New Apple TV is comfortable, but NVIDIA Shield TV boasts the best features
With the new Apple TV now available for pre-order, cord-cutters and gamers are pricing out their best options in a growing market of online streaming-devices. “Android or iOS” is usually a question that we ask ourselves when shopping for a new tablet or smartphone but now streaming media players are competing for our attention as well.
Apple has a long-standing tradition of offering a simplistic UI with its devices and the new Apple TV is no exception. The new Apple TV offers Siri’s help when finding content and searching through your online media and you can make simple requests like “Play The Big Bang Theory” or “Find Funny Shows” to get content suggestions. The interface for the new Apple TV is updated and certainly streamlined over the previous installment but still very familiar to anyone that has used an iPhone or an iPad in the past. Apple TV also offers “Air Play” built-in to all of their iOS devices, so streaming content from your mobile device to your Apple TV is as easy as tapping a button.
The new NVIDIA Shield also offers a voice-search, this one powered by Google, and you can also ask the device to “Find Oscar Winning Movies” or “Play New Girl” using the voice search. More importantly, the NVIDIA Shield TV offers 4K resolution. That may not seem like an all-too-important feature if you don’t have a 4K television set or a 4K monitor, but prices for those devices are falling fast and they are expected to be the new standard. Being ahead of the curve certainly helps the consumer in the long-run and if you do have a 4K device, this is the only media-streamer that currently offers the perk.
During the company’s key-note speech Apple said, “Apps are the future of television,” and the company is most likely correct. Almost every major network and their subsidiaries have their own apps now with more being added every week. This not only adds another revenue source for the network and their affiliates but allows customers to easily find the shows and series that they love without having to subscribe to broader content supplies like Hulu. That being said, apps like Netflix and Hulu have never been more popular and you can find both on the NVIDIA Shield TV and the new Apple TV. Netflix and YouTube have already started supplying content in 4K resolution however so having the NVIDIA Shield is already paying off for customers. Both content suppliers and major brands like Sony have already made major investments in the 4K market and plan to add a lot more 4K content going into 2016. Meanwhile, smartphones and cameras like the iPhone 6s can already shoot in 4K and games are also jumping into the 4K market on PCs.
Just like with our smartphones and tablets, there is a battle between the app stores brewing on streaming devices. While the Apple TV’s tvOS offers iTunes and an expanding tvOS App Store, NVIDIA Shield TV’s app store is Google Play, which has a leg-up on Apple TV at the moment. If you currently have an Android device than you will benefit from the shared app-store purchases with your other content on the NVIDIA Shield TV, just like you will benefit from the Apple TV’s iTunes purchases on iOS devices. It does help to stay within the same ecosystem, but that’s just for purchased apps or rented movies. Hulu, Netflix, HBO Go or any other subscription based purchases easily interchange if you mix ecosystems at no added cost.
When it comes to power, the NVIDIA Shield TV is easily the more advanced unit. The mobile processor within the Shield TV is the NVIDIA Tegra X1. The advanced CPU offers 13x more processing power than the original Apple TV and is about 3x faster than the new Apple TV. When compared to the new Roku 4 and Amazon Fire TV models, the NVIDIA Shield TV is roughly 4x more powerful. This translates to a smoother UI, faster app switching and advanced gaming. Another major downside to the Apple TV is that the device does not offer a microSD slot for expanded memory. Both devices offer a 16GB version but only the NVIDIA Shield TV can be expanded.
Speaking of gaming, this is a no-contest zone for any other device competing with the NVIDIA Shield TV. If you have a gamer in the house than the NVIDIA Shield will easily outperform the new Apple TV, Roku or Kindle Fire. Players can stream popular PC games to their TV from the cloud with the NVIDIA GRID game-streaming service. Since NVIDIA itself is already at the top of the gaming empire when it comes to NVIDIA branded GPUs, it’s a perfect marriage for gamers when the Shield hit the market.
The new Apple TV does offer a pretty great remote. The NVIDIA Shield TV has a remote as well but is sold separately and does not feature the same glass-screen touch capabilities. This means that you can easily swipe between apps and menu UIs with the Apple TV remote, where you will be clicking through them with the NVIDIA TV remote. On the other hand, the NVIDIA TV comes with a gamepad and the Apple TV does not.
While the Apple TV offers a simplistic and powerful media-streaming box, it falls short of the more advanced features that the NVIDIA Shield TV offers. There is a small price difference however, the NVIDIA Shield TV 16GB starts at $199 and the new Apple TV starts at $149.