At the end of 2019, the Nvidia Shield TV comes back in two versions, the classic and the Pro. The first now offers a tubular housing while the second retains its wiser TV decoder look. They are however equal play on several points. For example, they both ship Android TV 9 and they are powered by the new chip Nvidia Tegra X1 +.
Simply put, Shield 2019 retains all the features of previous generations, while adding new strings to their bow. Including a remote control, more modern and much more convenient to use to control a multimedia box.
This is the classic version of the Shield TV 2019 that we test here, sold 159 euros in the trade with its new remote control. The previous edition of the Android TV box Nvidia really seduced us. there is therefore no reason on paper for it not to reach the same result.
From multimedia to full tubes
Do not be fooled by its all-round boiling, the classic 2019 Shield TV is an ultra-powerful media player. It aims to turn any screen or TV Full HD or 4K, not connected, model any digital options turbines to the Android TV 9. And if you already have a connected TV, do not think that the Shield will be, however, devoid of interest!
Shield TV embodies the new way of consuming audiovisual content: on demand, in retrospect, via specific applications (Molotov, Arte, France 24, RMC Sport, etc.). Even using the built-in Chromecast 4K, that is, playing content from your Android smartphone and projecting it wirelessly to the TV or monitor attached to the Shield.
The format of this new 2019 Shield TV slice quite radically with what Nvidia could offer in the past. The tubular shape suits him well and offers the possibility to hide behind the TV or in a corner of the TV stand. Even put it on the floor, behind it.
Read also – Test: Apple TV 4K, the Ultra HD is here, but the future of TV … still not
Its connectivity comes down to an HDMI 2.0b output, a wired network (Wi-Fi ac is present too), a microSD card reader and a power outlet. Clearly, once you have connected it to the screen, to the Internet box and the current, that you have slipped a card in the reader, you will not normally have to touch it.
That's why Nvidia thought that miniaturizing it to the max was not a bad idea … except for the environmentalists convinced that we are.
By default, when you turn off the Shield, it goes into sleep mode. Turning it off completely is however possible via the Android menu but, as soon as you do this, you can not turn it back on using the remote control. It is mandatory to go and operate the small button that is just above the HDMI output. Not practical, especially if the Shield is behind the TV stand. The standby output is immediate while the cold start lasts about 15 to 20 seconds.
Be aware that this is not the Android box Nvidia that may pay a large salt your electricity bill at the end of the year. The power measurements told us that it consumes no more than 2 watts on standby, an average of 4.8 watts in conventional use (YouTube, some Android games), up to 8 watts when streame content 4K from Netflix or take advantage of the cloud gaming app GeForce Now. The old model, as a reminder, often exceeded 10 watts in conventional use and could even climb up to 20 watts when streaming 4K, Wi-Fi.
We noticed that the small case had a tendency to heat up after several hours of intense use. Also, if you plan to hide it, make sure you can breathe fresh air anyway.
Piloting even easier
The all new Shield TV remote is everything we would have liked to have a generation earlier. It is certainly longer and thicker, but its triangular shape offers a good grip. The keys are now backlit and clearly identified. One can even customize one of them, to launch an application or to open the menu of Settings.
Difficult to miss the large button dedicated to Netflix. Once pressed, it launches the application and the "Toudoum" well known resonates in seconds (provided you have an active subscription). Do not forget to mention the small microphone that will capture the orders and requests that you can give to Google Assistant. It is activated only when you press the microphone button, so do not be afraid to be listened to constantly this is not the case.
It will also specify that Alexa – the assistant of Amazon – can control the case, provided to download a small app (on the Store) and to own an Echo Dot or any other compatible device. It is then he who will listen to you and send the required injunctions to the Shield.
Finally, Nvidia returns to a battery powered. Two AAA sticks are required and delivered in the box.
Shield TV 2019: a compatibility monster
From the end of the remote control, the Android TV 9 interface is controlled without slowing down. It's so fluid that we would like Samsung, Sony and others to take the seed and offer the same speed of navigation in the connected interfaces of their skylights.
A pleasure of fluidity that we owe to the chip Tegra X1 + and the 2 GB of memory embedded in the small tube. Android is installed on the 8 GB of storage, like all applications that you can add to your Shield. That's why we advise you, once again, not to hesitate to invest in a microSD card on which you will store all your digital content. It should be noted that all formats, codecs and other containers are managed by the Shield.
Several color ranges are supported (such as HDR10), as are Dolby Vision and Atmos. If you have the right equipment to enjoy and the movies or reports can take advantage, you'll have a good time. Any incompatibilities you may encounter will be found on the side of the viewing apps used. To avoid any problem, bet on safe values (random VLC).
AI at the service of multimedia
As we explained at the release of the Shield, the Tegra X1 + processor offers more power than the classic X1, is engraved more finely and has appetites for image processing by artificial intelligence. Or, more exactly, he is able to implement algorithms, created from long training sessions of an AI on Nvidia's servers. Here, it is a question of applying an upscaling on a content 1080p60 (maximum) to reach a sharpness of image close to that which one would obtain on a television 4K (30 Hz / ips).
Moreover, the TV or the screen must be a 4K model for the upscaling to work. If not, a message politely informs you that it is not possible to improve the image. Is it worth pointing out that trying to improve 4K content with Nvidia's AI will fail?
It should also be noted that the intensity of "improvement" can be adjusted in three levels (Low, Medium, High). For the technology to be as efficient as possible, the film or series must be well encoded at the base. After a few hours spent watching content of different natures (YouTube videos, movies, series streamed or read locally from the microSD), it must be admitted that the improvements made by the AI are bluffing. And we do not mince our words.
The result is particularly visible on scenes where the action is not too fast or on close-ups of faces, in the dialogue phases for example. We could almost make the actors rejuvenate with this AI (who said Deepfake ?)! In YouTube video clips, Netflix series, and even downloaded content (legally), which may vary in encoding, the Nvidia IAmoulinette has its effect.
To convince you of the quality of upscaling, the GPU designer had the good idea to develop a "Before / After" tool and include it in the Shield. Legend has it that it was by demonstrating the benefits of AI to the CEO of Nvidia with this tool that he insisted that it be implemented natively in the final versions of the new Shields.
To activate it, simply hold down the button on the remote control located at the top right. An image splitter appears and it is then possible to move the line from right to left to see – visu – any improvements. Even increase or reduce the intensity in the small dedicated menu.
Excellent first results and the best is yet to come
In Marvel action movies where everything goes very (too fast) or in works whose backgrounds tend to be very fuzzy, even in a still camera, upscaling sometimes tends to be zealous and create more discomfort than pleasure. Same impression on aging content and some subtitles, especially yellow ones. They seem to pose a small concern to the AI. It strives to make them sharper and causes a slight halo effect.
This improvement via artificial intelligence can only improve with time. Brand spokespersons are formal, the algorithm continues to be refined, subject to new content and trained on a regular basis. The new versions will be injected through the system updates that Nvidia will make in the coming months.
In this respect, Nvidia has always made sure to keep the Shields as up-to-date as possible. Whether in evolution of Android TV versions or home apps. The same can not be said of all brands!
A classic TV Shield less "gameuse" than the previous ones?
Nvidia has chosen to no longer deliver a joystick with the Shield. Classic or Pro. To justify itself, the GPU designer specifies that his device is compatible with all major Bluetooth controllers on the market. As well as with all sets of wireless keyboards and mice.
A first blow of ax in the gaming roots of the Shield? No, not quite. It is always possible to have fun with the games specially developed for the platform (a good hundred to date).
Not to mention that the Shield TV 2019 gives access to GeForce Now, Nvidia's cloud gaming service that lets you play many of the PC titles you own on Steam, Uplay, etc. without having to install or configure them. The quality of the video stream then transmitted by Nvidia servers depends a lot on the robustness and speed of your connection, as for any streaming service.
And what about Stadia? Nvidia ensures that if Google offers an Android TV application of its cloud gaming service (whose release is still scheduled for November 19), there is no reason that it is not worn on the Shield. It will be the same for Shadow, the 100% French cloud gaming PC, when the Android TV application of the service will be available in final version.
However, Nvidia does not hide it: if you want a real small 80% Android games console, 20% PC, combined with a multimedia server to which you can connect hard drives or USB sticks, it's the Shield Pro you need. It is more expensive but also offers more possibilities.