I’ve always been a fan of Android, and although Hardcore Droid went through some down times that made it difficult to focus on it, I still love the system and started playing with the Shield TV 4K over the holidays.
Honestly, it was difficult at first to find time, as we had a PSVR and a mountain of tech to dig through. I did get to dig into the features though, and learned it’s actually quite the state of the art machine. In fact, I love how crisp everything is and the integration with my desktop and NAS storage solution.
Roku, on the other hand, I always compared to a simple Chromecast or Fire Stick (both of which I also have). The company’s new high-end 4k model, called Ultra, is either a beefed up version of the original Roku or a slimmed down Shield, however you want to look at it. Here’s how they stack up.
Under the Hood
Weighing in at 8 ounces and measuring 4.9×4.9×0.85 inches, Roku Ultra has a smaller footprint than Nvidia Shield. It has an ethernet port and connects to 802.11ac MIMO dual-band wireless. It features a quadcore processor and is capable of displaying up to 3840×2160 4k UHD resolution with HDR support.
USB and SD ports support external storage, and it also includes HDMI and Optical Audio ports. There’s no internal storage, however, so you can’t do much in terms of DVR functionality.
Shield TV 4K Pro ($299.99)
The regular Shield weighs 8.8 oz and measures 3.9×6.25×0.99 inches, so it’s a bit larger than Roku Ultra. The pro version adds more size and weight due to the massive hard drive upgrade from 16GB to 500GB. It’s powered by an NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor with a 256-core Maxwell GPU.
Two USB-3.0 ports, microSD, Micro-USB, ethernet, and HDMI round out the available ports. Bluetooth 4.1 LE, dual-band WiFi, and MIMO wireless support is available as well. Shield TV runs Android TV OS, which enables a slew of games, apps, and more options.
Accessories and Extras
Roku Ultra comes with a remote that includes a speaker and headphone jack (earbuds are included). It has motion sensors, point-anywhere radio connection, and can be turned sideways and used as a Nintendo-like controller for the limited games available on the Roku Channel Store.
In addition, Roku enables access to just about every digital video app and service you can think of. Kodi can be installed, but it takes a bit of DIY knowledge. This makes it a great streaming device for any and all video at the highest quality possible.
Shield TV 4K Pro
Shield TV users have the option of using the Shield TV remote and/or game controller. New features in the 2017 roll-out include built-in Google Home, support for Samsung Smart Things, and more. Shield TV aims to be a game console-sized smarthome assistant and is succeeding.
Because it’s Android-based, Kodi is easily installed and used with Shield TV. The company has worked on video and graphics for decades, so everything is fast and seamless. The remote allows voice control and AI, and the console even lets you stream games from your PC and NVIDIA’s servers.
The channel layout and store on Roku is easy enough to navigate, and despite its small size, it manages to load and display 4K very fast. I barely noticed any delay between selecting an option and it being displayed on screen. WiFi was much more stable on Roku than the Samsung Smart TV itself, though it still stuttered every so often.
Voice navigation is nice, but lacked the depth of Fire TV’s Alexa integration. However, since Fire TV’s Alexa doesn’t integrate with the Echo and Echo Dot’s Alexa, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Roku Ultra is more expensive than the 4k Fire TV and offers a similar set of features.
Shield TV 4K Pro
Shield’s interface is just as easy to navigate. I’ve always been a fan of the Android OS, and it works much better here than it does on devices like BenQ’s Smart Projector, Auravisor, etc. Because it’s Android, app and game availability far surpasses that of Roku, and the ability to store locally makes downloading a secondary option when streaming won’t work.
Everything on Shield TV is blazing fast. NVIDIA’s Shield tablet and portable are still treasured devices among Android enthusiasts for their performance, and it’s even better here. With so many integrated features, Shield TV stands in a class all its own, far above Roku, Chromecast, and Fire TV, and only barely lacking behind gaming consoles like Xbox One, PS4, and WiiU in capabilities and software.
Roku Ultra: B-
Shield TV 4k Pro: A+