The NVIDIA Shield TV and Shield TV Pro are both powerful, flexible streaming devices that support a number of advanced features, including 4K HDR playback at up to 60 frames per second. But one of its more interesting party tricks is what the company calls “AI upscaling.” This is in addition to the standard and enhanced upscaling offered by both Shield TV models and NVIDIA says it intelligently scales up lower-resolution content to look better on your TV, such as playing non-4K movies on your 4K TV.
How AI Upscaling Works
According to NVIDIA, regular upscaling techniques often take low-resolution images and repeat pixels to fill out a higher-resolution version. And then a filter is applied to soften any jagged edges and other undesired artifacts created during the upscaling process.
AI upscaling takes a different approach, instead predicting what a high-resolution image would have to look like in order to produce a downscaled image that looks like the source image. That prediction method, the company says, requires a “neural network model” that’s based on studying and learning from a number of popular shows and movies. In essence, NVIDIA says its AI approach has been trained on tons of different content to have a better idea of how to upscale images and video.
How to Enable AI Upscaling
Enabling AI upscaling on your Shield TV or Shield TV Pro is pretty straightforward. First, head to Settings, then Quick Settings. From there, select AI upscaling, and then choose AI-Enhanced.
Once you select AI-Enhanced, you’ll see a few detail enhancement options labeled low, medium, and high. Medium is set by default, but you can switch things up if you find the effect either too aggressive or not aggressive enough.
While you’re in those settings, you’ll see an option for demo mode. This is a neat trick that lets you quickly turn the AI upscaling on and off to see how it changes the look of onscreen video. With demo mode enabled, pressing the settings button during playback toggles the feature on and off. You should see a label in the corner of the screen telling you what type of upscaling is being used, like “Basic” or “Medium.”
You can hold the settings button down to enable to screen slider that you can sweep left and right to show the upscaler’s effects on various parts of the screen, letting you compare the on/off options side-by-side.
Limitations to Consider
Despite its fancy naming and interesting approach to sharpening, there are limitations to NVIDIA’s AI upscaling. Perhaps most notable is that while it aims to improve and enhance non-4K content, it generally won’t match the quality of native 4K, so don’t expect night-and-day miracles.
Beyond that, it also won’t work with content that’s lower than 480p resolution, or anything with frame rates higher than 30Hz. Lastly, content in the RGB color space is also incompatible. For content where AI upscaling won’t work, the Shield TV and Shield TV Pro will default to “Enhanced” scaling.
Now that you know how to enable AI upscaling, feel free to give it a spin. Don’t forget to experiment with the low, medium, and high settings to dial in the feature to your liking. And if you do give NVIDIA’s fancy tech a try, let us know what you think. Are you seeing noticeable improvements? Are some types of content better suited for this type of upscaling than others? Feel free to comment below.
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