Updated January 2021
If you are looking for a new TV box, you may very well find yourself choosing between a NVIDIA Shield device and a Fire TV device.
The NVIDIA Shield is a top-of-the-range device. It comes with a hefty price tag but also has all the bells and whistles, delivering full 4K including on streaming services, provides stable voice command, and is great for gaming.
The top-end Amazon Fire TV device, the Cube, is less than half the price, and while it won’t appeal to gamers, it is almost as good as the NVIDIA Shield in terms of delivering 4K and smart voice control.
So, how do you decide which one is right for you? We’re going to do a side-by-side comparison to help you determine which of these two amazing devices should be hooked up to your main TV.
- Ease of use
- Price and Value
- Build Quality and Reliability
The Specs That Matter…
I’m going to call this one a tie.
Wait … what?
But before you immediately scream, “This guy is NUTS” and click away, hear me out.
I’m looking at this from a “streaming only” perspective. The NVIDIA Shield TV has an amazing graphics processor, but it doesn’t do squat if all you’re doing is watching Netflix.
I’ll get to how that affects gaming later, but for now, just looking at streaming films and shows, you will get very similar performance from these two devices.
Let’s look at what’s left:
- Both the latest Fire TV Cube and NVIDIA Shield were released in 2019, so they offer similar levels of technological advancement. Both operate on the Android 9.0 operating system, though the Cube layers Fire OS 7 on top of this, which locks down some activity.
- As you would expect from the more expensive device, it has a more powerful processor. It uses a Tegra X1+, which runs faster than the S922X processor on the Cube. While this will matter to gamers, most users won’t see the difference, as both use Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos Audio, and HDR10 to deliver seamless content.
- Both offer Ultra 4K streaming and are registered to unlock full 4K content on major streaming services like Netflix and Prime Video. This is important, as not all 4K-capable streaming devices are authorized to access 4K content from these services. But both of these are!
- The NVIDIA has 8GB of storage, while the Cube is twice the size with 16GB, which will appeal to anyone who likes to download their own media content. Both have USB 3.0 for fast transfer of data between external storage and the device.
- Both use a combination of 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi and offer a Gigabit Ethernet connection for the fastest possible Internet streaming speeds.
So why do I say this is a tie?
While the NVIDIA Shield has a much faster processor, it won’t make any difference at all to the majority of streamers. And while the Fire Cube has more storage, again, this won’t matter to most streamers.
The fact is that, unlike many 4K-capable streaming devices, both the NVIDIA Shield and the Amazon Fire Cube will unlock 4K streaming content on the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which restrict access to this content. So for most streamers, these two devices will be on par.
Which Is Easier To Use?
This is going to upset some people.
As much as I love the official Android TV interface, I really hate the Amazon Fire TV interface.
OK … not exactly.
I hate the hoops that Amazon makes me jump through to find something I want to watch.
It’s not that it’s hard to navigate, but it’s confusing as far as what is free to watch and what I’ll have to pay extra for.
You see, for most streaming devices, there’s a distinction between apps that you have a subscription to (like Netflix) and apps that you rent or buy movies from (like Vudu or Google Play).
Amazon Prime Video doesn’t make that distinction.
Movies that you have to rent or buy are listed right next to movies you get free as a Prime subscriber. It’s confusing sometimes, and more than a bit annoying.
That annoyance aside, the Fire TV does have a pretty slick interface.
In fact, both the Fire TV and the Shield TV have vertical scrolling layouts dominated by large icons that are easy to see from a distance. There’s a recommendation section at the top of the screen that will show you suggestions for what to watch next.
Both have excellent voice controls that let you search for stuff straight from the remote control. Both have integrations with either of their famous smart home platforms – either Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home.
This section should be a tie … if Amazon would make it a little less confusing to watch content on their own streaming service.
Until that happens, I’m giving the nod to the NVIDIA Shield TV.
Winner: NVIDIA Shield TV
Price And Value
The latest NVIDIA Shield device costs almost twice as much as the latest Amazon Fire TV Cube. That’s pretty tough to ignore.
But there’s more, otherwise the Fire TV would be the winner before we even got started.
The Shield TV is a premium streaming device married to a pretty decent game console.
It won’t be able to trade punches with an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4, but it can hold its own in for most gamers. This is especially true if you’ve got a decent gaming PC and use NVIDIA’s GameStream to stream those games to your living room TV.
When you look at the Shield TV and compare it to other streaming devices in that price range, there’s no contest. It just gives you so much more for the money.
But it’s really tough to compare it to the Fire TV at a third of the cost, based solely on its performance as a streaming device. The Fire TV still ends up taking this one.
Winner: Amazon Fire TV Cube
What I hate most about the Fire TV has more to do with Amazon than the device itself.
If you haven’t been following, Google and Amazon have been fighting for years. Amazon won’t sell Google devices. Google won’t allow the Play Store on Amazon’s devices.
This pissing contest with Google is only hurting their customers, and Amazon is getting the short end of the stick.
Out of the box, the NVIDIA Shield TV will do everything the Fire TV will do. Until recently, the NVIDIA Shield was blocked from streaming Prime Video content in 4K, but that problem has since been resolved so you can get your movies in all their glory.
So, this one is an easy win for the Shield TV.
Winner: NVIDIA Shield TV
OK … I know I said I’d look at this from a streaming point of view, but you can’t really talk about the NVIDIA Shield TV without talking about gaming.
I mean, they call it “the streamer for gamers!”
This is where the whole NVIDIA Shield vs Fire TV fight just isn’t fair.
Fire TV is designed to be a platform for Amazon’s streaming service. There are a decent number of console-type games available, but games are largely an afterthought.
The Shield TV on the other hand was designed as a game console first and a streaming device second. NVIDIA saw the direction that Microsoft was going with the Xbox One when it was released (more streaming/less gaming) and thought they could do better.
It turns out they were right.
Winner: NVIDIA Shield TV
Build Quality & Reliability
I wouldn’t expect to find any major problems with build quality or reliability with either of these devices.
It’s not like Amazon or NVIDIA are little companies. They both put a LOT of R&D and marketing money behind these two devices.
And it shows.
That’s not to say they don’t have their little quirks. The NVIDIA Shield TV sometimes has issues with controllers losing connection (it’s only happened to me once and it was a fairly easy fix). The Amazon Fire TV has some quirks with TV and monitor compatibility, but that’s something they’re fixing with firmware updates as they occur.
All in all, there’s nothing that comes up as a red flag when I look at either device.
Intangibles: Everything Else That Matters
Speed: The Shield TV is faster, without a doubt. Menus are snappier, and apps will load a couple of seconds faster. But it’s not something you’re really going to notice unless you switch between one streaming device and another. Fire TV doesn’t feel slow, but when you put the two side by side, the difference is noticeable.
Software updates: The NVIDIA Shield TV gets fairly frequent updates through NVIDIA called the SHIELD Experience. These updates can bring anything from upgraded versions of the Android OS to bug fixes or even new available apps. The Fire TV does get updated as well, but not with the frequency of the SHIELD TV.
Number of apps: Amazon has around 75,000 apps in the Amazon App Store that will work on the Fire TV. The Android TV interface on the NVIDIA Shield has access to the million apps that appear in the Google Play Store. However, both devices have the ability to get access to thousands more through the Aptoide TV app store.
Security: Both use custom versions of the Android operating system – whether it’s the official Android TV OS in the NVIDIA Shield TV or Amazon’s Fire TV OS. Both have native VPN apps from several major services. I’ve covered how to set up my preferred VPN provider, IPVanish on NVIDIA Shield TV, and my thoughts on the IPVanish Fire TV app in two separate articles.
Accessories: Fire TV has a ton more accessories that you can buy for it. Things like mounts, Koral Case remote skins, and the FireCable Plus USB power adapter. The NVIDIA Shield doesn’t have anywhere near that many options. They’ve got a few stand and mount options available, but that’s about it.
Home control: Both have excellent integration with smart home systems. It’s a time-saver for me to be able to turn on my living room TV and start playing YouTube videos without picking up a remote. But while the Fire TV will work seamlessly with Amazon’s Alexa system, it doesn’t play well with Google. The NVIDIA Shield on the other hand seamlessly integrates with both Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can choose which system you prefer.
Winner: Depends On What Matters To You
NVIDIA Shield vs Fire TV: Which Should You Buy?
I think that the Amazon Fire TV Cube is a good enough choice for Prime subscribers who are looking to keep their costs to an absolute minimum. Or as a backup streaming device, like it is for me.
For those of us who want a streaming device that can grow with our home theater system, the NVIDIA Shield TV is the obvious choice.
The Shield TV is faster, gets software updates much more regularly, and has access to more content without going through the hassle of sideloading apps. The interface is snappy, and you never feel like you’re waiting around for an app to load. If you’ve got kids in the house, there are enough games that you may not even need a more expensive gaming console.
It’s pricey, but the NVIDIA Shield is the best streaming device out there right now.
Does The NVIDIA Shield Support 4K Streaming?
Yes, the NVIDIA Shield fully supports 4K streaming. It is capable of delivering 4K content at 60 frames per second, and will also upscale content from 360p to up to 1440p for better viewing of older content.
But, importantly, not all streaming devices with the technical capability of delivering 4K are authorized to access 4K content on certain streaming services such as Netflix and Prime Video, which restrict access to 4K content to authorized devices.
However, fortunately, the NVIDIA Shield is an authorized device, so you will be able to watch all your favorite shows from these services in full 4K.
Is The Amazon Fire TV Cube Better Than The Fire Stick?
Yes, the Amazon Fire Cube is better than the Amazon Fire Stick because it has a faster processor, more storage, and has a Gigabit Ethernet connection for lightning-fast streaming.
The Cube is also a fully-fledged Echo speaker, which means you get the speaker and the streaming device in one. While the FIre Stick integrates with Alexa, it is not a speaker, which needs to be purchased separately.
Does Kodi Work On Amazon Fire TV?
Yes, Kodi is available in the Amazon app store, so it is quick and simple to install it directly onto your Fire TV device.
In the past, when the app was not available, it needed to be sideloaded directly onto the device. This process is still possible for any apps you wish to install that are not available via the Amazon app store.
Where To Go Next…
If you do decide to go with the NVIDIA Shield, you will need to install a VPN to protect yourself while online. Read our review of the best VPNs for the NVIDIA Shield and how to install them and optimize settings for streaming.
If you are leaning toward the Amazon Fire option, but you aren’t sure whether to invest in the Cube or go for a more affordable Fire Stick, read our comparison of the two here.
If you are still undecided on the right streaming device for you, check out our full list of the best Android TV Boxes currently available to see what other great devices might meet your needs.
If you are looking for something affordable, we recommend the Transpeed Android 10.0 TV Box or the Pendoo T95 Android 10.0 TV Box. But be aware, neither of these currently unlock Netflix in full 4K. For this, you do need a pricier box like the NVIDIA Shield of the Amazon Fire Cube.
Do you have either of these TB boxes at home? What do you think about them? Share your thoughts with the community in the comments section below.