NVIDIA’s handheld SHIELD gaming console is finally getting serious. The device on Monday received a handful of pretty substantial updates, including a gamepad mapping feature that allows users to essentially play any touch-based Android game with the SHIELD’s attached controller. This is mobile gaming done right. And there’s much, much more, such as a new Console Mode and the addition of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean.
SHIELD users already had the ability to play many games in the Google Play store, but the new Gamepad Mapper feature allows users to either create their own custom controls or use pre-defined profiles set by Nvidia. One of the bigger criticisms about the SHIELD is that it wasn’t adapted for a lot of the more popular touch-based games—Temple Run being a big example. The Gamepad Mapping feature makes that game playable on the SHIELD, along with titles like NBA Jam; NVIDIA says default profiles for those games are automatically downloaded from the cloud, meaning you can seamlessly download and play.
Many companies today are putting big emphasis on streaming content from the small screen to a TV, and SHIELD’s Console Mode is designed to do just that. NVIDIA says the new feature requires pairing with a Bluetooth controller; once you’re paired up, however, you’ll be able to play Android games, browse the Web and watch movies in native HD at 1080p straight from your SHIELD. The new Console Mode is GameStream-ready, so you’ll be able to stream your PC games as well; Nyko’s PlayPad Pro wireless Bluetooth controller has been optimized specifically for Console Mode, Nvidia said.
Basically, the GameStream and Console Mode features will allow you to play computer games on your big screen TV in 720p without moving your PC. That’s hugely convenient, and makes the SHIELD a much more versatile and powerful device. With the launch of GameStream, Nvidia is actually offering up to $100 off the SHIELD, along with free copies of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Batman: Arkham Origins if you purchase a select GeForce GTX graphics card. Not a bad incentive indeed.
The huge update should be rolling out throughout the day, so if you own a SHIELD device, you’re definitely in for a treat. Up until now, Nvidia’s handheld device has always seemed like an experimental prototype. But the latest update shows that the SHIELD is much more powerful and flexible than people give it credit for. At $299, the price is still a little hefty for some. But there’s value continually being added. And, come on, if you can spend $299 on a Galaxy Gear, you can spend that same amount on the SHIELD.