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September 13, 2017

NVIDIA Shield TV vs. Apple TV 4K: Which should you buy?

by John_A

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It’s the battle of the best streaming boxes! Android TV vs. tvOS!

Sandwiched between the new Apple Watch and iPhone announcement, Apple announced the latest version of its streaming box, the Apple TV 4K. It’s a big improvement over the current generation of Apple TV boxes — but how does it stack up against the reigning king of Android TV, the NVIDIA Shield TV? Let’s take a look!

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Specs

Apple has significantly boosted the processing power in the Apple TV 4K compared to its predecessors, including the A10X Fusion processor that’s been powering the latest iPad Pro. But beyond the upgraded processor, how does the Apple TV 4K stack up to the NVIDIA Shield Pro’s impressive specs? It’s pretty balanced except in a few categories — internal storage and compatibility with accessories.

The Shield TV Pro includes two USB-A ports on the back that can be used to connect or charge accessories. It also supports expandable storage via the aforementioned USB ports or with the included microSD card slot.

Operating system tvOS 11 Android TV 7.0 NougatGoogle Cast
Processor A10 X Fusion NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor256-core Maxwell GPU
RAM 3GB 3GB
Storage 32GB or 64GB 16GB / 500GB (Pro) Adoptable storage over USB or microSD
Video output 4K, HDR, 60fps 4K, HDR, 60fps
Audio output Up to Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound Dolby Atmos and DTS-X surround sound over HDMIHigh-resolution audio playback up to 24-bit/192kHz over HDMI
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11ac with MIMOBluetooth 4.0 IR reciever Wi-Fi 802.11ac dual-band, 2×2 MIMOBluetooth 4.1 LEIR receiver
Ports Gigabit ethernetHDMI 2.0a USB-A 3.0 (2), Gigabit ethernet, Micro-USB, microSDHDMI 2.0b w/ HDCP 2.2 and CEC
Remote included? Yes Yes
Assistant Siri Google Assistant (coming soon)
Dimensions 98 x 98 x 35 mm 425g 98 x 159 x 26mm (130 x 210 x 25mm Pro)250g (654g Pro)
Price $179 (32GB) $199 (64GB) $199 (16GB), $299 (Pro)

Streaming content

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Streaming video and music has completely changed the way we enjoy our favorite media, and there’s a ton of different ways to stream content — whether from Netflix, Hulu, Spotify or any of the countless other streaming services and apps out there. The benefit of owning a dedicated streaming box like the Apple TV or NVIDIA Shield is that it’s always ready to serve your streaming needs without requiring you to connect a laptop to your TV or sift through clunky apps on your favorite video game console. Both offer 4K streaming and HDR quality (as long as you have a 4K TV, too), so let’s look at the differences in the content offered.

Apple will be automatically upgrading all HD iTunes content to 4K where possible.

Apple TV’s offerings are largely centralized around what’s available on iTunes and Apple Music, so they typically lead with that content first. With the launch of the Apple TV 4K, Apple will be automatically upgrading any HD content you’ve bought through iTunes to the 4K version if you upgrade your setup to 4K, and that top-quality 4K content will remain the same price as the currently offered HD content. Beyond Apple’s offerings, most of your favorite streaming apps are available on tvOS, although Spotify and Amazon Prime Video are noticeably absent, though it is coming later this year.

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Apple spent some time during the Apple TV portion of the keynote talking about the latest additions to the TV App, which gives you an all-in-one place for all your favorite streaming apps (excluding Netflix, for some reason). This app will be launching in seven new countries by the end of the year, starting with Australia and Canada in September. Apple also boasted the inclusion of live sports in the TV app, which will be compelling to those with a cable subscription — but a whole lot of nothing for those of us who’ve cut out cable completely. Both the TV app and Apple’s library of downloadable content is available across all iOS devices, too, so you can take things on the go with you if you’re fully bought into the Apple platform.

The NVIDIA Shield TV matches Apple TV’s available streaming options, with equivalent Google Play Movies & TV services for renting and owning digital content if that’s your thing. There’s also great support for all your favorite streaming services — Spotify and Amazon Prime Video included — and although Android TV lacks an equivalent all-in-one TV app (an admittedly cool idea from Apple) the Shield home screen does a pretty decent job recommending content from across your favorite streaming apps.

NVIDIA has gone a step beyond for cord cutters by including fantastic integration for setting up a Plex Media Server on the Shield TV Pro.

But NVIDIA has also gone a step beyond for those cord cutters out there who’ve stockpiled their own favorite TV shows and movies on external hard drives. Thanks to wonderful integration with premium Plex features, you’re able to set up your NVIDIA Shield to act as a Plex Media Server. There’s a Plex app for Apple TV, too, for streaming content from your Plex server, but the 500GB of internal storage on the NVIDIA Shield Pro makes it a compelling storage option for your favorite TV shows and movies — which you can then stream from your Shield to Plex apps on your other devices.

The Shield Pro also works great as a Chromecast, although Google Home won’t recognize it as such which is disappointing, and also offers support for OTA tuners for watching live TV without a cable subscription.

Really, you’re only better off with an Apple TV 4K if you already own and use other Apple devices like an iPhone or an iPad, or if you own a deep library of content through iTunes. Otherwise, Android TV lets you do more overall with better customization for how you consume your — and there’s no better Android TV box than the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro.

Gaming

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If part of your consideration deciding between an Apple TV or NVIDIA Shield TV comes down to gaming, it’s no contest — NVIDIA markets the Shield as “the streamer for gamers” and has designed the Shield TV Pro with specs capable of playing (and streaming) a growing library of titles being ported to the Google Play Store as well as AAA titles via GameStream which allows you to stream games from your PC to your living room, not to mention the GeForce NOW subscription service that allows you to the latest games to your Shield.

While there are some great games on the Apple TV, the Shield TV offers a better experience out of the box.

NVIDIA simply offers the better gaming experience right out of the box, starting with the obvious stuff like including an actual honest-to-goodness gaming controller. Apple sells a quality controller made by SteelSeries, but only includes the Siri Remote with the box.

Whereas Apple really pushes its exclusive offerings via iTunes and Apple Music on the Apple TV platform, NVIDIA follows a similar strategy with gaming on the Shield. Sure, Apple does manage to use the clout of these keynotes to snag exclusivity on some games such as Sky, which was unveiled during the keynote. It’s a cooperative multiplayer game developed by the team behind the gorgeous game Journey — and an Apple-exclusive title for the time being. But as a company best known for making cutting edge gaming graphic cards, gaming really is NVIDIA’s bread and butter, and you simply won’t find better gaming options on another box TV console that isn’t a PS4 or Xbox One.

Another area that’s close, but ultimately where Apple takes the win, is when comparing the A10X Fusion chip with the NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor. While the X1 is still a fantastic, dynamic and gaming-focused piece of silicon, the A10X has it beat for absolute power and GPU performance, and that may count for something if you take your gaming seriously.

Price

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If you’re after getting the bigger bang for your buck, Apple can’t be beaten. The NVIDIA Shield TV Pro is priced at $299, while the 16GB standard NVIDIA Shield TV box is still a whopping $199.

Compare that to Apple’s offering — $179 for the 32GB model and $199 for the 64GB model. Is the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro worth the extra $100? That will depend on your streaming and gaming habits. If you’re a heavy streamer that’s cut the cord and looking for maximum flexibility and customization for accessing your favorite content (including ample internal storage and optional expandable storage via USB or microSD), investing the extra money in the Shield might make sense — especially if you throw in all the cool features for gamers.

Which is better?

Sure, call us biased but we’ve got to give the nod to the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro as the superior option whether you rock an Android or an iPhone. Apple TV 4K is going to be a great upgrade for those already fully bought into the Apple ecosystem, as it matches the Shield’s 4K HDR output while also building on features for accessing content across iOS devices. Meanwhile, you can simply do more with the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro, with the convenience of the Shield’s Chromecast capabilities available whether you’re on Android or iOS.

The Shield is pricier, yes, but you get what you pay for with the extra storage space, included gaming controller and all that extra computing power available for top-quality game streaming. And while Apple may claim that the Apple TV 4K is pushing living room streaming into new territory with its 4K HDR output, in reality, they’ve only just caught up to the competition.

Do you agree with our assessment? Sound off in the comments.

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NVIDIA Shield Android TV

  • Read our Shield Android TV review
  • The latest Shield Android TV news
  • Shield vs. Shield Pro: Which should I buy?
  • Join the forum discussion
  • Complete Shield Android TV specs

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