It’s no secret how much I love the NVIDIA Shield, and I’ve owned four of them since they came out in 2015. However, at around $200 for the Shield Pro, they’re not cheap.
That leaves many people looking for alternatives where they can get a similar streaming experience for less money.
After all, the NVIDIA Shield is geared towards the higher-end market, and it might be overkill for most people.
This article will highlight some of the best NVIDIA Shield alternatives, how they compare, and who they’re best for. I’ll guide you through value, performance, price, and more.
Let’s get started.
Best Overall NVIDIA Shield Alternative: Apple TV 4k
This probably sounds like heresy, coming from an Android fan, but hear me out.
The Apple TV 4K, released in 2021, is hands-down the best alternative to the NVIDIA Shield…as long as you don’t mind switching to the Apple ecosystem.
Although the streaming box’s design hasn’t changed much since 2010, it has some significant improvements under the hood.
The newest model uses Apple’s A12 Bionic chip for quick browsing speeds and steady playback. It upgrades its HDMI port from HDMI 2.0a to HDMI 2.1, allowing much higher resolutions and smoother framerates. Finally, Apple TV 4K now supports WiFi 6 under 802.11ax.
My favorite part is the new aluminum remote control, harkening back to the elegant remote from the 3rd Generation Apple TV. It’s a massive improvement over the Siri Remote from the 1st Generation Apple TV 4K and the Apple TV HD.
As you’d expect from Apple, its design is still minimalistic, only including the bare essentials. However, there’s now an actual D-pad instead of the somewhat finicky touchpad. You still get a power button, Airplay pairing switch, pause, replay, and mute. There’s also a physical button on the right-hand edge to activate Siri.
Apple TV OS 15 gets a few improvements as well. It’s always had a super-simple design, but they’ve now made the tiles larger and easier to read.
There are NO ADS on Apple TV’s home screen. This is a huge bonus and something I really appreciate, coming from the NVIDIA Shield and Google TV.
As you’d expect, there’s a lot of integration within Apple’s products.
Users can control their Apple TV with Siri’s voice assistant with a simple button click, like on the iPhone and iPad. Although it doesn’t feel as polished, Siri has similar features to Google Assistant on Android. Siri can pause or play media, repeat media dialogue, search for movies or shows, etc.
Although expensive, it has similar specs to the NVIDIA Shield Pro, and it’s the best alternative streaming device by far.
Best Value NVIDIA Shield Alternative: Roku Ultra
With almost a third of the country using their platform, Roku is the most popular streaming platform in the United States. Their best bang-for-the-buck streaming device is their flagship Roku Ultra.
The Roku Ultra lists at just under $100, but it’s common to find them on sale for under $70. There’s even a special edition Roku Ultra LT, only found at Walmart.
You might expect Roku to have to skimp on features at that price, but you’d be wrong.
The Roku Ultra delivers 4K resolutions at 60 frames per second while offering Dolby Vision and HDR10+. It’s also capable of Dolby Atmos and Dolby DTS audio.
While not as elegant as the Apple TV’s remote, the Roku remote has earned its share of accolades.
One popular feature is a headphone jack port built right into the Roku Ultra’s remote. This allows you to stream the audio signal into your favorite earbuds while watching videos or listening to music. This is handy if you want to keep watching TV without disturbing the rest of the house.
Roku is also the only streaming platform to support all three voice assistants: Alexa, Apple Homekit, and Google Assistant.
The Roku UI is simple but a bit dated. It’s designed for people new to streaming devices, so experienced users may be frustrated at the lack of options.
Roku keeps its software updates to a minimum because they want a basic, straightforward interface with few features.
The main advantage of the Roku Ultra compared to other competitors is simply its price. It’s a great alternative if you don’t need all the bells and whistles that come standard with the NVIDIA Shield.
Best Streaming Stick/Dongle: Chromecast with Google TV
When it comes to low-cost streaming sticks, there are only two real options: Google’s Chromecast and Amazon’s FireStick. If 4K video is a must-have, I recommend the Chromecast with Google TV.
Don’t get me wrong, the Amazon FireStick is incredibly popular and a good choice. In fact, the FireStick Lite is also on this list.
However, when you compare the FireStick 4K Max to the Chromecast with Google TV, the Chromecast is an easy winner.
Hardware is similar between both devices.
Both have 4K video output at 60 frames per second. Both support Dolby Vision and HDR10+, which is somewhat rare in the streaming world. And both support Dolby Digital and Dolby Atmos.
And unfortunately, both have ads on their homepage which promote new content.
So why do I recommend the Chromecast with Google TV over the FireStick 4K Max?
The Chromecast has the most complete ecosystem of any streaming device short of the NVIDIA Shield.
While you can technically use Google Assistant with the FireStick, it only recognizes basic commands. By contrast, the Chromecast with Google TV lets you use all the voice commands in Google’s repertoire. This means you can search and play videos as well as control everything in your Google Home from your voice remote.
Unlike older versions of the Chromecast, the Chromecast with Google TV is a complete streaming device, not just a link between your smartphone and your TV.
Google TV is a variant of Android TV, so NVIDIA Shield users will find the interface very familiar. Google adds even more personalized content recommendations (read: ads), which annoys some people. Unfortunately, there’s no way to disable these recommendations and get back to a clean, Android TV interface.
Chromecast has a slimmer profile than even the NVIDIA Shield TV ‘Tube’, so you can bring it when you travel.
Power is from a USB-C cable, and it plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI port. The only drawback is that there is no Ethernet port. However, Google does sell one for an additional $20.
The most significant advantage the Chromecast has over the NVIDIA Shield is the price. At around $50, you still get excellent 4K HDR streaming performance and Dolby Vision and Atmos support.
As long as you’re not expecting the Chromecast to pull double-duty as a Plex server or game console, it’s a great alternative to the NVIDIA Shield that saves you around $150.
Best for Kodi/Plex: Amazon Fire TV Cube
In my previous review of the Amazon Fire TV Cube, I’d said it was a great alternative to the NVIDIA Shield at $119. Since then, Amazon has put the Fire TV Cube on extended sale, so it’s an even better deal.
Even though the Fire TV Cube was released in 2019, it’s still the powerhouse in Amazon’s lineup thanks to its 6-core AmLogic S922X processor. That gives it a smooth, 4K Ultra HD viewing performance, but only at 30 frames per second. However, it features support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ video, as well as Dolby Atmos audio.
The Fire TV Cube’s design is classic and minimalist, but it still looks a bit out of place sitting next to your AV receiver. Except for the top panel, the case is made of glossy black plastic that attracts fingerprints.
There are 4 main buttons on top that control the volume, microphone muting, and turning on Alexa. When Alexa is listening, you’ll notice a slim blue light along the top edge.
I’ve always loved the simplicity of Amazon’s voice remote, and this one is no exception. It has a circular D-pad to rapidly browse through menus and the basic functionality you’ve come to expect. It includes volume controls, pause/play, fast-forward, replay, mute, and a home button. There is also a manual microphone to activate Alexa.
Amazon includes dedicated apps for all the popular streaming services like Prime Video, Netflix, and Disney+. There are over 1 million apps to choose from, and you can always sideload additional Android apps if you want.
The support for Kodi and Plex is second to none, which is what earns it a place on this list. Many Kodi tutorials are written specifically for the Fire TV OS. So if you’re struggling to figure out how to do something, chances are there’s an easy fix for you online.
Performance-wise the Amazon Fire TV Cube is punching well above its price point. The Fire TV OS interface isn’t perfect, and you’ll still get ads on Amazon’s video services. However, it’s still considerably better than most other streaming devices and a great alternative to the NVIDIA Shield TV.
Lowest Price NVIDIA Shield Alternative: Amazon FireStick Lite
The FireStick Lite isn’t in the same league as the NVIDIA Shield TV, and that’s indisputable.
However, for a basic streaming device at around $20, it’s hard to go wrong with it.
The NVIDIA Shield was designed for enthusiasts who didn’t mind paying for top performance. However, NVIDIA was aiming for a different audience when it released the Shield TV ‘Tube.’
They tried to capture a mainstream market that just wanted a suitable streaming device but couldn’t justify a $200 price tag.
Amazon had a similar dilemma with the FireStick. Not everyone needs, or wants, to stream content in 4K, so they needed a lower-cost version of the FireStick to fill that gap.
Even at its super-low price, the FireStick Lite still has the essentials you need for high-quality HD streaming. It won’t win any performance contests, but sometimes, all you need are the basics.