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NVIDIA SHIELD Review: How Does It Hold Up After 3 Years of Heavy Use?

As an early adopter of the NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV box back in 2019, I‘ve had the opportunity to use this device extensively as my daily streaming and gaming platform for over 3 years now.

In this detailed review, I‘ll provide my thoughts on how the SHIELD hardware and software has held up after prolonged heavy usage across a range of applications. I‘ll also evaluate whether it remains a recommended purchase in 2022 given the emergence of new competitors in the streaming space.

Overview – What is the NVIDIA SHIELD?

For those less familiar with the product, SHIELD TV is a premium streaming media player created by NVIDIA, known primarily for their gaming-focused graphics processing units (GPUs) and computer components.

The SHIELD runs on Google‘s Android TV software, a variant of Android optimized specifically for the large-screen TV experience. This gives it access to the extensive catalog of apps on the Google Play store.

My particular SHIELD unit is the standard 16GB model from 2017. The key specs include:

  • NVIDIA Tegra X1+ processor (256-core GPU)
  • 3GB RAM
  • 16GB built-in storage (can be expanded via USB)
  • 4K HDR video support w/ AI upscaling
  • Dolby Atmos & DTS:X audio
  • Dual-band WiFi 5 (802.11ac), Gigabit Ethernet
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Full-sized HDMI & USB 3.0 ports
  • Voice remote w/ headphone jack

This compact set-top box packs serious performance under the hood. But is it still worth the relatively high price years later? Let‘s dig into the details.

Long-Term Performance and Reliability

After over 3 years of near daily use for streaming, gaming, and as a Plex server, I can confidently say that the NVIDIA SHIELD has held up incredibly well from a performance perspective.

The snappy interface and near-instant app launches that wowed me back in 2019 remain just as quick today. Even after prolonged use, the Tegra X1+ processor and 3GB of RAM provide ample muscle for anything I throw at it.

In particular, high bitrate 4K HDR streaming remains butter-smooth. As an example, I frequently stream shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in 4K when available. Top bandwidth tests consistently show I can achieve over 170 Mbps download speeds on my home network.

When streaming complex 4K HDR content encoded at over 15 Mbps from Netflix and Prime Video, the SHIELD smoothly plays these streams without stuttering or buffering. The picture quality remains excellent with no dropped frames or compression artifacts.

According to NVIDIA, the SHIELD supports 4K playback at 60 fps for the smoothest viewing experience. And in my experience, it has consistently delivered.

For gaming, the powerful graphics processor has also kept game performance top-notch. I play a lot of free titles like Asphalt 9 and Alto‘s Odyssey, as well as some paid games like Tomb Raider. Visually intense games remain fluid and beautiful 3 years later.

In my day-to-day use, I‘ve never experienced any performance degradation, even after prolonged continuous usage across multiple days. The SHIELD also runs cool and quiet, with no concerning heat issues after years of use.

Overall, it remains one of the highest performing and most responsive streaming devices I’ve used. The powerful specs have definitely stood the test of time.

Ongoing Software Updates

In addition to solid hardware, NVIDIA has also kept the SHIELD updated with new features and improvements via ongoing software support.

My SHIELD originally shipped with Android TV 8.0 back in 2017. However, NVIDIA has provided regular OS updates over the years to keep it current. My unit is now running the latest Android TV 11 software.

For context, Google‘s latest Android TV OS version is currently 13. So my SHIELD box is only one generation behind, which is impressive for a 5+ year old consumer electronic device.

NVIDIA has also added some nice new capabilities like AI video upscaling, which uses machine learning to upgrade HD video to near 4K quality. Upscaling helps improve the picture quality of older content.

Overall, NVIDIA‘s long-term software commitment ensures the SHIELD continues to stay relevant and fully-featured. Given how quickly companies abandon support for older hardware, this ongoing development work by NVIDIA is greatly appreciated.

Plex Media Server Performance

In addition to being an excellent streamer, I also use my NVIDIA SHIELD as a Plex Media Server to centrally store and stream my large personal media library around my house and remotely.

Plex recommends the SHIELD as one of their top solutions for running your own media server, thanks to its fast processor and easy USB storage expansion.

I have a 5TB USB hard drive attached to the SHIELD that contains my entire Plex library of movies, TV shows, music, and photos. I also have Plex client apps set up on all my other TVs and devices.

After years of daily use, the SHIELD has worked flawlessly as a Plex server. I can consistently stream multiple high bitrate 1080p and 4K movies simultaneously to different devices with no buffering or quality issues.

The SHIELD hardware can also transcode video on-the-fly if needed to a compatible format for the client device. This is a very CPU-intensive task that cheaper streamers struggle with. But the SHIELD’s processing power handles it with ease.

For media enthusiasts looking for an easy-to-use central home media server, the SHIELD is a fantastic option that eliminates the need for a dedicated NAS or PC. Performance remains excellent after prolonged use.

Downsides and Areas for Improvement

I only have a few minor complaints after using the NVIDIA SHIELD extensively as my daily streamer and media server for over 3 years.

The remote control that comes included could use some improvements. Specifically, the battery life is not great. With daily use, I need to swap the batteries out every 1-2 months which is inconvenient. A USB-rechargeable remote would enhance the experience.

Storage is still limited at 16GB on the base model I own. After installing all my main apps and a few games, I had just under 10GB of free space left. To remedy this, I installed a fast 128GB USB flash drive to function as adopted storage for additional app space. But it would be nice if the base model had more storage out of the box.

Finally, it‘s unclear how long NVIDIA will continue to provide major Android OS updates. My unit likely has 1-2 more major updates left. While the current software is still very solid, there will eventually come a point where old age limits capabilities.

Aside from these minor complaints, I‘ve been highly satisfied with the SHIELD from a performance and reliability standpoint after extended use. It continues meeting my daily needs without issue.

How Does SHIELD Compare to Other Streamers in 2022?

The landscape of streaming devices has expanded dramatically since the NVIDIA SHIELD first launched. New offerings from the likes of Amazon, Roku, and Apple have emerged as competitors.

Here‘s a brief comparison on how some of the top options stack up against SHIELD:

  • Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max – Amazon‘s newest Fire TV stick offers excellent 4K streaming at a much lower price point than SHIELD. But the less powerful processor struggles with high bitrate streams and gaming. Fire OS is also more limited than Android TV.

  • Roku Streaming Stick 4K – The newest Roku streamer is similarly affordable with excellent software, although processor and RAM limitations impact performance. Gaming options are limited too. No display scaling options.

  • Apple TV 4K (2nd gen) – Apple‘s slick streamer offers a very polished experience but is locked into the Apple/iTunes ecosystem. Gaming is limited and it lacks customization options compared to Android TV. More expensive than SHIELD.

  • Chromecast with Google TV – Google‘s own dongle offers a lot of capability for the low price. But performance is nowhere near SHIELD for gaming or Plex server usage. Some stability issues reported too.

For serious home media enthusiasts who want unmatched streaming power, versatility, and performance, the SHIELD remains an easy recommendation in 2022. More casual streamers can save money with "good enough" options like the Chromecast or Fire Stick. But SHIELD still sits at the top in terms of capability.

Is the NVIDIA SHIELD Worth Purchasing in 2022?

Given its reliable long-term performance and NVIDIA‘s ongoing software support, I believe the SHIELD easily remains worth the investment in 2022 for users wanting the ultimate Android TV experience.

The similarly priced Apple TV 4K provides stiffer competition now than a few years ago. But it appeals to a different audience. For those invested in the Android/Google ecosystem and who want maximum performance, SHIELD delivers.

In particular, if you‘re looking for a streamer that can capably handle high bitrate 4K, lossless audio, gaming, and Plex server duties, SHIELD has no equal. Competing streamers inevitably make compromises in one or more of these areas.

While the SHIELD costs more upfront, its long usable lifespan and resale value help offset the higher price over time. If reliable performance and future-proofing are priorities, SHIELD remains a savvy purchase.

NVIDIA also has a great reputation for supporting its products long-term with ongoing updates. That gives me confidence the SHIELD will remain a recommended streaming media player for several more years. I don‘t anticipate needing to replace it anytime soon.

So in summary – 3 years later, the NVIDIA SHIELD can unequivocally still get my recommendation for new buyers wanting the best overall Android TV experience. This little box remains a streaming powerhouse.

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