The best streaming box you’ve never heard of
Over the last few years, we've seen streaming box manufacturers race to market with new models at a dizzying pace, adding exciting new functionality like voice control or 4K support with each iteration. As a result, thousands of users enjoy streaming TV and movies to their Rokus, Apple TVs, and Fire TVs -- but surprisingly, no one has caught up to the device that's been the most powerful streaming box available since 2015: the NVIDIA Shield TV.
Meet the NVIDIA Shield TV
When graphics card maker NVIDIA first launched the Shield TV in 2015, they marketed it as a console-killer: with their streaming video game subscription service, they tried to lure in Xbox and Playstation gamers interested in PC gaming titles, as well as PC gamers looking for a console-like experience. And for many gamers, the Shield TV represents the best of both worlds.
At the same time, the Shield TV -- which uses Google's Android TV as its operating system, a variant of Android made for TVs -- also features TV and movie streaming apps from every major service, making it the only streaming box with console-level graphics processing on board. And we do mean every: Not only are Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, Vudu, and Movies Anywhere all available on the NVIDIA Shield TV, but they all look their best through the Shield TV's 4K graphics engine. Where competing devices all have limitations -- there is no YouTube app on Amazon's Fire TV devices; Hulu for Apple TV is limited to two-channel audio; they've all got quirks -- the Shield TV plays nice with everyone and every format. (It even handles a wider array of local media formats.)
While the packaging may suggest otherwise, you don't need to be a gamer to enjoy an NVIDIA Shield TV: You just need a TV (preferably a 4K TV), and a desire to binge-watch all of your favorite movies and TV shows.
Our Favorite Features
On top of being the best streaming media player available, the Shield TV packs in several other features that other players don't. Here are our favorite "you can do that, too?" features of NVIDIA's little powerhouse.
It's a Google Home digital assistant. Both the NVIDIA Shield TV's game controller and TV remote have built-in microphones, which work well for voice-enabled searching, but the real value is in using them with Google Home, the search giant's digital assistant.
It's a media server for your local network. If you've ever used Plex, the popular consumer software for organizing and playing your local videos, photos, and music, you know just how convenient it is to have access to all of your media on any device. The Shield TV is one of the few devices that's powerful enough to act as a Plex media server, and that means it can even stream content to your smartphone -- even when you're away from home.
It's a retro game emulator. Forget complicated setups with the Raspberry Pi -- the NVIDIA Shield TV supports classic console emulators from the Google Play Store, so you can play classic titles from retro systems like the Atari 2600, Colecovision, and even the Sony Playstation Portable (PSP).
Making a Good Thing Even Better: the Best Gear for Your NVIDIA Shield TV
Of course, the Shield TV experience is only as good as the gear you pair it with. Here are our picks for the components you'll need to fully enjoy your NVIDIA Shield TV.
A 4K TV with HDR support. The Shield TV supports 4K HDR content, which means many streaming shows from Netflix and Amazon are available with astonishing clarity and High Dynamic Range, a new feature that immensely improves picture quality. Our favorite set to pair with the Shield TV is this LG OLED TV.
A universal remote. Both the remote and game controller that come with the Shield TV can be used to navigate the menus, but they don't work with any other devices, so it's a lot more convenient to use a universal remote. There are a lot of considerations that go into picking the right universal remote, so consider the remote that we love using the most: Logitech's Harmony Smart Control.
Smart home accessories. The NVIDIA Shield TV is the perfect entry-level smart home hub, ideal for trying out smart home accessories ranging from smart alarm systems to smart pet feeders to everything in between. Our favorite starting point: Belkin's Wemo light switch makes it easy to control a room's lights with voice commands.
An external hard drive. The Shield TV features two USB ports, perfect for bringing your own file storage. Just about any external hard drive will do, but if you're planning on accessing your content on a daily basis, a hard drive with an external power supply will perform much more reliably than a drive that is powered by a USB port. Check out our favorite: the Western Digital My Book, which features a whopping 6TB of storage.
Jaime is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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