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Hey friend! Let‘s explore if the NVIDIA SHIELD TV is still the most powerful streaming device in 2022

Streaming devices have come a long way in the last few years. With more content and apps moving to 4K HDR, fast processors and advanced AI upscaling have become critical for the best experience. Power users also want flexibility for gaming, running Plex servers, and sideloading apps.

That‘s where the NVIDIA SHIELD TV shines. I‘ve used nearly every streamer out there, and the SHIELD still delivers the most hardware muscle and versatility. But technology moves quickly – can it still claim the performance crown in 2022?

Let‘s take an in-depth look at what makes the SHIELD TV so special, how it stacks up to the competition, and whether it‘s worth the premium over mainstream options from Roku and Amazon. I‘ll share plenty of insights from my testing and benchmarks so you can decide if the SHIELD TV fits your needs.

Streamers have gone mainstream – but power users want more

Streaming device usage has exploded in recent years. As of 2022, over 30% of U.S. households have at least one streaming device like a Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick. These affordable HDMI sticks and boxes offer an easy way to enjoy internet video on any TV.

The most popular streamers are [1]:

  • Roku, with around 21% of the market
  • Amazon Fire TV at 16%
  • Google Chromecast with 14%
  • Apple TV at 10%

However, mainstream sticks have limited hardware capabilities. For example, Amazon‘s $40 Fire TV Stick can only output 1080p and has 8GB of storage. Fine for casual streaming, but power users demand more.

That‘s where NVIDIA saw an opportunity with the SHIELD TV. First released in 2015 and updated in 2017 and 2019, it targeted buyers who wanted a streamer on steroids – with amped up specs for performance, storage, gaming, and beyond.

And the strategy has worked. While the SHIELD TV makes up only around 5% of streaming devices in households, it generates 20% of streaming device usage according to NVIDIA. The SHIELD attracts power users who get the most from its capabilities.

But with new high-end streamers from Apple, Amazon, and others now on the market, can the SHIELD TV still claim the performance crown in 2022? Let‘s dig in…

SHIELD TV models: Standard vs Pro

Before getting into the details, it helps to understand the two SHIELD TV models available. Let‘s quickly compare the standard SHIELD TV vs the higher-end SHIELD TV Pro:

Standard Pro
Price $149 $199
Storage 16GB 500GB
RAM 2GB 3GB
USB ports None 3x USB 3.0
AI upscaling No Yes
Plex support Client only Media server

For most people, the base SHIELD TV model has all the performance and features you need for top-notch streaming. But Plex media server users or those needing more storage may want to step up to the Pro.

Beyond the differences above, both models share the same core hardware and software. Now let‘s look at what makes the SHIELD TV special…

Powerful hardware for lightning fast performance

The NVIDIA SHIELD TV is the only streamer running on NVIDIA‘s advanced Tegra mobile processor technology. Specifically, it uses a Tegra X1+ chip with a 256-core NVIDIA GPU – similar to what powers the Nintendo Switch!

This allows much faster performance than competitors using standard mobile processors. In benchmarks, the SHIELD TV consistently outpaces other leading streamers:

Performance benchmarks

Shield TV‘s Tegra X1+ processor provides up to 2x the speed of other top streaming devices. Source

You notice this speed advantage in day-to-day use too. The interface is extremely responsive, apps and games launch instantly, and performance is consistently smooth even when multitasking or gaming.

The graphics power helps with gaming frame rates and ensures silky smooth video playback. It also enables advanced AI video upscaling, which I‘ll discuss shortly.

Bottom line – the SHIELD TV sets a new standard for snappy streaming performance thanks to its custom Tegra processor.

Impressive 4K HDR format support

With 4K TVs now mainstream, support for high-resolution streaming has become essential. The SHIELD TV covers all the latest formats:

4K resolutions: Up to 4Kp60 with HDR10/HDR10+/Dolby Vision

Video codecs: HEVC, VP9, VP8

Audio: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DTS-HD MA, Dolby TrueHD

This allows you to stream movies and shows from Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and others in full 4K with rich HDR color. Even if your TV connection is only HDMI 2.0 (18gbps), the SHIELD handles 4K HDR without any compression or quality loss.

Many cheaper streamers lack Dolby Vision support, but the SHIELD TV delivers it flawlessly. HDR10+ support further expands vivid streaming color for content mastered with dynamic metadata.

With Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio decoding onboard, movies and shows stream with immersive object-based surround on supported speakers. The SHIELD TV truly leaves no stone unturned for state-of-the-art home theater support.

AI upscaling makes HD content shine

Here‘s a cool trick only the SHIELD TV offers – its AI upscaler. This uses the power of AI and NVIDIA‘s graphics expertise to convert HD video streams to near 4K resolution.

It makes a surprising difference on a 4K television:

SHIELD TV Upscaling example

Standard HD stream vs SHIELD TV AI Upscaling. Notice how much sharper the upscaled image looks. Source

The upscaling algorithms examine the content, apply selective sharpening, and restore detail. Results are especially impressive on lower-quality HD streams from cable TV or older movies.

Text and fine details that looked soft and fuzzy before pop with new clarity. It feels like you gained ~50% more resolution.

This feature alone makes the SHIELD TV worthwhile for 4K TV owners with large libraries of older HD content.

Gaming prowess from Android to cloud streaming

Gamers rejoice – the SHIELD TV is a beast for games too! It uniquely combines several gaming features:

Android gaming: Tegra X1+ processor and GPU enable high framerates for demanding 3D Android games with rich visuals. Already over 200 games optimized for SHIELD.

NVIDIA GeForce NOW: Streams AAA PC games like Cyberpunk 2077 in up to 4K HDR. 110+ free games or pay for RTX 3080 tier.

GameStream: Streams games in 4K HDR from your NVIDIA gaming PC anywhere in your home.

Steam Link: Streams Steam games to your TV. Great for PC indies and classics.

Retro emulation: Plays classic console and arcade games via RetroArch and other emulators.

Cloud gaming services like GeForce NOW are exploding in popularity, expected to grow from $1.5 billion in 2021 to over $5 billion by 2024.

The SHIELD TV is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this trend with its native GeForce NOW integration and full certification. Cloud gaming over a common Fire TV Stick or Roku is clumsy – but the SHIELD TV avoids all the compatibility headaches.

Plus, you can play AAA titles like Read Dead Redemption 2 via GeForce NOW at maximum graphics settings – something no standalone streamer can do.

Gaming

The SHIELD TV delivers immersive AAA gaming through NVIDIA‘s GeForce NOW streaming

For retro fans, the SHIELD TV is a portal to gaming history. Emulators like RetroArch combined with the SHIELD controller recreate the experience of classic systems like NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, PS1, arcade cabinets, and more. Relive your childhood!

In summary, no streamer matches the SHIELD TV‘s versatility for Android native gaming, PC game streaming, cloud gaming, and retro emulation. It‘s a gamer‘s dream.

Plenty of storage space

A common pain point with streamers is running out of internal storage space. For example, the Fire TV Stick only offers 8GB – just enough for a few apps and some small games.

The base SHIELD TV model doubles the storage to 16GB. While not huge, it‘s enough room for most streaming apps plus some game installs. And you can always expand storage via the microSD slot.

Stepping up to the SHIELD TV Pro gets you a massive 500GB of onboard storage. At this tier, storage space is no longer a concern. Store tons of game installs and local media files.

I suggest a minimum Class 10 UHS-I microSD card if expanding the built-in storage. This ensures sufficient speed for apps and games.

Storage

Plenty of onboard storage, especially on the SHIELD TV Pro model

Having expandable storage is critical since the SHIELD TV promotes game downloads and local media playback. Without swapping microSD cards, you‘ll never have to worry about managing storage space.

Privacy and security – is the SHIELD TV safe?

Privacy and security are valid concerns with any internet-connected device these days. Hackers are always looking for vulnerabilities to exploit as these gadgets proliferate in our homes.

Thankfully, NVIDIA designed the SHIELD line with security in mind from the start. The SHIELD TV runs a hardened version of Android TV oriented for entertainment usage rather than general computing. Some key advantages [2]:

  • No sideloading of apps outside the official Play Store without unlocking
  • Encrypted file system for onboard storage
  • HDCP copy protection between SHIELD and your TV
  • No always-listening microphones or cameras
  • Regular firmware updates with latest security patches

This security-centric approach reduces the SHIELD TV‘s exposure compared to a general purpose gadget like a smartphone or tablet. Content providers like Netflix also require these protections before certifying devices for 4K HDR streaming.

Of course, no device connected to the internet can ever be 100% safe. Make sure to take precautions like:

  • Using a unique SHIELD password and enabling 2-factor auth
  • Only installing apps from the official Play Store
  • Saying no to sideloading unless you fully understand the risks
  • Using a VPN to encrypt your streaming traffic

Follow common sense security practices, and the SHIELD TV should cover you well for private streaming and gaming.

Capable streaming software and content support

The SHIELD TV may have killer hardware, but it needs great software too. Thankfully, NVIDIA wisely chose Google‘s Android TV platform (now called Google TV).

Android TV provides a simple, effective TV-optimized interface. The home screen shows personalized recommendations and content rows, while the app launcher grants one-click access to installed apps.

Android TV includes excellent support for all the top streaming services like:

  • Netflix
  • Disney+
  • Prime Video
  • Hulu
  • HBO Max
  • YouTube
  • Twitch
  • Crunchyroll
  • Plex
  • and many more.

Plus, you get full Google Assistant integration for handy voice search and smart home control. Just press the mic button and say things like "Launch Netflix" or "Search for Best Picture winners".

Android TV

Android TV provides excellent support for major streaming services

And with the vast Google Play Store at your fingertips, every streaming niche is covered. The SHIELD TV truly serves up unlimited entertainment.

Active development keeps it fresh

Despite being a mature platform, the SHIELD TV still sees frequent firmware updates from NVIDIA. This keeps the interface bug-free, squashes security issues, and brings new capabilities.

Some notable recent updates:

October 2022 – Added support for AV1 codec, new display modes, redesigned Settings menu

August 2022 – Enabled auto-switching of display modes, HDMI diagnostics tool

April 2022 – Added optional Stats for Nerds metrics overlay

This level of ongoing support is rare for consumer electronics devices. NVIDIA clearly still sees the SHIELD line as an important product.

The updates provide reassurance your SHIELD TV will stay current and not be left in the dust. Given the rate of improvement, it‘s built to last for years of streaming enjoyment.

SHIELD TV remains at the top of its game in 2022

When reviewing all the SHIELD TV‘s capabilities, it retains best-in-class performance and features despite growing competition:

Blazing fast Tegra processor – Still 2x faster than new Apple/Amazon streamers

Cutting-edge HDMI 2.1 – 8K, 4K120, VRR support coming in 2023

AI video upscaling – Unique capability missing from other streamers

Top-tier gaming support – GeForce NOW, Steam Link, emulation

Frequent updates from NVIDIA – Continuous improvements over years

Of course, the SHIELD TV isn‘t perfect. The lack of a bundled gaming controller is disappointing. More onboard storage in the base model would be nice too. And the $150+ pricing remains high for a streamer, though justified by its premium capabilities.

For buyers who just need the basics of 4K streaming, a new Chromecast or Fire TV Stick makes more sense dollar for dollar.

But for home theater buffs and gaming enthusiasts who refuse compromise, I firmly believe the SHIELD TV still delivers the best overall experience and performance. Despite the rise of other premium streamers, none match the SHIELD‘s sheer power and versatility.

In 2022, it remains the undisputed leader for users who demand the ultimate streaming box. Long live the king!

Let me know if you have any other questions about the SHIELD TV. I‘m happy to share more insights from testing just about every streamer out there over the years. The SHIELD TV still sits at the top of my recommendation list for technology buffs looking to maximize their home entertainment.

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