Physical comparison of the 2nd-gen NVIDIA Shield TV to the Amazon Fire TV

The new 2nd-generation NVIDIA Shield TV was released yesterday and it’s a solid alternative to the Amazon Fire TV, especially now that it has a fully functional Amazon Video app. I’ve picked one up and will occasionally write about it to round out my coverage of Android based streaming media boxes. Here’s a comparison of the physical aspects of the new Shield TV versus the Amazon Fire TV, including comparisons of the Shield TV’s remote and game controller with Amazon’s remote and game controller.

If you’re familiar with the first-generation NVIDIA Shield TV, you’ll immediately notice that the new one is notably smaller than the older model. That’s because the 16GB model shown above and the 500GB Shield TV Pro no longer share the same enclosure, so instead of just leaving a massive empty space in the 16GB model where the Pro’s spinning 500GB hard drive goes, NVIDIA has redesigned the housing for the non-Pro model. The new Shield TV is wider than the Fire TV, but slightly shallower.

The two devices share nearly the same ports. The main difference is, instead of having a microSD card slot like the Fire TV, the Shield TV has a second USB port. Since both devices support USB hubs, the microSD slot is preferred, but the Shield TV uses USB 3.0 ports, while the Fire TV uses USB 2.0 ports.

The extra width of the Shield TV, compared to the Fire TV, is mostly due to the device’s internal cooling fan which exhausts hot air out of the large vent next to the rear ports. There is a slim air intake vent located under the Shield TV, facing forward, which pulls in cool air from the front.

The Shield TV remote, while being much thinner, is nearly the same length and width as the Fire TV voice remote. The curved back of the Fire TV remote fits better in the hand, but the flat Shield TV remote is fine. The Shield TV remote is powered by two CR2032 batteries that NVIDIA claims will last a year of normal use.

The new Shield TV controller is very similar to the Fire TV Game Controller and a big improvement from the previous model. My only issue so far with the new Shield TV controller is how shockingly bad the D-pad is. The travel of the D-pad is non-existent. It literally moves as much as the play button on the Fire TV remote. For games that use the D-pad for utilities, like menus and maps, it’s fine, but for anything where you use the D-pad for movement, like with emulators, it’s horrible.

The joysticks on both controllers feel equally great. The only perceptible difference is that NVIDIA’s controller has ridges around the top of the joysticks, while Amazon’s controller joysticks are smooth. NVIDIA has changed from narrow triggers on their first controller to wide triggers on this new one, just as Amazon did, and they feel great. I prefer NVIDIA’s triggers slight more because they curl up just a bit at the bottom, so your fingers never touch the housing of the controller when the triggers are fully depressed, whereas Amazon’s triggers become nearly flush with the controller housing when fully depressed. The A/B/X/Y buttons on both controllers are good, but once again, I prefer NVIDIA’s buttons slightly more because they’re larger and have slightly smoother travel.

NVIDIA’s controller has a built-in rechargeable battery and charges off of an included micro USB cable you connect to the Shield TV, whereas Amazon’s controller uses a pair of AA batteries. This results in NVIDIA’s controller being slightly slimmer. Both controllers have Android navigation buttons, headphone jacks, and microphones for voice commands, but NVIDIA’s microphone is always listening for the “OK Google” command for hands free use. NVIDIA’s controller also has a touch pad between the joysticks for volume control via a built-in IR blaster.

Physically, the two products are very similar. For the set-top boxes, I give the nod to Amazon for being smaller, not having a fan, and including a microSD card slot, but obviously NVIDIA’s box is a much more powerful device. I easily prefer Amazon’s voice remote to NVIDIA’s because it feels better in the hand and includes dedicated media buttons. Picking a prefered game controller is a bit difficult. If it weren’t for the terrible D-pad, it would be an easy win for NVIDIA’s game controller, so I’ll just leave it at that. It has always been clear that Amazon’s Fire TV is the more streaming centric device, where as NVIDIA’s Shield TV is more tailored towards gaming first, but it’s surprising how much that comes through, even when simply comparing the physical hardware. Both devices are great in their own way.

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17 comments
  1. clocks says:

    The Shield is a great device, but for the money given the choice of 1 Shield or two FTV2s (with cash to spare), the FTVs are a MUCH better deal.

    • AFTVnews says:

      Agreed. Despite them being so similar, they’re actually in fairly different market categories. If you have 1 TV, game a lot, and have money to spend, the Shield TV is probably better for you. But if you need multiple devices and/or primarily want it for streaming, the Fire TV is better for you. I’m glad to see each device fits in its own niche and it isn’t just a “Coke or Pepsi” decision where it doesn’t really matter. Having a choice is good for everyone.

      • Alex says:

        Thanks for the comparison. For those who game a lot, consider a used PS4 Slim, on Amazon for $215 via Prime shipping (meaning, easy returns). That’s only $15 more than a new NVidia Shield TV.

        If streaming is your focus, I agree with those above me. Fire TV is the better option.

    • Pedro Verdugo says:

      Considering the retail price of the Fire TV 2 gaming bundle + Voice remote is $170 to make a fair comparison with the new Shield package, I wouldn’t say it is a much better deal, you get what you pay for and the Shield could be had for a similar price for example with Best Buy promotion or Jet coupon codes.

      The Downside I guess is Nvidia doesn’t sell a cheaper version without either the Remote or the Controller, so I guess you really need to be a Gamer to pull the trigger on it.

  2. E. Stilianopoulos says:

    How much RAM does the Shield have in comparison to the Fire TV? Does the new Generation Shield have more RAM than the first version? I like to stream REMUX or 4K files at times and wanted to know if there is more flawless experience with less buffering for the Shield instead of the Fire TV.

  3. Grinder says:

    Another substandard remote. Would it kill them to give a menu button?

  4. Ryan says:

    How long until we get a 4k Fire TV? I am wanting one or the other of these devices but am leaning towards the Shield as I want to be a little more futureproof and not having 4k on the Fire is a killer for me right now.

    Hoping we do not have to wait too long – I too would prefer getting 2 4k Fire units over a Shield but they do not exist so my decision is easy at that point. Come on Amazon!

    • Keith Johnson says:

      The latest version of the Amazon Fire TV is 4K.

    • AFTVnews says:

      As Keith said, the Fire TV 2 (current model) is capable of 4K, but only at 30 fps. I suspect we’ll see a new model near the end of this year with 4K at 60 fps and HDR support. If the gaming aspect of the new new Shield TV doesn’t interest you, and you don’t mind waiting up to a year, I would wait for the next Fire TV.

      • Jack Astor says:

        I have 2 Fire TVs, 3 Rokus, 1 Apple TV, 2 Xbox Ones, 1 Raspberry Pi and 1 PC hooked up to my TV’s and I am still considering getting a Nvidia Shield TV.

        It’s a sickness.

  5. Jim says:

    I have the 1st gen shield tv and it auto reboots while I was using kodi. Anyone knows why? Maybe the slepp settings needs to be set for more than an hour? Usually my movie is an hour long.

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