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Nvidia is going to make its Shield gaming tablet owners a lot happier soon.

The graphics-chip company is launching a series of updates to its tablet, including an upgrade to the newest version of Google’s Android operating system. These upgrades show that Nvidia is serious about expanding from graphics chips to providing whole gaming systems to its hardcore fans.

Nvidia will also launch what it’s calling the Green Box Bundle, which includes a 32GB Shield Tablet (LTE) with Android 5.0, a free version of Valve’s Half-Life 2: Episode One (and the earlier Half-Life 2 and Portal), and access to a bunch of cloud-based hardcore games over its cloud-based Nvidia Grid.

The Nvidia Shield Tablet debuted five months ago as a tablet with an 8-inch touchscreen and a Tegra K1 processor that gives it two to four times the horsepower of other available tablets. I’ve used it, and it really does bring desktop performance to the tablet. It runs a little hot on your lap, but that’s a small price to pay for the capability to play such high-end games on an Android device.

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“This is a great showcase of Nvidia’s investment in Shield,” said Matt Wuebbling, the director of the mobile business at Nvidia, in an interview with GamesBeat. “There’s no other mobile device that is capable of running these games today.”

The Shield family is also expanding its distribution. The Shield Tablet ($300 with 16GB and Wi-Fi, $400 with 32GB and LTE), Shield Controller ($60), and Shield Cover ($40) are now available in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Russia, Japan, and South Korea.

Shield Tablet with Android 5.0 Lollipop

Above: Shield Tablet with Android 5.0 Lollipop

Image Credit: Nvidia

The Nvidia Grid on-demand service has 20 high-end games that you can play on the Shield Tablet. The Nvidia Grid consists of thousand of graphics-based servers in a data center. It sits on top of Amazon Web Services, and it brings powerful graphics processing to cloud applications. That enables it to stream high-end games from the data center to the Shield Tablet with minimal delays of just 50 milliseconds. The Grid service will stream games like Batman: Arkham City for free during a beta period.

Phil Eisler, the general manager of Grid cloud computing at Nvidia, said in an interview that Nvidia is aiming for cloud service that is better than Sony’s PlayStation Now, which runs on Gaikai’s game streaming technology. You can use the console mode on the Shield Tablet, connecting it via HDMI to a big-screen television. That enables you to bring a whole new set of games to the Shield and play them on your television if you like, Eisler said. He also said the Grid will be supported with data centers around the world by next year.

“Our plans is to have more than 100 titles available on the Grid next year,” Eisler said. “Players are going to get a GeForce GTX gaming experience streamed from the cloud.”

The Android 5.0 Lollipop version has better gaming and graphics support, and that makes apps run faster. Thousands of Android games can run on the tablet. But about 300 are optimized for the Shield Tablet.

Nvidia is also putting its Dabbler art studio app, which makes it easier to create works of art using a stylus, on the tablet. You can add layers, create cool water simulations, use a customizable color palette, and share your digital painting session on Twitch. Nvidia has also updated its Shield Hub user interface to align with Android’s Lollipop experience, allowing you to get games and media apps all in one place.

Wuebbling said that Nvidia tapped Valve’s games because they have such a following among core gamers, who are the main target audience.

“Nvidia is a bunch of gamers, and we market GPUs and graphics cards to them,” Wuebbling said.

Nvidia hasn’t disclosed sales figures yet, but it has said it has had “solid demand” for the devices.

“These three different additions really focus on our target market,” Wuebbling said. “We have new software with Lollipop. We have Episode One. And through Grid, we can deliver a whole wealth of content through Grid that you couldn’t previously run on a tablet.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7a7COkFmPY&w=560&h=315]

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