The SHIELD Tablet is only a few months old, but NVIDIA is already updating the device with a freshly minted OS, a refreshed SHIELD Hub (and other NVIDIA apps), and access to the company’s newly upgraded GRID Game Streaming service. A number of new Tegra K1 optimized games are arriving as well, as well as a new game bundle which includes one of the best reviewed PC games of all time.
We’ve already mentioned that NVIDIA had an Android Lollipop update on the way for the SHIELD Tablet, but we have a few more details to share today. The SHIELD Tablet Android Lollipop update will feature the new “material design” interface and improved app performance, according to NVIDIA.
The Lollipop update will also come preloaded with a new version of NVIDIA’s own Dabbler drawing and image editing app (Dabbler 2.0). In addition to a new interface inspired by Lollipop’s language, Dabbler 2.0 will offer full support for layers and it’ll allow users to share their sessions over Twitch.
Later this month, NVIDIA will also be updating the SHIELD Hub app. NVIDIA’s SHIELD Hub is where users can find optimized games for the SHIELD tablet, she which games are installed, stream their PC games to SHIELD devices, and with the update it’ll also integrate GRID gaming—NVIDIA’s cloud gaming service. To get the SHIELD Hub update, users will first have to install the Lollipop ROM update and then hit the Google Play store to grab the individual app updates.
The SHIELD Portable has had access to the GRID beta for quite a while now, but what’s coming to the SHIELD Tablet is somewhat new. If you’re unfamiliar with NVIDIA’s GRID game streaming service, it essentially give users the ability the stream PC games from the cloud to their SHIELD devices. NVIDIA tells us they have re-architected the GRID game streaming service for better scaling and easier/faster deployment, which will allow the company to build-out the service as the need arises.
Previously, accessing the GRID beta meant streaming games from a GRID server cluster on the west coast, but NVIDIA is expanding the service with server clusters located in Virginia, Europe and Asia. For the best possible user experience, streaming games from the cloud must incur minimal latency--adding more services in strategic locations not only affords NVIDIA greater capacity, but minimizes latency as well. NVIDIA says the GRID service will be available in North America this month, Western Europe in December and Asia sometime next year.
The company’s GRID game streaming service gives gamers access to 20 AAA games currently, including Batman Arkham City, Borderlands 2 and Psychonauts, among a number of other excellent titles, and NVIDIA is planning to add new games every week. The service will be free on the SHIELD tablet and SHIELD portable through June 30, 2015. After that, NVIDIA will likely move to a subscription model, but details aren’t available at this time.
In another interesting move for gamers, NVIDIA is also bringing Valve’s Half Life 2: Episode 1 to the SHIELD Tablet. The company had already worked with Valve to bring Tegra optimized versions of the original Half Life 2 and Portal to SHIELD; now the company adds EP1 to the list. There is a catch though—Half Life 2 EP1 will be part of a “Green Box” bindle which will be included for free with the 32GB/LTE version of the SHIELD Tablet. The bundle also includes the aforementioned Half-Life 2 and Portal. Existing owners of SHIELD devices will have to buy the bundle, likely for somewhere between $25 and $30, but pricing hasn’t been finalized just yet.
A trio of new SHIELD-optimized games will be available through the Google Play store soon as well. OddWorld: Stranger’s Wrath, Pure Pool, and Strike Suit Zero. OddWorld: Stranger’s Wrath is an action-adventure game in which a bounty hunter (named Stranger) must earn money by hunting outlaws with bounties on their heads, and capturing them—either dead or alive. Pure Pool is a billiards / cue sports game. And Strike Suit Zero is a space combat game featuring sprawling space battles, and plenty of cool graphics and lighting effects.
All in all, NVIDIA’s got a lot happening with SHIELD. The impending Lollipop update will make the SHIELD Tablet one of the first devices available with Google’s latest version of Android, free access to the GRID game streaming service (at least for now) give gamers access to a myriad of excellent, high-quality games, and HL2:EP1 and the other new games coming down the pipeline further enhance the SHIELD’s appeal to the gaming crowd.
We already though the SHIELD Tablet was arguably the best 8” Android-based tablet on the market and NVIDIA’s about to make it a whole lot better.