NVIDIA Shield TV (2019) vs. Apple TV 4K: Which should you buy in 2020?

The redesigned NVIDIA Shield TV (2019)
The redesigned NVIDIA Shield TV (2019) (Image credit: Phil Nickinson / iMore)

Two of the biggest players in the platform game are Apple and Google and both have excellent options when it comes to streaming content. Apple's got the Apple TV 4K, while Google's best Android TV box for years has come from NVIDIA. Now that NVIDIA has finally upgraded the NVIDIA Shield TV hardware, the best Android TV box has gotten sleeker without sacrificing performance.

So which should you get? Let's break it down.

Need to consider more than just the specs

Apple TV 4K vs NVIDIA Shield TV (2019)

Source: Phil Nickinson / Cordcutters (Image credit: Source: Phil Nickinson / Cordcutters)

For the most part, NVIDIA Shield TV (2019) and Apple TV 4K do the same things in the same ways. They suck in digital signals, process them, and spit 'em out to your TV. Each has a remote control and does Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and the rest of the basics.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategoryNVIDIA Shield TV (2019)Apple TV
ProcessorNVIDIA Tegra X1+Apple A10X
Operating SystemAndroid TVtvOS
External storageYesNo
4K resolutionYesYes
Dolby AtmosYesYes
Dolby VisionYesYes

With the updated NVIDIA Shield TV, the only glaring difference in the specs is the internal storage. Its 8GB of storage may seem paltry, but let's be real — most people are going to be streaming content from apps like Netflix, YouTube, or Disney+. If you do need extra storage for binging your own media library, you can load up a microSD or mount that extra storage as internal storage for your Shield to use to download apps and games. This is something you can't do with the Apple TV, which offers no ways to expand the 32GB or 64GB of internal storage.

Another noteworthy addition to the NVIDIA Shield TV (2019) arsenal is Dolby Vision, which was missing in previous versions. In comparisons between Apple TV 4K and the older Shield TV, Dolby Vision was one of those features that gave Apple an edge over its Android competition, but now not only is it a level playing field but it's easy to argue that the new NVIDIA Shield TV offering the most impressive visual features.

I'm referring to the new AI-enhanced upscaling that's made possible by the new NIVIDA Tegra X1+ chipset. We've got an explainer on how it works but essentially NVIDIA used machine learning algorithms to teach the Shield to know what 4K should look like and use that knowledge to fill in more detail on HD video. Rather than upscaling the entire frame, the Shield focuses on facial features, textures, and other details that pop when upscaled.

Which platform does your home already rely on?

How to add extra storage to the NIVIDA Shield TV (2019)

Source: Marc Lagace / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Marc Lagace / Android Central)

Of course, the decision between Apple TV 4K and the NVIDIA Shield TV will come down to the content and services that you and your family are already using. Given the site you're reading, we'd hazard a guess that you're bought into that Android life, but that might not be the case for everyone in your home who wants to stream content.

The good news is that most streaming services are pretty much ubiquitous at this point. Services like PlayStation Vue, Sling, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, DirecTV, Disney+, and more are available on both Android TV and Apple's tvOS.

But then there's the fact that Apple content isn't available on Android TV, and that might be an issue if you or others in your house are keen to check out the Apple TV+ subscription service. While it's available on most streaming platforms, Android-based streaming boxes are the exception. There isn't even an Apple TV+ app in the Google Play Store that would let you cast your screen to the Shield or another Chromecast-enabled device. That may well sway your decision, and we wouldn't blame you in the slightest.

However, if having Android TV is the name of the game, there simply is no better way to get it than with the NVIDIA Shield TV (2019). You'll get expandable storage via the microSD card slot, a sleek remote that won't break easily, along with having built-in Google Assistant to control your smart home. It's a no-brainer here.

Phil Nickinson

Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days.