NVIDIA’s new Shield TVs start at $149 with Dolby Vision and Atmos

The first thing you’ll notice is that the cheaper model looks… a bit different than your typical set-top box. It’s a cylinder that’s meant to sit among the wires behind your TV. According to NVIDIA, that helps it avoid wireless interference. And if WiFi streaming isn’t your thing, the company also included a gigabit Ethernet port. The Shield TV Pro, meanwhile, has the same case as the last model, along with two USB 3.0 ports and 3GB of RAM (the standard Shield TV has 2GB).

Both new set-top boxes feature Dolby Vision and Atmos decoding support (the last Shield only offered Atmos pass-through and HDR 10). They’re also powered by NVIDIA’s new Tegra X1+ processor, which the company claims is 25 percent faster than the X1. That doesn’t really mean much when it comes to streaming video apps, but the additional horsepower gave NVIDIA room to develop an AI-powered HD to 4K upscaler, which can help lower-resolution content look better on 4K TVs.

NVIDIA Shield TV

Sure, your TV already does HD upscaling on its own, but NVIDIA says its technique goes a step further. The company fed HD and 4K video samples to a neural network, which helped them build a model that can fill in gaps that typical upscalers miss. On a 65-inch OLED TV, NVIDIA’s AI upscaler delivered more fine detail in a Game of Thrones character’s robes. I was still looking at an HD feed from HBO Now, but it had an extra bit of sharpness that resembled genuine 4K footage.

While watching an HD stream of Coco on Netflix, the colorful City of the Dead was far sharper with NVIDIA’s upscaler. I could actually make out the houses and buildings floating in the background, whereas it looked like a muddy mess without the feature. The company did warn that the AI upscaler might not work well with older content, since it was mostly trained on high-quality modern footage. But, just like any AI model, NVIDIA plans to improve it over time.

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