NVIDIA SHIELD TV 2019 Review: AI Enhanced Android TV Streaming

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NVIDIA SHIELD TV (2019): AI Upscaling, Experience, And Conclusion

If you’ve got the requisite surround sound and TV setup, the new NVIDIA SHIELD TV devices are the first media streamers with 4K Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos support, across and array of applications. Unfortunately, we lacked the necessary display to give Dolby Vision a try, but did see it live during a briefing with NVIDIA during which we learned about the new SHIELD TV.

shield tv dolby vision

Please note, however, that support for Dolby Vision does not negate the SHIELD TV’s previous support for HDR10. The new devices still support HDR10 and all of the other features that made the original SHIELD TV units so well-liked.

shield tv interface

As mentioned, the software and UX is essentially unchanged as well. The interface on the new SHIELD TVs looks just like its predecessors, with user-configurable rows for favorites and applications, games, etc. And that’s a good thing, because NVIDIA has been on-top of the regular Android updates and has the interface dialed-in at this point. Full disclosure, I have SHIELD TVs on all of my televisions here and my young kids and wife have all learned to navigate and use the SHIELD TV without issue.

One of the things that makes the SHIELD TV such a good streaming device is its relatively powerful Tegra processor. But the vast majority of the time when streaming content, many of the processing resources of the SoC go unused. So, with this new SHIELD TV and its more powerful Tegra X1+ processor, NVIDIA decided to leverage its extensive AI IP to put those unused processing resources to work to improve image quality.

ai upscaling example

Using Artificial Intelligence To Boost Image Quality

NVIDIA trained a convolutional neural network (CNN) with vast amounts of video content to teach it to predict the differences between a standard, linear scaled video and a high-resolution 4K reference quality video. Once the neural network had been properly trained, the data it inferred could be used to better predict what the upscaled video should look like, to produce better overall results. The neural network model runs in real-time on the Tegra X1+ processor inside the new SHIELD TV and upscales video just before it is displayed on the TV.

At this point in time the AI enhanced upscaling works on 1080p30 video (and lower), from any source running on the SHIELD TV. At some point in the future, support for 1080p60 is possible, however.

ai upscaling menu

NVIDIA gives you control over the level of enhancement or if you even want to use it all. We should also mention that the standard upscaling algorithm in the SHIELD TV was enhanced as well to improve its output too. The setup Video Upscaling menu is accessible with one-click after tapping the settings button. There is also a cool demo mode available if you’d like an easy way to compare results side by side with a particular piece of content.

ai scaling off 2 ai scaling on 2
ai scaling off 1 ai scaling on 1
LEFT - AI Upscaling Off, RIGHT - AI Upscaling On (Click To Enlarge)

We have two examples above that show that the AI enhanced upscaler on the SHIELD TV can do. One scene if from the Pixar movie “Coco” (fantastic movie, by the way) and the other is from a new David Chang show on Netflix dubbed “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner”. The images were not captured directly from the HDMI output on the SHIELD TV, but rather are cropped pictures taken of a Samsung 4K television. Even still, the increase in sharpness and detail are readily apparent. The blurring associated with traditional linear scaling is drastically reduced and edges are crisper all around. If you look at the detail in David Chang’s hat, teeth, and that scraggly facial hair that some would call a beard, the improvements are obvious and significant.

Using a predictive algorithm to enhance video, however, will inevitably produce some unwanted results as well. You’ll also notice in one of David’s teeth, that the smooth curve of one of his bicuspids has a jagged edge in it in the AI enhanced version.

Review Summary, Pros And Cons Of Samsung's Galaxy S10+We’ve only had the new SHIELD TV in hand for a short time, but in general, we’d have to say the AI upscaler is a MASSIVE improvement, and it's a feature we’d leave on by default. There will most likely be cases where you want to disable it, especially if the source video is of very low quality, but for everything we’ve been able to watch so far, the AI upscaler just rocks.
new shield tv pro for 2019

The new SHIELD TV we’ve shown you here will be on sale today for $149, which makes it the most affordable SHIELD TV model to date as well. The new SHIELD TV Pro is also being released at $199. Both include the new remote, but the SHIELD TV Pro has a few additional tricks up its sleeve. For example, the SHIELD TV Pro has...
  • Plex Media Server support
  • SmartThings Link Ready
  • 2 full size USB 3.0 ports
  • 3GB RAM (up from 2GB*)
  • 16GB storage (up from 8GB*)
  • Advanced Android Games (Half-Life 2 series, Portal 2, Borderlands: TPS, Borderlands 2, Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, Resident Evil 5, Doom 3, Tomb Raider, The Witness, and more)
  • Gameplay recording and Gameplay Broadcast to Twitch
Because it has those USB ports, the SHIELD TV Pro will also be able to charge and SHIELD game controllers you may have. The cylindrical SHIELD TV will work with the game controllers, but because it lacks those USB ports, it can’t charge them.

If you’re in the market for a high-quality media streaming device, you absolutely must look into the NVIDIA SHIELD TV. NVIDIA has taken what was already considered by many to be the best streaming device, and made it better all around. The more affordable SHIELD TV we’ve shown you here offers a great experience, with access to tons of apps and content, with output quality that is second to none. And the more powerful SHIELD TV Pro just builds on the SHIED TVs feature set for those users that don’t want to give up any features of the previous-gen. We really like the NVIDIA SHIELD TV. It sets the bar in terms of feature support and image quality and we highly recommend it.
hothardware editors choice
  • Enhanced Image Quality
  • Smooth UX
  • Vastly Improved Remote
  • Useful New Features
  • No USB Ports (Only Available On Pro)

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