We know NVIDIA Shield rocks a solid Android TV experience, but the Shield Pro might just be the better buy for some.
The NVIDIA Shield TV does just about everything from streaming 4K movies and TV shows to playing high-end Android games with the included Shield Controller. But when NVIDIA refreshed the line at the start of the year, it kept around the Shield "Pro" model as well — and in this case, it hasn't been physically redesigned like the standard version, though it retains its $299 price tag.
That leaves an interesting question about whether you should consider the standard Shield Android TV model or the Pro — let us help you decide.
It's all about the storage
On the face of it, there's one big choice: can you get by with 16GB of internal storage, or do you need the breathing room of a 500GB hard drive? The Shield Pro's 500GB storage will give you tons of room to install as many games and store as much media as just about anyone would want.
With NVIDIA's streaming game solutions GeForce Now and GameStream there are fewer games to be properly "installed" than before, and all of the popular media services are streaming-only, but if you plan to load local media or use the Shield Android TV as a Kodi or Plex device you'll probably want that extra storage.
You get a different remote
All new Shield Android TVs come with the great redesigned Shield Controller, but NVIDIA has decided to ship different versions of the TV-style remote depending on which version of the box you buy. The standard box comes with the new design, which drops the headphone jack and rechargeable battery in exchange for year-long battery life from a pair of coin cell batteries.
The new Shield Pro still comes with the original TV remote — offering rechargeable batteries (via included Micro-USB cable) and a headphone jack for private listening. The decision between the two is personal choice, really, but it's important to know they don't offer the same experience.
The most important thing to know is that both Shield Android TV models give you a remote in the box — that's a good improvement over the original models that only came with a controller.
A few extra features
Because the Shield Pro is still based on the original hardware design, it retains a few of the features that were lost when the standard model moved to a smaller body. That means the pro retains the microSD card slot for expanding its storage and Micro-USB port a direct connection to your computer.
Both features are nice to have, but not really essential. You already have 500GB inside the box and can extend it further with any USB storage device, and NVIDIA has enabled PC connections via one of the USB-A ports as well.
One slightly bigger deal is the inclusion of an IR receiver on the Shield Pro, meaning it can be easily controlled by popular universal remotes that use IR for multi-device management. If you already use something like a Logitech Harmony for your entertainment center, this may be a make-or-break situation. Don't count out the chance that universal remote makers like Logitech could update with Bluetooth versions that could connect to the Shield Android TV directly in the future, though.
The Pro is a bit bigger, too
This is a relatively minor consideration after you think about all of the functional differences between the models, but the new Shield Android TV design is dramatically smaller than the Pro. The new box is roughly 40% smaller and 60% lighter than the Pro since it doesn't have the extra ports and storage inside, and that could make a difference if you have a tricky home entertainment setup.
Chances are if you need any of the Pro's extra features you'll be able to make it work, but if you have a very specific place or mounting requirements for hiding the box, keep the size difference in mind.
Which should you buy?
If you're going to be doing a lot of local gaming and/or storing a bunch of movies and TV shows on your Shield Android TV, you should snag the upgraded Shield Pro with 500GB of storage. If you plan to use apps like Plex to turn your Shield into a DVR, that extra storage will be a must-have. Chances are the features like an SD card slot, IR receiver and rechargeable remote won't in themselves be enough to spend $100 more on the Pro, though — like I said, it really is all about that storage.
If the addition of those features don't feel like they're worth $100, the 16GB base model should be sufficient for you. Use the money you saved on a USB 3.0 flash drive for some extra storage, and maybe invest the rest in some games to play!
Update June 17, 2017: Article updated with new information on Plex live TV and how that may influence your decision.
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