The Nvidia Shield Tablet has already landed many awards for being a great gaming tablet, I myself reviewed it just a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it! However, not all of the features were ready from day one and Nvidia have been working hard to bring the latest Android 5.0 update to their powerful tablet.
The Shield Tablet is already packed full of features, as you can see from the chart below. The new update not only updates the OS, but paves the way for even more features in the near future.
The most notable coming-soon feature is certainly Nvidia GRID, which will be launching in the EU next month when the new servers are brought online. We actually covered a lot of information on GRID recently, which you can read here. To celebrate the new updates, Nvidia are bringing even more entertainment to their already feature packed device with The Green Box Bundle. The bundle contains Half-Life, Half-Life 2 and Portal, which will run natively on the Shield Tablets mighty Tegra K1 processor. You can expect us to fully review the performance of that gaming bundle in the very near future.
Android 5.0 has been a long time coming, but owners of the Shield Tablet will be able to download the new OS from today! So time to get your tablets out and see what all the fuss is about. Which is exactly what I’m about to do right now!
The new Android 5.0 update marks the biggest update to the worlds most popular mobile OS in several years. It’s been tweaked and improved in almost every respect, with the added bonus of an almost complete overhaul to the UI.
The UI is something that Google are calling their “Material Design”. Something they hope will prove even more competitive against the recent updates to iOS. It offers a new look, improved functionality and more features.
The bold looks of the previous Android releases are gone, in fact they’re almost completely gone! Everything has been changed in favour of the new softer textured colours. The interface is bright and clear with an appeal that is much more simplistic and inviting overall. The idea is to take some of the fuss out of using an Android device and initial impressions are very good. This feels like a completely new tablet! The new aesthetics are bolstered by a range of new transition effects and smoother animations, that make the whole navigation a more unified and friendly experience.
It’s certainly not perfect, although I guess it would also be arguable that many aspects are subjective. It’s clear that Lollipop is the groundwork for what will become an even better OS over the coming weeks, months and even years to come. Animation transitions could be a little swifter, some of the tab headers and buttons functions can be a little unclear at times too. These are minor quibbles and nothing you don’t become accustomed to after a few hours of usage; although still something that can be easily fixed in future revisions to the OS.
Notifications have been greatly improved in Lollipop. While you can still control and respond to messages from social media, text messages, emails and more from the slide down notification bar, you can also do it from the lock screen.The humble lock screen is certainly becoming more the default quick-use screen, with all of the more complicated functions being left on the main desktop should you need them. You can tweak each apps level of interaction with the lock screen with a simple long press on the notifications. If you set them private then they won’t show on the lock screen. You can also fully disable per-app notifications and of course you can dial them up to full and get all of the information you need at a glance. This is further enhanced by an improved volume control slider, you can silence all notifications, or leave the device in Priority Mode; just enough to let the important things get through.
Toggling between apps is now much easier, as you get large cards to flick through on a large carousel. This is great at you can easily see emails, messages and more as you scroll through them.
User Accounts and Software
Multiple users are pretty common, especially on a tablet device. I normally have myself, my partner and my son setup with separate accounts on the Shield, but now I also have the option of a guest account. Guest Mode can be turned on at will, it’s like opening a private tab in Chrome! You can still login to Google accounts, check Facebook, run apps and more. The only difference is that when you leave Guest Mode, the temporary data isn’t stored and other users save games, cache files, etc. remain untouched.
Gmail and Calendar have been given a spruce up, both look more inviting and easy to use than before and feel much better suited to both horizontal and vertical screen modes respectively. One thing I’m sure many of you will like, Gmail now works with any email address, no need to use a Gmail account if you don’t want to.
You can now encrypt your entire device. This includes all downloads. Just keep in mind that the extra security can take up to an hour to enable; dependant on how much data you have on there already.
Power saving is improved too, with a mixture of features that tweak the device performance, disabling features and data, controlling brightness levels and more. This combined with general back-end performance improvements throughout the update will see your battery life extended as much as possible.
Gaming, Movies and More
Alongside the new update, Nvidia have launched The Green Box, a bundle of Valve games that includes Half-Life, Half-Life 2 and Portal. These are great demonstrations of the Shields processing power.
“Leveraging the power of Tegra K1, Half-Life 2: Episode One offers a gaming experience unlike any other on a mobile platform. Some of the key graphics effects that are enabled only for devices powered by Tegra K1 are listed below.” – Nvidia
Tegra K1 Features
- Render to texture shadows (vs blob shadows)
- Flashlight shadow maps
- Bump mapping
- Specular highlights
- Environment mapping
- Motion Blur
- Higher quality texture filtering
There’s no doubt that the Tegra K1 in the Nvidia Shield is a tiny powerhouse for great gaming. Android 5.0 adds support for OpenGL ES 3.1, OpenGL 4.4 and Android Extension Pack (AEP). Combined, these can help the Shield push high-end graphics that put the competition to shame; there’s not a single high-end Android game or app this GPU/CPU combo can’t handle. In fact because of Tegra optimised games, there are quite a few games that can only run on the Shield Tablet.
The GRID gaming service isn’t available in the UK just yet, but Nvidia have tipped their hat that the servers will be online sometime next month. GRID is effectively a massive game streaming service. Nvidia does all the high-end rendering on their end and stream the game to your device with incredibly low latency. There will be twenty games available at launch and these aren’t mobile games, these are fully fledged PC games running at ultra setting. We expect great things from GRID and we will bring you a full report in the coming weeks.
Video playback is pretty decent on the Shield, but the device can be put into console mode via HDMI for both gaming and movies. The added bonus now is that the new update adds 4K video playback in console mode; Netflix 4K anyone?
One major gripe I had about the Shield Tablet in my original review was that I couldn’t connect an ethernet cable via USB and charge the device at the same time. Nvidia has fixed this by adding support for USB Y-Cables. This means that the internal battery isn’t going to limit your play time and you’ll be able to utilize the full power that the Shield Tablet has to offer.
Overall, the Shield Tablet has seen some incredible upgrades from Android 5.0 Lollipop, as well as a few tweaks and adjustments from Nvidia in their update, which brings the Shield up to spec 2.0.
We’ve got a much more fluid UI that brings a more practical and functional experience that is pleasing to the eye. We’ve got great improvements to the notifications system. There are updated versions of Dabbler, Gmail, Calendar and more. The list goes on and on.
My opinion of the Shield Tablet from my original review remains true, I still love this device and it’s certainly my go-to option for mobile gaming. The added bonus of course being that I can stream games from my Nvidia powered PC to the Shield Tablet, and soon I’ll even be able to stream games from the GRID servers. I can run mobile games incredibly well with PC/Console quality graphics and I can even hook it up to my TV and use it like a console if I wanted to! If you want a versatile mobile gaming device, there really isn’t anything else that comes close in comparison.
This is every bit a great Android tablet and with Android 5.0 it is better than ever. It’s packed full of features and it demonstrates Nvidia and Google’s commitment to mobile gaming platforms. The new OS is a little rough around the edges in some places, but that’s to be expected with an X.0.0 release. Expect revisions and improvements to be steadily released in the near future as more users get their hands on it and work out any sneaky bugs.
There are plenty more features to the Shield Tablet, and we’ve got every intention of putting them through their paces, so stay tuned for more updates in the near future.
Incase you missed them, feel free to check out our previous articles on the Nvidia Shield:
- Nvidia GRID Event Coverage
- Shield Tablet Review
- Original Shield Console Review
- Best Games to Play While Sitting on the Loo with Nvidia Shield
- Is Emulation the Best Feature of the Nvidia Shield?
- Can You Really Use the Nvidia Shield as a Desktop Replacement?
Thank you Nvidia for providing us with this sample.