Nvidia‘s powerful Android handheld is about to get a bit more capable with an upgraded operating system, better controller-mapping software, and more.
The company revealed an update for its Shield portable that brings a number of features that make the device better. The marquee improvement is the ability to stream games from your PC to the Shield even when you’re on the go using the GameStream service. Previously, Shield enabled gamers to play their PC titles (from their own rigs) on the handheld’s screen as long as both pieces of hardware connect to the same network. Now, Shield can stream stuff like Borderlands 2 while you dine in at McDonald’s if the Wi-Fi is fast enough. GameStream is also now compatible with over 100 popular PC titles.
“In eight short months, Nvidia Shield has come on leaps and bounds, gaining over half a dozen game-changing, innovative, revolutionary features that cannot be found elsewhere,” Nvidia tech evangelist Andrew Burnes wrote in a blog post. “Furthermore, existing features and support have been radically enhanced, and all around extra care and attention has been lavished upon Shield’s software.”
Other updates include support for Bluetooth peripherals. This means you can connect your wireless mouse and keyboard to the Shield and use it to play games that don’t work well with console-style controls. Nvidia is also improving its GamePad Mapper software. This program enables players to set up physical controls that correspond to touch gestures in Android titles.
In addition to making the Shield better, Nvidia also updated its TegraZone app portal. This software collects all the Android games that benefit from Nvidia’s powerful Tegra 4 processor.
The Shield is Nvidia’s answer to the Ouya or Amazon Fire TV. It is a powerful portable, but it can also connect to a TV and operate as a microconsole. The company is excited to talk about how the platform is evolving and growing since its first launched Shield in July.
In addition to adding support for over 100 titles to GameStream, Shield now boasts more than 330 Android games that work natively with its hardware controller. The device’s software is also now running on Google’s latest KitKat operating system.
Currently, Shield is on sale for $200. That’s $50 off its original price, but Nvidia is saying it will raise the price back to $250 in May.
Nvidia hasn’t revealed how well the Shield is selling. Shortly after debuting the device, it told consumers that it couldn’t keep it in stock, but it has never provided any hard numbers. Now, the Android microconsole market is getting especially crowded with big players as companies like Ouya, Mad Catz, and GameStick face competition from Amazon and Google. While Nvidia’s portability helps set it apart, it’s unclear if that is enough to help it stand out from the crowd. On top of that, gamers are happily dropping $400 to $500 for the new high-end consoles form Sony and Microsoft. While Nvidia is updating, improving, and discounting its Android handheld, millions of consumers are spending twice as much to jump onto gaming platforms that seem to have more-promising futures.