If you're in the market for a new Android tablet right now, there's a good chance that either the Nexus 9 or SHIELD Tablet is the front runner in the race for your dollars. While the N9 is a decent tablet (depending on who you ask, anyway), it's hard for any tablet to best NVIDIA's first large-screen offering - in this writer's humble opinion, it is the best Android tablet money can buy right now.
And if your money is the one buying it, you'll be happy to know that, should you choose to get it from Amazon, you'll get a $30 Amazon gift card alongside your purchase.
NVIDIA announced the latest push for its GRID cloud gaming service earlier today with Saint's Rov IV and more titles in the coming weeks, and now there's a SHIELD Tablet update to go along with it. In addition to enabling more GRID games, the update improves a few aspects of the device. It will stay on Android 5.0.1, though.
One of the lesser-known portions of the custom game software on NVIDIA's SHIELD Portable and SHIELD Tablet is GRID, an OnLive-style streaming PC gaming system. It allows owners to play a selection of full-feature PC games streamed from NVIDIA's own virtualized systems at a data center, no personal gaming PC required. The service is still in beta, but has been growing steadily since its introduction a little over two years ago. By the beginning of March, 40 PC games will be available for free to SHIELD owners.
The next PC game added to the service, live this morning, is Saints Row 4.
Exclusive titles like Half-Life 2 and Portal have served to make Nvidia's Shield devices more attractive to gamers, but that's usually about graphical optimization. The newly released OlliOlli is a bit different. This is a retro-themed skateboard stunt game that previously resided on Steam. Now it's on Android and exclusive to the Shield Portable. Yes, the Portable. Oh, and it's $12.99, just like the Steam version.
In his review of the original SHIELD a year and a half ago, Jeremiah Rice noted that NVIDIA's gaming gadget was amazingly well-suited to game emulators. Combined with a robust emulation scene on Android, especially for older game consoles, it's possible to play a ton of great games on the SHIELD without ever stopping by the Play Store. This morning NVIDIA issued a software update specifically to improve performance for game emulator apps.
Update 101 is tiny, just over 3 megabytes, and in fact NVIDIA's release notes say that the OTA is "optional" (something you don't often hear from manufacturers). Even if you're not an emulation fan yourself, the nature of Android upgrades means it's probably easier to download and apply it than to ignore it (and the SHIELD's unlocked bootloader means that root users aren't inconvenienced).
If you're wondering what NVIDIA has been working on for the last few months, you'll only have to wait a few more weeks to find out. The gaming and graphics company has sent invitations to technology press, including Android Police, for a presentation on March 3rd in San Francisco. According to the email, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang will be demonstrating something "5 years in the making" that will "redefine the future of gaming."
Android fans are obviously looking for something centered around the new Tegra X1 chipset, which NVIDIA demonstrated last month at the Consumer Electronics Show. That particular event did not include any new consumer-grade hardware, instead focusing on the X1's impressive specifications and applications for embedded electronics in the auto segment.
Earlier this week a report surfaced about a successor to NVIDIA's high-powered SHIELD Tablet coming "within a couple of months," to be announced at the GPU Technology Conference starting on March 17th. The report claimed that the new SHIELD Tablet would be using NVIDIA's next-gen mobile chipset, the Tegra X1, which was announced at CES 2015 without any accompanying smartphone or tablet.
A new generation of SHIELD hardware powered by the Tegra X1 is a no-brainer - despite tepid interest outside of the Android and gaming communities, NVIDIA has shown no sign of slowing down its first-party mobile brand.
NVIDIA has been the first few pebbles of the landslide that is CES for the last few years, and 2015 is no different. To kick off the world's biggest consumer tech show, CEO Jen-Hsun Huang started with mobile. The company announced its successor to the Tegra K1 mobile processor, the Tegra X1. This chip includes an octa-core 64-bit CPU married to a 256-core GPU. And that second chip is the killer: it's based on the same architecture as the latest full-sized NVIDIA desktop graphics cards, Maxwell.
While Huang was quick to point out the chip's fantastic graphical capabilities (without going into extreme detail), he also wanted to show off its video rendering prowess.
Update: We had a bit of a misunderstanding on the update text. As commenter Gardner points out, the restart and other options on the power button menu were in the SHIELD Tablet 5.0 update. The "SHIELD Power Control" menu, a section of the primary Android Settings menu that was included in KitKat but dropped from the 5.0 update, is back in 5.0.1. Sorry for the confusion.
Inside the SHIELD Power Control menu are basic settings for the Tegra K1 processor and a few screen options, as well as more standard Android settings like a sleep timer for the screen and Wi-Fi.
SHIELD Portable and SHIELD Tablet owners, mosey on over to the Play Store for your latest app update. NVIDIA has pushed a 4.0 upgrade for its SHIELD Hub app (previously called Tegra Zone), which ties into most of the unique gaming-related software on the devices. The new version has a Material Design upgrade to make it play nice with the Lollipop build on the Tablet itself, though it uses NVIDIA's usual green-on-grey color scheme, so you'll have to look closely for the changes to the animation and layout.
Other small improvements include support for streaming PC games from your NVIDIA-equipped computer at up to 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second.