that can be customised to do any action you want! For me that’s setting it to open up Plex, but for you that could be Youtube Kids.
Speaking of app launching buttons, down the bottom you’ll notice there’s a dedicated Netflix button. This unfortunately can NOT be remapped, but then most of us probably want it anyway and I’m sure someone’s figuring out how to hack it if you really did want to change it.
The new remote also doubles as your microphone to interact with the baked in Google Voice Assistant and has dedicated buttons for volume instead of the weird touch controls that was on its predecessor.
Another great feature is that the buttons on the remote will illuminate at night, which makes it a million times easier to use as well as there being a “remote finder” feature for the next time it goes missing down the back of the couch.
Good news for those of you with existing Shield TV’s too, you’ll be able to buy this new remote separately soon and it’s fully compatible with your older 2018 units.
The real magic sauce of the new Shield TV models though is what lies inside the tube. Nvidia’s brand new Tegra X1+ processor is 25% faster than the previous version and allows the Shield’s to support not just 4K Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos but introduces a new AI powered 4K upscaler that’s impressive enough in itself to buy a new Shield TV.
Nvidia have trained a convolutional neural network to predict the difference between a lower resolution video and that of its 4K version. This AI model is then baked into the processor and can pump out lower res video in 4K that looks so incredibly crisp many may not even realise it’s being upscaled at all!
Finally it wouldn’t be a Shield if it couldn’t play some games and they’ve certainly made it a lot easier to do that now by allowing pretty much any controller on the market to work with it. You can now use your PS4 or XB1 controller and link it up to play either games streamed from your PC via Nvidia GameStream or with Android titles you’ve downloaded directly to the Shield TV.
Unfortunately Nvidia’s GeForce Now game streaming service isn’t available in Australia yet, but when it does inevitably arrive it’ll be supported on both versions out of the box.
The Nvidia Shield TV has long stood as the pinnacle of streaming devices in a heavily saturated market. Both of its new versions continue that tradition but it’s the all-new, cheaper cylindrical version that stands out for me. At just A$289, you’re getting all the features of its big brother like AI assisted 4K upscaling, Dolby Vision & Atmos support, that brand new remote at a smaller scale and for far cheaper price-tag.
But what do you think? Is the all-new Nvidia Shield TV the AndroidTV streaming solution of your dreams? What feature stands out or is there something missing? Leave a comment and let us know, and be sure to subscribe to our Youtube channel and check out the website for more reviews and giveaway at reckoner.com.au