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 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).
Next 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.
Check out our comparison video below:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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I am fully immersed in the Apple ecosystem so anything other than the Apple TV is not even on my radar screen. No iTunes, no Apple Music, no AirPlay. Specs, ports, RAM, storage don’t enter into my decision making. That’s for the techie wannabes to argue and boast about. I’ve experienced enough gadgets that have the nerd specs advantage but fail to deliver the goods in ease of use, UI, and content. Let the faux geek crowd go on and on about specs.
Same for me, but I’d argue that this is not one of those cases. You get Airplay on the Shield if you install Kodi. I’m not sure why you’d want iTunes :) Most iOS apps support Chromecast (to my surprise) which Shield has built-in. And the ease of use and UI is really good (it should be stated that I really don’t like Android phones). The content could be better in terms of apps and games; not all Android apps run on the Shield. And I’m hoping that the Geforce Now catalogue of games will expand. The service really impressed me (while OnLive was awful with lots of latency).
The one thing I miss from iOS/tvOS is the consistent quality in user experience. Emulators on tvOS are a much better experience than on Android TV.
yeah, I too am fully immersed in the Apple ecosystem, but a set-top box is one thing I’m willing to break out of that system, given that I mainly only care about iCloud (iMessage, Notes, Calendar, Contacts, etc) being uniform. I just ordered the Nvidia Shield TV for $150, and it is infinitely better than the new Apple TV.
not only is it capable of 4K @ 60 Hz with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 support (including 4K Netflix and Youtube), but has a quad-core CPU (as opposed to dual core), includes a solid game controller, supports live TV, is far more open allowing for the installation of Kodi, and can actually display movies at their native frame rate of 24 fps (which is huge for movie enthusiasts). Apple still seems to be treating the Apple TV like a hobby. I’ll wait until they treat film and movie fans the same way they do music fans.
Not better for me tho. Only 1080p screens here. I’ll wait to get a 4K tv 1-2 years at least.
The Shield does indeed have a more powerful CPU than what’s in the A8, but please don’t tout the # of cores as being solely responsible for that. #s of cores is the new “mhz myth”, more does not necessarily equal better unless you’re comparing the exact same cores (see how the dual core A9 is faster than 8 core Exynos chips in just about everything).
“I just ordered the Nvidia Shield TV for $150, and it is infinitely better than the new Apple TV. not only is it capable of 4K…”
How big is your 4K TV and how far away from it does everyone sit to watch it?
The A9 is only faster on single tasks not multi tasks. Oh and by the way, who makes apples chips? Yep Samsung.
@Mikey Ynwa Heath No, the A9 is faster in just most things in general. It might loose in a completely synthetic full core benchmark, but it ain’t losin’ in any software that actually runs on anything. Also, please read up on Apple’s chips. Samsung and/or TSMC fabricate Apple’s chips. But they are Apple custom designs, not Samsung designs. TSMC also fabricates GPUs for nvidia and AMD. That doesn’t mean nVidia and AMD don’t design their own GPUs. Apple has been using their own custom designs for several generations now and it’s making a huge difference since the A6.
Talk about narrow minded fanboyism.
Should have compared the new 4K Amazon Fire as well; that’s the number one STB that the people I know have.
It doesn’t have an a9 processor. The used the old a8 processor. So it’s old and not near as fast the Nvidia’s.
It should be noted that Kodi works really well on the Shield, so if your mostly watching movies from your private movie collection, the Shield is the better choice. If you want all the iOS apps you’re used to, the Apple TV is probably the better choice. The Shield supports keyboard and mouse for gaming, which might be something people care about. But there will probably be more games for tvOS, and the Android games available on the Shield isn’t very impressive yet. Until they are, Geforce now is an interesting choice. It works a lot better than I expected. 1080p at 60 fps with 3-4 frames latency provides a gaming experience not far from a high-end PC. With keyboard, mouse and controller support. Depending on the reliability and speed of your internet connection, obviously. If you want more casual games games and don’t care for 4K or your private movie collection, go for the Apple TV. Otherwise, go for Shield.
“if your mostly watching movies from your private movie collection, the Shield is the better choice.”
I disagree. Apple TV 4 with Plex is a great solution for view ing your private movie collection, complete with web and native iOS support.
Just compare the hardware alone — for 50 dollars more, you have expandable storage — ORDERS OF MAGNITUDES more than the ATV, more ram, and a *much* faster CPU/GPU. Is there a cost breakdown of the new Apple TV yet? I’d love to see what it costs Apple to build these things just from a parts perspective. And if you hate the UI of the Shield, remember, it runs Kodi (XMBC)! So you have the ability to completely customize and skin the entire UI alone just with that. Also, the Shield can do AirPlay — there are a few AirPlay apps that work on it. Since it can run Android apps as well, keep in mind, if there’s a channel or content that is missing out of the box, chances are all you have to do is download the app and install it!
Specs…blah, blah, blah… specs… blah, blah… Nice mumble for Fandroids. Those specs maybe just about enough to drag the *much* slower, ORDERS OF MAGNITUDES slower OS.
Funny, I remember when Apple always used to have amazing hardware specs, that were great on almost all their products. They still do sometimes — the 5S’s CPU, the A7, was the first ever 64-bit ARM chip to be used in a phone. It came out a year before anyone thought it would. It was, and still is, a beast. Even when benchmarking the 6 and 6S, a lot of the real world tests are barely better than the 5S still. I guess it’s OK for them to have amazing hardware in that situation, but not when it comes to the Apple TV, right? There is something to be said for software making up for lackluster hardware — but not in the case of the Apple TV. The Apple TV hardware is about 2 years behind the times. That’s fine — if they were selling it for 75 bucks maybe; but NOT for $150…no way. And I doubt you have ever used the Shield…when running Kodi at 4K resolution on a 4K television, the speed is *insane* — The Apple TV can’t even do 4K — period — yet all the new iPhones shoot in 4K by default…makes absolutely no sense to anyone with half a brain. Apple released a purposely watered down hardware device because they missed the original release date (was supposed to be last March/April), and the new model that does 4K isn’t ready for prime time yet. Also, since iTunes has ZERO 4K content, and Netflix and YouTube hold the overwhelming majority of 4K content, it would make them look even more foolish than they already do if they didn’t miss the release date and were actually on time. Apple doesn’t care about their STB market — they have been losing for years to competitors; the stats do not lie here. It’s obvious to me Apple still consider it a hobbyist market, nothing more.
Ok bla bla bla….And a Bluetooth Keyboard with Apple TV ? NO !
I swear Im so sick and tired of hearing about 4k support. 4k support ranks up there with Android fanatics going head over heals for 8 core processors with 3gb of ram etc…. and still being slower than the Apple gear.
I have the new AppleTV, and I love it, but its far from being ‘there’. I see massive potential though. Give me an equivalent to Wii Sports with the new remote and this thing will be epic. The opportunity for devs is insane here. Take any popular Wii game and make it work on the Apple TV and you will make a fortune.
Completely unimportant, but “Shield” is a strange name. Is it supposed to be protective in some way?
Definitely agree about the 4k. There’s almost no 4k content, almost no one owns 4k TVs, drastically jacks up the bandwidth requirements, and arguably provides an imperceptible increase in detail at normal TV-viewing distances.
I would suggest that it isn’t ‘arguably’ at all. I read a test that pointed out that in order to see the difference of 4K over 1080p in normal room conditions, you’d have to be sat so close to the screen it’d make the experience awful. At normal viewing distances for say, a 50″ screen the human eye would struggle to notice any perceptible difference.
Of course that doesn’t even mention the lack of 4K content. There is not one broadcaster that produces 4K content. Not one. The simple fact is, I don’t care about 4K, because that’s not where the next major revolution in screen technology is going to be, it’s in OLED.
That would make sense if not for Apple designing the new iPhones specifically to shoot in 4K video…They obviously see it as an advantage, and a standard that is here to stay, even if you and others don’t. Wouldn’t it be great to watch all those iPhone shot 4K videos using AirPlay with your new ATV without it downscaling it?
“That would make sense if not for Apple designing the new iPhones specifically to shoot in 4K video”
The present day advantages of shooting video in 4K far outweigh those of distributing or viewing the final video in 4K resolution. 4K video converted to 1080p can have better image quality than video shot natively at 1080p, and allow for zooming in during editing without dropping below 1080p resolution. That’s why the iPhone has a 4K camera while the Apple TV 4 doe not support 4K video.
No it’s just marketing speak. I take it you where surprised when you found out that the AppleTV is neither an Apple or a Television?
If I want gaming, it’s a PS4. If I’m in a techie mood, it’s Rasberry Pi. If I want ease of use, it’s Apple TV.
If I want to support the Android ecosystem, it’s Shield or a similar device. But it doesn’t offer much for serious gamers OR techies.
The PS4 and XBoxOne are an absolute shame. Fake next-gen consoles using an obsolete very slow AMD APU Jaguar designed for low power netbook and cheap notebook use. They can barely deliver playing framerate and quality of a very cheap PC.
I don’t necessarily believe that Apple TV or nVidia Shield offer much more than what most of the smart tvs around these days can offer. I got my son a 40″ UHD LG TV to use as a PC screen, thanks to HDMI 2.0, and the smart features on that can do everything other than the serious gaming.
Both of these products almost appear redundant already, particularly given a console or steambox is much more suited to the task of gaming.
But I guess if you’re trapped in the Apple ecosystem, AppleTV is the only way to go. Most manufacturers are offering android capable tv systems now.
“I don’t necessarily believe that Apple TV or nVidia Shield offer much more than what most of the smart tvs around these days can offer. ” WHAT? Are you kidding or what?
I’ve been with Apple for decades. I was loyal to them when no one wanted to buy anything made by Apple. I just bought a new Apple TV because I’m in deep with the Apple ecosystem. While I do like some of the new features, I’m somewhat disappointed overall. To be honest, Apple should be ashamed releasing a new device with these specs – specifically lack of 4K video support. I don’t care about the lack of 4K commercial content. I want 4K support for the 4K family videos I take with my own damned iPhone. In addition to the 4K omission, Siri cannot search for music in apple’s cloud or music that is shared locally on my LAN. Siri support for searching through my locally shared movies is very buggy – sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. The new controller is nice but entering text is just as clunky as it was with the previous model. You’d think that with Siri support that it would be able to accept voice to text input. It doesn’t. And why can’t they include a web browser??? It’s not like I want my TV to be my sole computer. ATV would never cannibalize Mac sales. But it sure would be nice to look something up on the web quickly using Siri when I am in front of my TV. And to all of the people who will say that many of these items may be fixed soon… that’s great if you want to wait. The new Apple TV seems half baked at the time of release and doesn’t raelly live up to my expectations. Jobs is probably rolling in his grave over the mediocrity that Apple is churning out these days.
I’m not sure I buy the modern gaming side of this. Powerful though the Shield is, it’s nowhere near as powerful as an Xbox One or a PS4, and will obviously never have anywhere near the same level of developer support. The shield is a little cheaper, but so what, it’s not as if a PS4 costs much.
For me the reason to own a Shield is emulation. The Play store has a ton of emulators and the Shield has the power to run them at full speed. Legalities aside, the idea of a gigantic library of Dreamcast, Saturn, SNES, Mega Drive, Mega CD, Playstation 2, Playstation 1, and PC Engine games on my TV is appealing. The Apple TV may develop into a decent emulation box too in time, but I doubt it will have the power to emulate the newer systems, and of course the emulators will have to be side loaded as Apple’s App Store approval policies are retarded.
For media playback neither of these boxes is up to much yet, unless you live on ripped/pirated content in Plex/Kodi. Neither has an Amazon Prime app, and from a UK perspective neither has much in the way of UK streaming services. The Fiee TV is streets ahead here, and of course it has 4K.
I don’t mean to burst your bubble but amazon prime app is available just not on the play store. You can download it from Amazon app store, Port it across using your Android device or just download the apk from Google Chrome.
I wouldn’t recommend fire TV to anybody if you plan to use p2p streaming through kodi. While it does work its extremely difficult to get vpn running and its locked down a lot compared to android with google support rather than android with Amazon support.
If you have apple everything then your going to get apple TV, if not android is open and imo better and unless my apple device was jailbrocken, I wouldn’t even think twice about leaving android. Of course the NVIDIA chip is faster and imo better too.
If you want a fantastic phone, get an iPhone, if you want a hand held pc, go android.
Remember apple only supports apple, android supports both
Now that Apple TV came out, nVidia has been sending all those Shields to YouTubers… hummm… wonder why? Maybe because ATV plays games good enough, and also has third party official licensed gamepads?
This Apple TV is a missed opportunity from so many points of view: old cpu and graphics (when they could have had better cup than the one in the iPad pro, since they don’t have size or energy constraints); apps and games are forced to work with the Siri remote, but for some games this is very limiting; lack of 4K, despite the fact they YouTube, Netflix and now the iPhones generate plenty 4K content, 200MB store size for apps is not enough for good games, even with iCloud 20 GB additional content
Come on, “not enough 4k content” is a bad excuse – when it is Apple who should give us content. Add 4k movies and TV shows to iTunes and people may actually pay something extra – and why not turn iTunes Movies and TV shows into a subscription! I just use Netflix and love it.
They can’t give you 4k content that doesn’t exist, that’s the point. Do you think Netflix is 100% 4k movies or something?
VERY good points! We have Apple Music — why not a subscription Movie and TV show service on iTunes? That would destroy Netflix…But I seriously doubt all those content owners would agree to having their stuff streamed. They are too busy whining about piracy, still. “What do you mean people are pirating game of thrones! This is unbelievable! I mean we even gave people HBO Now!” – said the clueless HBO Exec. HBO Now being USA only and also hardware limited…not to mention in other areas, like Australia, the GoT iTunes releases are actually delayed because of the content rights and broadcasting them on TV still. Gotta love when copyright actually prevents people from buying stuff legally due to where they live.
Do you believe you’re watching real 4K when viewing an older movie streamed over a slow connection with heavy compression to a 42″ TV watched from ten feet away?
The Tegra X1 is not that fast. At all. Although it can be as fast as A8X Apple SoC it isn’t a GTX 970 for sure, not even a GTX 960 with a Core i7…
iOS games will make the difference. Despite Nvidia effort it will fail with the Shield in the long run. There is no Steam for Nvidia Shield to save the day…
Tech hardware constantly goes out of date – so buying a tv box for 4K when you dont have a 4K TV is a total waste… most people probably dont even have a 4K TV nor are they considering to buy one within the next year or 2… Although 4K has been around for quite sometime (longer than most think) it was only recently that prices have become affordable for some people and possibly by next year we will see cheaper prices that will help to push for more content… But you also need to consider the screen size – if you are using 40″ of more, 4K would be nice… less than 40″, then 1080 (full HD) will be fine – for the average person who is used to watching DVDs even 720 will be fine for them.
As for games – if you want to play PC games, invest in a PC… if you want to play consoles, invest in a console… dont by a TV box for gaming – at best you will end up with some AAA games (with a high price than the cellphone version) and maybe some console-like games (some of which will be ports), but for most part the games will be similar game play to the phone (tap tap tap / swipe / etc) – the only advantage the TV boxes have is they can use a controller with actual buttons (although you can buy them for the phones as well)
So for most part you need to be looking into what content each of them own – if you have already bought many apps, tv shows, movies, and music from one of the stores, then stick to that maker… yes there is the work around of streaming content via other apps etc, but it can distract from the fluidity of it…
For costs and simplicity – Apple TV is for you
For expandability and more for gaming – Nvidia is for you
For some people even just the amazon TV stick, or the chromecast, or even the older apple TV will be just fine for them – they can use these device to get a feel to which direction they will go it before diving in for a more expensive device.
It seems like more and more the Apple argument is “but I’m already locked in to the ecosystem”. That’s not a good thing folks.
Felt like this review could use a lot more in the way of context. Saying Apple TV is far from a “console-like experience” doesn’t speak to the device’s marketed intentions and if you’re catering this review/video to people ‘not in the know’ then you should really explain why that does and doesn’t matter.
I would like to believe a buyer savvy enough to stumble onto 9to5Mac, or see this video pop-up on YouTube, will be smart enough to not only seek other options but likely not expect this product to stand up against a PS4 or Xbox One.
Overall I don’t believe this review is indicative of the audience that visits this site and doesn’t really help anyone make an informed decision. I would’ve like to have seem more coverage on actual day-to-day use rather than just some superficial stats about RAM and processor speed. If both interfaces are relatively smooth and easy to navigate then specs are of absolutely no importance.
Lastly, I could write a novella around the absence of 4K in the new Apple TV but let me say this: I think it’s incredibly naive to vilify Apple for not building a box that supports 4K while at the same time mentioning the incredible lack of available content. Moreover, I don’t think the term “future proof” should be used on a site dedicated to the ever changing, ever evolving, fast paced world of technology.
I’m confident the average consumer is smart enough to realize that most of their technological investment are only as good as the year they’re released.
The last thing I want is a “console-like experience.” With eh Apple TV 4, I can instantly switch back and forth between a movie, a TV show, and a game. Try than on an Xbox or PS4. There you either deal with the console’s shitty UI as your media center, or you have to go through the awkward and time consuming process of switching video sources on your TV and waiting several minutes every time you turn the console on or have to wait for it to download a software update. I hate consoles. I have both a PS3 and PS4 that haven’t been used in months.
I like my 4th Gen Apple TV so far and today I got a software update 9.0.1 … Apple TV has much more perspective in the future rather than Android on top of NVIDIA Box …
“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.”
I’m baffled at how some folks still don’t understand Apple’s decision to leave out 4K support from the current Apple TV.
For starters, $149 is not such a huge investment that it needs to be “future-proofed” for many years. A lot of folks pay this much every month just for their cable bill. Many (most?) iPhone buyers replace their phones every couple of years or so to the tune of $600-800. It’s going to take at least two years before most content is available in 4K, and even longer before the average American has the internet bandwidth required to support streaming at that resolution (without very lossy compression.) So yeah, it may be foolish to invest $2000+ in a non-4K TV, but it’s a trivial decision spend $149 on a media streaming box with the same limitation.
Also, there’s a perfectly good reason for including a 4K video camera in the current generation iPhones: the added resolution is immediately useful when capturing video since it allows you to zoom/crop the video image as desired while still maintaining at least 1080p resolution in the finished video, which will have to be reduced in resolution anyway because very few own 4K TVs or have the bandwidth to send, receive, or stream 4K content.
Finally, the biggest reason why I find this obsession with 4K to be silly is that for most people, the difference in appreciable quality is negligible to nonexistent. That’s because in order to appreciate the increased resolution of 4K, you need to have at least an 80″ TV, or sit uncomfortably close to a smaller one. Even as the price of 4K television sets continues to drop, most Americans (especially those living in urban area apartments) don’t even have the space required to comfortably display an 80″+ screen. Anyone marveling at the image quality of a 40″ 4K TV from 10 feet away or more is just fooling themselves.
Funny, I’m also totally set up with an Apple ecosystem, and I chose the Shield (which is my 1st Android device) over the ATV4.
It actually fits in pretty well and I am happy to play some games. I like the “Netflix-like” idea of gaming, even though it’s some older games.
If I would be a hardcore gamer, I would have bought a PS or Xbox, but I like to play a nice arcade racer now and then. Probably a nice shooter the other day.
It does what I expected and I am really surprised that the setup was so easy. plus, with a little click here and there, Airplay works fine as well.
So I put my two cents in the Nvidia Box.
I have both and use both equally.
But the picture is definitely better on the Apple tv4………….,