In the arena of 4K streamers, which one deserves your money?
While TV channels still mostly live in the world of 1080p, online streaming services like
You also need something to get that 4K media onto your TV once you've piped it in from the internet. There are three great options from three big hitters in the world of streaming boxes, and we're looking at each of them right now.
Which one deserves your money? The
There's no other way of saying it, so I'll come right out: The
By contrast, the
All three of these boxes now come with a remote in the package, which didn't use to be the case with the Shield. When it comes to features, the three different remotes are equal when it comes to packaging voice search, though for two it doesn't stop there. The Fire TV now has Amazon's ever more widely used
The Roku remote and the Shield TV remote do have something the Amazon one does not, however: a headphone jack. This is perfect for those times you want to watch TV without disturbing someone else in the room.
All three boxes are loaded with ports, with USB and microSD on the Fire TV and Roku, though the Shield TV has now done away with the microSD slot on the latest version. You can still plug in USB storage like a hard drive or thumb drive and expand the internal storage that way.
But what about video? These are streaming boxes, after all. The Roku Ultra and the Shield TV have one big advantage over the Fire TV: HDR video. All three can play back super-crisp 4K UHD video, but the Fire TV cannot do HDR, which is disappointing because most of Amazon's original content, such as The Grand Tour and The Man in the High Castle have HDR support. You can get this benefit from Prime on other boxes, but not Amazon's own.
You're not left out on audio support, either, with Dolby Audio supported on the Fire TV and Roku, and Dolby Atmos on the Shield TV.
Ultimately when it comes to hardware, the Shield TV is out front on its own as the most powerful, while the Fire TV and Roku Ultra are fairly even bringing up the rear.
While Amazon and NVIDIA both base their boxes on Android, Roku has its own operating system and associated app store.
The Fire TV runs Fire OS which is based on Android, but it has the same limitations as Amazon's other Fire devices, namely no Google Play Store or Google services. Even the Roku has Google Play Movies and TV.
Android TV is still pretty bare bones, but it's got some great apps.
The NVIDIA Shield runs Android TV 7.0 with some additional benefits on top. Firstly, NVIDIA has a dedicated game store for both optimized Android games as well as its
With the Shield TV you also get easy access to live television through either the Live Channels app from Google or something like
You can't forget Kodi. It's the reason many people buy these boxes.
Importantly, all three of these boxes have apps for the biggest streaming services out there: Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu. But there are advantages to the Fire TV and Shield running on Android.
You get a lot more flexibility with apps and arguably better support from developers. And one of the big elephants in the room is
All three boast custom interfaces for the TV, but Amazon's is a little clunky. Still. The other two boxes are nicer to interact with, and the Roku in particular has shortcut buttons on its remote to get you to some of the most popular apps, including Netflix.
When it comes to price there is a clear winner and a clear loser.
The loser is the most expensive, and that's the
Which should you buy?
All three of these boxes have a lot going for them, and honestly, they're all good purchases if you're looking to get into 4K video streaming. If you just want the absolute best though, go for the NVIDIA Shield TV. It's vastly more powerful, has great app support and frequently gets updated with new features and fixes. It's arguably the more future proof of the three, and ticks pretty much every box you can throw at it. It's even a very handy little games console.
If you just want to get 4K video at the lowest possible price, the
If you're OK with the $200 price tag though, the NVIDIA Shield is the best streaming box, 4K or otherwise. Buy it, love it.