Good for most

Apple TV 4K

New look, same great performance

NVIDIA Shield TV (2019)

Apple is known for making top quality tech products that are perfectly suitable for practically anyone. tvOS is easy to navigate and supports the most popular streaming services with output that supports 4K HDR and Dolby Vision.

$179 at Amazon

Pros

  • Best support for Apple apps and services
  • Great for mirroring content from Apple devices
  • Media looks stunning on 4K TVs
  • Optimized to be easy to use

Cons

  • No way to expand storage
  • Doesn't ship with an HDMI cable

NVIDIA has been owning the Android TV streaming box segment for years with the same NVIDIA Shield TV hardware. In 2019, NVIDIA finally gave us a new look with an upgraded processor that delivers all the features required to keep pace with newer competition.

$150 at Amazon

Pros

  • Tube design is compact and easy to set up
  • Best support for Google apps and services
  • Expandable storage via microSD
  • Support for 4K and HDR
  • AI-upscaling

Cons

  • Only 8GB of internal storage
  • Doesn't ship with an HDMI cable

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

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.

Category NVIDIA Shield TV (2019) Apple TV
Processor NVIDIA Tegra X1+ Apple A10X
Operating System Android TV tvOS
Storage 8GB 32/64GB
External storage Yes No
4K resolution Yes Yes
HDR10 Yes Yes
Dolby Atmos Yes Yes
Dolby Vision Yes Yes
DTS-X Yes No

With the updated NVIDIA Shield TV, the only glaring difference in the specs is the internal storage. Its 8GB of storage may seem paltry for 2019, 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 really pop when upscaled.

Which platform does your home already rely on?

Apple TV 4K vs NVIDIA Shield TV (2019)Source: Phil Nickinson / Cordcutters

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. If you've got accounts on all the Apple services and are ingrained in its ecosystem, the choice will be obvious.

Good for almost everyone

Apple TV 4K

Apple's latest TV box is compatible with all the latest and greatest 4K TV technologies

Apple TV is a great investment for those who rely on iTunes and other Apple services.

Best Android TV streaming box

NVIDIA Shield TV

NVIDIA lets you stream just about everything

The NVIDIA Shield TV is a powerful and sleek solution that offers an all-in-one entertainment console for your living room.

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