Amazon Firestick vs Nvidia Shield
In the battle for Android TV supremacy, two names reign supreme. The Amazon Fire Stick and the Nvidia Shield.
In this in-depth guide we are going to compare them pound for pound across multiple categories and see who comes out on top.
We compare both devices across 11 different categories and see who comes out on top.
Let’s get started by looking at the technical specification for each device. For a more accurate representation, we’ve chosen the slightly more expensive Amazon Fire Stick 4K for features.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
|3.4” x 1.2” x 0.5”||6.3” x 3.3” x 1.0”|
|Quad-Core ARM 1.7 GHz with 1GB RAM||Nvidia Tegra X1 with 3GB RAM|
|Yes||Yes + Controller|
|8 GB Internal + Cloud for Amazon bought media||16GB + Expandable with USB (128GB)|
|Dolby Atmos||Dolby Atmos|
|Amazon Alexa||Google Assistant|
The two devices could not be more different when it comes to price. The Nvidia Shield is going to cost you $150+ even on sale. This is a top-end piece of kit that sells quality and caters to a market that believes that quality is worth the price.
This is a market, where the drive for value keeps most devices under $100.
In comparison the Amazon Firestick is very accessible, costing anywhere between $30-50, plus it regularly features on offer, so it’s worth looking out for sales and money off. Amazon has spent a lot of money pushing this product every chance they get.
In terms of value for money, the Amazon Firestick has all the basic capability that you would need to turn your TV into a live streaming machine.
The Nvidia Shield offers superior performance for those who are willing to pay a hefty price tag. Unlike the Firestick it also branches out from media streaming to include gaming as well. A large part of the additional price tag comes in the Tegra X1 Processor which comes loaded with state-of-the-art graphics rendering technology making your viewing experience super smooth and works well with state of the art 4K and Ultra HD televisions.
Based on Amazon:
Amazon Fire Stick: 4.7/5 with 7,000+ reviews
Nvidia Shield: 4.4/5 with 800+ reviews
No surprise that Amazon’s own product has so many more reviews as the lower-priced product.
What we always find helpful is to look at the most popular complaints about devices which can contribute a lot to telling us what could be wrong with the device.
The Firestick had significantly less 1- and 2-star reviews than the Nvidia Shield, at just 6% of the total.
The biggest complaints about the Firestick were, based upon the number of people who found these problems helpful:
- Poorly constructed plastic case which is a historical fault which has been reported previously, making it difficult to open. Potentially to stop people tampering with a sealed unit
- Problems with connecting it to the Amazon Echo
- People who are less tech-savvy struggling to use the Amazon Firestick, though we would say there are tonnes of great guides (including our own) to get you up and running easily enough
- Difficult to open the remote control cover and insert batteries without damaging the remote control
The Nvidia Shield had 12% of their reviews come back as 1 and 2 stars, the biggest problems from them were:
- Not supporting Dolby 5.1 surround sound, which may hinder people’s sound quality with older televisions
- Problems with Wi-Fi connectivity
- A lot of software needs to be updated upon first running the Nvidia Shield
It certainly seems on this basis that most of the Amazon Firestick’s issues come down to the quality of the hardware, whereas with the Nvidia Shield it seems to be more software related
Both systems work on Android, but the Amazon Firestick is locked into the Amazon system. You can sideload applications easily enough using Downloader. This does represent slightly less depth than the Nvidia Shield which can be set up straight away using Kodi.
Some people do find the Amazon Store on the Fire Stick frustrating. The store is highly marketed and spun towards the content they are pushing (of course from Amazon Prime). It can also be frustrating to find out what is free and what isn’t.
Also, the Shield has a massive one up by having the Google Play store integrated into the system. Amazon naturally steers any of its devices away from Google. But it does put the users at a disadvantage by making them jump through more hoops then they perhaps would want to.
For the absolute beginner, Amazon represents the quickest access to legal and above-board media, while Nvidia would mean you can jump straight onto free content through Kodi.
Nvidia runs it’s own Shield TV application. A big bonus is that it has a Plex media server pre-installed which means you can straight turn your TV into a home media center, without the set up you would need to go through on the Firestick.
The User Interfaces for both are easy to follow, but Nvidia is more customizable straight out of the box, including easy access to the Android Play Store and no limitations on the applications that can be installed on the device.
You can also access Nvidia games which is cool, a side note doesn’t try playing Android games from the play store on your Shield. They won’t scale!
Sideloading an Amazon Firestick is easy enough but may be more trouble than you want for a plug and play device if you want to get started using Kodi.
Both devices are very easy to use, and simply plug and play once connected to your home Wi-Fi.
Both are pre-loaded with Android Oreo 8.0.
Winner: Nvidia (Just)
With the Nvidia Shield coming in at 4 times the price of the Firestick it comes as no surprise that it’s hardware pounds the Firestick and virtually every other Android TV Device into the dust.
First, Nvidia has the advantage of using their own state of the art graphics chips in the form of the Tegra X1, which means it is fast. Like blink your eyes and it’s done fast.
The Tegra X1 is used in a lot of handheld gaming consoles like the Nintendo Switch because it’s fast, responsive and does not drain as much power as other chips.
The Firestick runs a Quad-Core Arm, but it pales in comparison to the 256 core Tegra X1.
Nvidia says that the Shield is four times faster than the Amazon Firestick and we would agree.
In terms of device ports both devices tie featuring USB and HDMI ports for your TV. Nvidia though has built-in Chromecast and can perform admirably when it comes to 4K Ultra HD, where the Firestick may struggle at a time with the highest quality graphics and movement. Though both can deliver video at 60 frames per second.
Both devices also can be connected via wired ethernet, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Nvidia boasts 3 times the RAM as well as custom made chip for that device which is manufactured and designed in house.
This means that whatever the build you install on Kodi, and no matter the complexity or size for some of those chunkier 400MB+ builds, Nvidia will never miss a beat.
The 3GB RAM eats all those processes for breakfast.
One the other hand the Firestick will get caught out on bigger builds. Try sticking a 250MB+ build on a 1GB RAM device, and you may get lagging and crashing.
The Firestick is designed for streaming stuff through Amazon, not heavy-duty streaming. It does a good job for the price, but the performance is incomparable to the Shield.
The Firesticks smaller memory is a drawback. With a smaller RAM and hard drive, you find you need to flush the cache (which is built into the Firestick) more often when you get some lag. Not a problem with the Shield which can be expanded up to 144GB of hard drive storage with a 128Gb SD Card
The Firestick offers 8GB of storage and free cloud storage, but only for media bought through Amazon. There is no way for you to extend that storage.
Now strictly for the purposes of streaming that shouldn’t be a problem, but over time you will need to flush the cache more often and be limited by the amount of add ons and builds you can install through Kodi.
This leads to a bit of extra time wasted, deciding what you are going to delete to make extra space.
The Nvidia Shield, on the other hand, starts off with 16GB of storage, through in a cheap SD Card and you almost have 20 times the storage space. This means the Shield is unlikely to run out of space for quite some time.
If you really want to push the boat, you can pay upwards of $300 and plum for the Pro version which has an enormous 500GB of storage. Though why anyone would need that, as opposed to just having an external hard drive is kind of beyond us.
It may seem like we keep bashing the Firestick but considering the price, it’s a pretty quick piece of kit. You’ll easily be able to navigate the Amazon store, side load Kodi and other add ons, and it doesn’t take much longer than the Nvidia Shield.
In terms of streaming and playing media the Nvidia Shield will be slightly faster and smoother thanks to their award-winning graphics chip.
But to the naked eye, there won’t be more than a few seconds in it.
The speed difference though will become obvious if you try to load too much on the Firestick, it will lag horribly in between screens and may crash if you get close to the smaller memory limit.
The Shield is just smoother, moving between screens, clicking down menus and the general User Interface is cleaner and less blocky than the Firestick.
Both devices come outfitted with a great voice assistant. Amazon with Alexa which can be controlled from the remote is a nice touch and works well. Nvidia has the Google Assistant, and there is a whisper that it will be integrated with Google Stadia, Google’s online gaming solution for new games comparable to Xbox Live and PS Live.
Both devices can be hooked into your home smart system to extend connectivity to dimming the lights closing the popcorn. Everything short of getting your own robot to bring you popcorn (Though we’re sure this will be along soon)
Amazon says their device has the best voice connectivity on the market, but we see no evidence to back up why it’s intrinsically better than Google Assistant.
The voice controls for both devices are excellent and highly responsive, which you would come to expect from AI-powered assistant. Alexa is a nice touch considering the price.
Both devices can process Dolby Atmos pass through, but Nvidia does go slightly further processing Dolby True HD, DTS-X, and DTS-HD.
You can expect a better sound quality dependent on your TV with Nvidia.
As highlighted in the negative reviews one area that does pull Nvidia back slightly is that it doesn’t work well with Dolby 5.1. Now if you have a modern TV that’s no problem, but you may find this annoying on older TV’s
The Amazon Firestick comes with a remote, that has been the subject of some negative reviews for its’ quality. The device itself it a USB plugin, and cannot have any additional accessories connected to it
The Nvidia Shield comes with a standard remote, as well as a cool controller for a bit extra, with added functionality. This expands NVidia’s dive into what it calls AAA gaming, expanding its functionality.
The Shield is bigger so it also has 2 USB ports which make it useful for downloading media from the device onto the USB and integrating new programs easily onto the device. As opposed to the single USB you get with the Amazon Firestick.
The Firestick is snug, but the Shield is bigger in part because of the size of the Tegra X-1 chip but also to allow for additional ports.
The Shield is for true geeks. The Firestick keeps it simple for hobbyist tech users.
A cool addition that the Shield remote control has which the Firestick doesn’t is a headphone jack when you need to watch TV or game quietly.
You can download Kodi straight away onto the Shield, but with the Amazon Firestick, you will have to sideload certain programs that don’t feature on the official Amazon App Store.
Most people won’t care that the Firestick is locked to the Amazon store. The Shield makes it easy for you to put any software you like onto it, rather than having to find a workaround based upon their operating system
Our Overall Winner and Final Thoughts
So, based on our comparison it looks like Nvidia is our clear winner.
But we do have a caveat. There is no doubt in our mind that the Nvidia Shield is the best Android streaming device out there. But you need to pay a hefty price tag for that access.
It’s hard to argue against the fact that you could buy 3-4 Amazon device for the same price as a Nvidia Shield
The Nvidia Shield is for streamers who want the very best performance at all costs. It is the steak to Amazon’s chicken. Also, it serves as a passable games console. With access to quite a wide selection of titles, as well as having a lot of pre-loaded software like Plex and access to the Google Play Store.
The Fire Stick is a beautiful piece of kit, and great value when you consider the price that you are having to pay. Nvidia wins because they are making you pay for that kind of top-end functionality. You’re going to have to work a bit harder with a Fire Stick. Considering the price difference you may find it worth it
But, honestly, if you are just a hobbyist streamer do you need that kind of performance? On paper, the Fire Stick apart from the processor and RAM matches the Nvidia Shield pound for pound.
The Shield is great for those dedicated to the best experience. For the incidental user, the Amazon Fire Stick does the job and does it well. Considering the overwhelming number of great reviews on Amazon, we are not the only ones who think so.
Screenshots with Step by Step Instruction to Install IPVanish on a Firestick
1. Click Home on your remote and scroll once to your left. It will be the search icon.
2. You can either say IPVanish to your Alexa’s voice-enabled remote or start typing it. If you typed it, click on the suggestion when it appears.
3. Click on the IPVanish icon.
4. Click on Download
5. Wait to download.
6. Wait to install.
7. Click on Open.
8. Input your username and password to log in.
9. Click Connect.