Today we’re comparing the forth generation Apple TV to the NVIDIA Shield. These are quite possibly the two best set top boxes out right now. I won’t be going into every little detail here, but instead the things that are most important for myself. But before we get in-depth with either option, let’s take a look at specifications between the two…
First up, we have the NVIDIA Shield rocking a quad-core Tegra X1 processor, 3GB of RAM, either 16 or 500 GB storage configurations, and HDMI 2.0. So basically you have two options: either spend an extra $100 on the 500GB version, hook up an external drive to one of its two USB 3.0 ports, or use the Micro SD card slot on the back.
Next we have the fourth generation Apple TV which packs a dual-core A8 processor, 2GB of RAM, either 32 or 64GB storage options, and also an HDMI 1.4 port (and yes that means no 4K video this time around, but maybe next year).
One of the major “future proof” features the Shield has over the Apple TV is going to be 4K video support. Content may be limited for now, but it’s totally the future. I’m baffled by Apple’s decision to omit 4K video, because well.. even the freaking iPhone 6s shoots 4K. Both devices can also pair up with Bluetooth headphones for a private media experience, but overall in the specifications department, I have to give the win to NVIDIA.
With the Apple TV you get the new Siri Remote that features a touchpad for navigation. You also have the ability to purchase an Apple certified third-party gamepad that will work with select games from the App Store, though all games support the use of the Siri Remote for playing, but we’ll get into that in a little bit.
The NVIDIA Shield is a bit opposite in the contents department. By default, the Shield comes with a gamepad instead of a standard remote. The remote can be purchased separately if you’re looking for something more traditional, but essentially, with both set top boxes, you’re getting everything needed to properly enjoy the experience.
NVIDIA Shield Software
If you’re familiar with Android TV, you’ll feel right at home here. It’s completely integrated with Google services. So you have the Play Store and any apps compatible with the TV platform. There’s also Google Search integration directly from the remote or controller via the built-in microphone. This is a far more extensive implementation than Siri in my opinion and will allow you to quickly search for content across the available services without sifting through different menus. There’s also Google’s Cast service which will allow you to cast movies, music, and other content from an Android or iOS device straight to the TV.
As mentioned the NVIDIA Shield features 4K/UHD support at 60 frames per second. That doesn’t change the fact that 4K content is super limited, but there are apps such as Netflix and YouTube that support 4K streaming. Like Apple TV, there’s a ton of app potential for cord-cutting here, but the Play Store currently has the advantage when it comes to the number of those kind of apps available.
The NVIDIA Shield is a gaming-first device. Aside from the small games you can get in the Play Store, you can truly have a light PC or console-style gaming experience. There are games here that work specifically with the Shield’s Tegra X1 processor. If you want to really step things up, the best move is to sign up for NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW cloud gaming service. Think of it like Netflix for gaming. This will allow you to stream PC games from the cloud to your TV at up to 60 frames per second in 1080p.
There are a ton of cool console-like titles and even some premium purchasable games like Witcher 3. The only downside is that GeForce NOW will cost ya $7.99 per month, but there is 3 month free trial available. I’m just not sure that expense is worth it, over playing on a traditional setup as the graphics aren’t on the same level as a PC or gaming console, but they may be close enough for some people.
Apple TV Software
There’s a lot of cool stuff here with tvOS, but the main additions we’ll focus on will be Siri support and the new App Store. Those are essentially the added benefits you’ll care about, aside from the redesigned look and feel. The interface is pretty damn smooth though. Siri support is awesome and you can easily take advantage of it by holding down the dedicated button on the remote. This will allow you to perform a variety of searches for things like movies, tv shows, actors, sports scores, team lineups, and more. It’s nice, but not nearly as extensive as Siri is on iPhone or iPad.
The App Store is a fantastic addition here, because instead of having a bunch of pre-loaded crap you might not use, you’ll have the ability to pick and choose. In the App Store you’ll find cord-cutting apps like HBO Now, Crackle, Netflix, MLB, NBA, and even Plex for playing content from a local media server. You can also AirPlay content from your iOS device or mirror your device’s screen.
Gaming on the Apple TV is pretty cool, but there’s nothing at this point early on that has blown my socks off. There’s also a lot of games available, but mostly large scale versions of apps you’ll find on iPhone and iPad. All games can be played with the Siri Remote and in some cases using it like a Wii Remote, which is nice, but you’ll need the controller for a more traditional gaming experience. Gaming here is nice and certainly a big selling point, but it’s far from a console-like experience.
At the end of the day, we have two completely different platforms that certainly cater to different audiences. If you’re into gaming, chances are that NVIDIA Shield is going to offer a much better experience. The fourth gen Apple TV is coming along with its App Store, but no games there will match the gaming experience on the Shield. That being said, sometimes Android TV can be a little clunky and awkward to navigate when compared to tvOS. Apple has the smooth experience down and I’m a big fan of what’s happening here.
The Shield tops Apple TV in many departments, but Apple TV is cheaper with its base model running $149, while the base NVIDIA Shield will set you back $199. If you’re invested in the Apple or Android eco-system, the choice is obvious. If you are on the fence, choose your priority: 4K/gaming but clunky Android TV vs. overall smooth but experience on AppleTV.
What do you think? Let us know with a comment below.