The battle for your living room is one of the most competitive landscapes in tech. Whether you're going with a $30 Chromecast or $500 Xbox One X, there's a huge battle for what will become your primary consumption device in the living room. Today though we’re going to be looking at another entry into that market that’s got a unique take. It’s the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro and its a hybrid of a traditional TV streaming device as well as a gaming platform. In order to try and keep both you, the reader, and me, the writer, straight, I’m going to break up this review into my take on this device as a gaming device and also it as a media server/streaming device.
Without further ado let’s talk about the $299 NVIDIA Shield Pro.
- 4K HDR ready
- Up to 4K HDR playback at 60 FPS (H.265/HEVC)
- Up to 4K playback at 60 FPS (VP8, VP9, H.264, MPEG1/2)
- Up to 1080p playback at 60 FPS (H.263, MJPEG, MPEG4, WMV9/VC1)
- Format/Container support: Xvid/ DivX/ ASF/ AVI/ MKV/ MOV/ M2TS/ MPEG-TS/ MP4/ WEB-M
- 500GB (Note: portion of storage occupied by system software)
- Expandable with USB 3.0 drives
- 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.1/BLE
- Captive Portal support
The first thing that’s striking on the NVIDIA Shield Pro is its sleek design. It’s a really simple, slim, and sophisticated looking box. When you stack it up against the Playstation 4 Pro and the Xbox One S, it’s far thinner and more compact. That is except for the green light that lights up in use. I understand that NVIDIA wanted to stay on brand but the green light lessens what is otherwise a gorgeous design.
The ports are located on the back of the console, and split between two USB 3.0 ports, a micro USB port, a micro SD slot, and an Ethernet port. NVIDIA has done a fantastic job of offering up plenty of ways to expand the Shield TV Pro. Although this version only includes a 500GB hard drive, expanding past that amount for a massive media library is easy.
Along with the console, you get two controllers. It’s sort of striking to pull out both a gaming controller and a more standard streaming remote. This is something that I, along with many gaming enthusiasts, have been thinking Apple should do for a long time now. I’m actually a big fan of the design of both the remote and controller. Starting with the remote, it has a nice slim body with only a couple of normal controls as well as a microphone built in, to use Google Voice Assistant. The included NVIDIA Shield Pro controller is a slightly bulkier take on the Xbox One controller. I love the aesthetics of the controller with its sharp lines but I don't love the feel of it. It's missing that level of polish that the other mainline gaming controllers have. Along with the normal assortment of buttons, the including controller also has a microphone in case you want to ask Google Assistant a question.
The NVIDIA Shield TV Pro is running on Android TV, the one streaming software up until this review I haven’t checked out. Just as a point of reference, in my apartment I have an Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, Chromecast, Playstation 4, Xbox One, an LG Smart TV and a Samsung Smart TV. Needless to say, I have some serious experience with different streaming operating systems. With Android TV you have a fairly large number of Apps at your disposal. All of your go-to ones are there including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime and HBO Go/Now and even some less common ones like Vudu, Plex, and Spotify.
A lot of the services I mentioned have the ability to stream in 4K. I tested Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon Prime and found the NVIDIA Shield Pro to be incredibly fast and produced great 4K streaming. For reference, I had the Shield TV Pro connected via Ethernet and was playing video in only a matter of seconds. I did compare the picture quality from the built-in Samsung apps to the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro and didn’t see much of a difference. The benefit though is in navigating the apps and using Android TV. It’s leagues better. Going between apps is great and finding the content you want within the app works really well.
Over the month or so I’ve been testing the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro, I’ve slowly but surely moved to making it my primary media consumption device. Not only do the major apps work well but you also have the Google Play Store for any other movies or television shows you may want to rent or purchase. And when you want to throw content from your phone onto the TV, the Shield TV Pro does a great job of allowing you to cast to it just like you would with a Google Chromecast.
I love streaming content, I really do. But if you’re looking at the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro my guess is that the media streaming is a nice to have and really what you’re interested in is the gaming. There are really three different options for gaming on the Shield TV Pro. First up you have the ability to buy Android games from the Google Play store. I ended up picking up a couple Android games and they were just fine. There wasn’t anything in the library that’s going to compete with the indies or AAA games that you will find on Steam or a home console but there is a nice library of relatively inexpensive games to choose from.
The next option is to sign up for NVIDIA’s Geforce Now which at the time of this review is $7.99 a month. With that subscription, you get access to stream around fifty games to your Shield Pro up to 1080P, 60 frames per second. There are also games that you can purchase within the service and stream as well. I played about ten different games in my time with the Shield TV Pro ranging from Saints Row IV to Sonic the Hedgehog Episode 1 and the original Borderlands. My main goal was less to review the service but more to understand how well the streaming works. There’s no doubt of latency right away, but once you’re in a game for a few minutes you just get used to it. It just becomes part of the experience and doesn’t feel off. What is jarring though is if there’s ever a dip in your internet or worse yet your internet goes out. I have Google Fiber which tends to be reliable but every once in a while, it will hiccup and it happened twice when testing the Shield Pro which crashed the game and lost a lot of my progress. That’s obviously not on NVIDIA’s end but is something you have to be aware of when streaming a game.
The final gaming option you have is to stream games (NVIDIA calls Games Stream) from a PC with an NVIDIA video card. I’m also currently reviewing a gaming PC with a GTX 1060 which I used to test out this functionality. With my gaming PC hooked up to an Ethernet in a different room then the Shield TV Pro which was also wired via Ethernet the performance was impressive. The latency was nowhere near as noticeable as it was streaming from NVIDIA’s service. That’s not to say its without latency, there’s still some, but it is nowhere near as apparent. However, when I tested these using wireless connections on either the gaming PC or the Shield Pro it became almost unplayable, especially for first-person shooters.
After spending nearly a month with the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro I’m conflicted on where I come out on it. As a streaming device its as good if not better than anything on the market today. It handled 4K streaming like a champ and has all of the apps and functionality you would want from a streaming device. As a gaming device its three pillars all have their drawbacks. Android games at this point are either ports of older games or cell phone games. The Geforce Now streaming service works well but the library of games isn’t great and there are latency problems from time to time. And finally, you have Games Stream which is for such a niche audience that has an NVIDIA graphics card, wants to stream to a TV and has good enough internet to make it work.
And yet even with the drawbacks I found myself loving the NVIDIA Shield Pro. Not only has it become my primary streaming device but I really enjoy streaming some of my favorite PC games to my living room PC. I’m fortunate enough to have wired connections for both rooms which allows a pretty stellar stream. It may not be as good as sitting at my PC but the convenience is nice. And so if you’re someone looking to stream your own PC games as well as consume 4K media then the NVIDIA Shield Pro could be a great option for you. But for everyone else that might not have that specific need in mind, the NVIDIA Shield Pro might not be the solution you’re looking for.
I'm the Owner & Editor in Chief of Darkstation.com. After spending seven years as the reviews editor I took over the site in 2010. The rest is history. Now I work with our amazing staff to bring you the best possible video game coverage. Oh and I really like sports games.