Amazon Fire TV Cube Or The NVIDIA SHIELD? Which Is The Right Box For You?

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The all-new Fire TV Cube vs. the go-to SHIELD TV

Things have never been better for those looking to 'cut the cord' as there is now more streaming services than ever which either offer access to a range of back catalog content, or live TV, and in some cases, both. So at the software level, things have never been as good as there are now. Although the same cannot really be said for the hardware as while there are now a number of TV sets that come with access to smart features and apps, as standard, buying a TV set is not exactly the most accessible or affordable option for most people. Luckily though, in spite of the lack of variety at the device level, there are a couple of really interesting options now available. The latest of which is the Fire TV Cube by Amazon.

Another of the solid options is the NVIDIA SHIELD and for many in the cord-cutting world, this has become the go-to steaming box option as it's packed full of features and considered one of the most powerful boxes overall. Which begs the question – if you are now in the market for a new streaming device which should you go for? The go-to NVIDIA SHIELD or the all-new Amazon Fire TV Cube?

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New vs go-to: What matters more to you?

The question itself offers one important distinction as this is not the comparing of two new products. Unlike the Fire TV Cube which is a brand-new device, the NVIDIA SHIELD is not as new due to it having first become available all the way back in January, 2017. So by any measure the SHIELD is now an older device and certainly when compared to the Fire TV Cube. Therefore, for those who literally want the newest technology, in the newest form factor, then the Fire TV Cube is the better option.

If new is not so important though then it is worth keeping in mind that the age of the SHIELD does not technically impact on its performance as this was considered the most powerful streaming device when it first became available and in many ways – it still is. At the spec level, for example, the SHIELD comes loaded with 3GB RAM, 16GB storage, and an NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor with a 256-core GPU. Additional features include 4K HDR support, as well as Dolby Atmos and DTS-X surround sound passthrough over HDMI. In contrast, Amazon's option features 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, a quad-core processor along with a Mali 450 GPU. This one also features 4K UHD support, as well as HDR 10 and Dolby Atmos support. So in spite of the Fire TV Cube being newer in terms of its release date, the SHIELD remains just as capable at the spec level.

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Pick your assistant…and interface

Probably one of the most important considerations to make is the assistant. As voice assistant technology is now present in most new devices and this allows for devices to better connect to each other, and in some cases control each other. The NVIDIA SHIELD and Amazon Fire TV Cube are no different, although they are very fundamentally different in this respect. As the SHIELD comes loaded with Android TV and by association heavily relies on Google Assistant for its additional smart-related features. In contrast, the Fire TV Cube is an Amazon product and this evidently means more priority is given to Amazon's own Alexa assistant solution. Therefore, this could prove to be one of the single most important considerations you need to make. If you are yet to invest in the smart home revolution then it might not be a massive deal but if you are invested and depending on whether you are more invested in Amazon's or Google's solution, then it might make more sense to opt for the same assistant here. As opting for the SHIELD will make a Google Assistant ecosystem better, as will the Fire TV Cube with an Alexa ecosystem.

In general, both products are now capable of adopting the stance of a smart home hub by connecting and controlling other compatible devices. On the Fire TV Cube side, this is something Amazon has specifically focused in on, and as such one of the added benefits is that it not only connects to Alexa-supported smart devices, but can also control other devices that are connected to the TV, including sound bars, cable boxes, and so on. This really is one of the main selling points with the Fire TV Cube as it has the potential to act as a hands-free universal remote control. If that is something that is likely to appeal to your unique home setup, then the Fire TV Cube will be worth taking a closer look at.

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Assistants aside, the actual interface is also something to take note of as Android TV and Fire TV OS, are very different in a number of ways. At the basic level they both offer access to a number of the same and popular apps, but you will need to be downloading those apps from different places – Amazon Appstore vs the Google Play Store. So depending on how entrenched you are with either store might also be something that affects the decision. Likewise, Amazon and Google have never been greatly appreciative of each other's products and services and this sometimes does result in a limitation on services. For example, YouTube is currently not easily accessible in app form on Fire TV OS and by the same token Prime Video is not readily available on Android TV. Although for these two products in particular, this is less of an issue. As there is a workaround for YouTube for the Fire TV Cube and the SHIELD is one of the few Android TV devices to come with a Prime Video app installed. But still, the bigger point applies – if you are more involved with one assistant and app store, you'd be better off going for the device which primarily supports the same assistant and apps.

Are you a gamer?

Both devices do offer access to games although this is one area where a comparison is less needed as the SHIELD is not just a better gaming machine than the Fire TV Cube, but it's the best gaming device (outside of the gaming console market) in general. This is probably not that surprising when you factor in this is an NVIDIA product, but that is the point here. The SHIELD has been developed with gamers in mind and in addition to supporting the wealth of Android games that are available, NVIDIA routinely works on porting over popular game titles to the SHIELD. Meaning these are exclusive SHIELD titles and often provide a higher-quality Android gaming experience. If that is not enough, the SHIELD also supports some additional game-related features including access to the company's GeForce NOW service which in turn offers access to a range of PC titles as well. Speaking of PC games, if GeForce NOW does not have the title you want, but you do, the SHIELD also supports GameStream which allows gamers to cast PC games to the SHIELD.

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So when it comes to gaming, there really is no comparison here as the SHIELD is clearly the better option and it even comes with a gamepad as standard in the box, along with a separate remote control. However, all of this only actually matters if you are a gamer. If you are not, then there is not much point in paying for those additional features. Which brings us to the last point to consider – the price.

Price matters, but not significantly in this case

Price, is, and always should be something to take into consideration and it's also something that separates these two devices. However, the price on this occasion is less of a concern than it usually is at the box level. As although the SHIELD is largely considered to be an expensive device (compared to others), the Fire TV Cube has arrived as the most expensive Fire TV product to date. In basic terms, the SHIELD costs $199.99 while the Fire TV Cube costs $119.99. So while the Fire TV Cube is still cheaper, this is where aspects like the gaming elements are likely to play a role. If you are a gamer and would like a better game-focused experience with your streaming box then the additional $80 might be greatly offset by the additional features and the included gamepad – which you would have to purchase at an additional cost to play games on the Fire TV Cube. Likewise, if you are not a gamer, then to make the price difference even less of an issue, SHIELD is available as a 'remote only' option which sees the gamepad omitted from the package and the price dropping down to $179.

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Editor-in-Chief

John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. Besides adopting the Managing Editor role at AH John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]

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