Nvidia's Shield is getting a major software update, aimed at improving overall functionality. The update, which bumps the Shield up to Android 4.3, includes two new features, Gamepad Mapper and Console Mode, and offers fixes for some of the gripes we initially had with the console. With the Android 4.3 update, users can finally save Android games to their Shield's microSD card, freeing up the console's rather small 16GB of onboard storage space. The upgrade also helps with general system performance, providing users with a more fluid experience.
One of the biggest improvements to the Shield is the new Gamepad Mapper feature, which gives users the ability to play touch screen-based Android games using the console's physical controls. While users could already play games using the Shield's touch screen display, the fact that the console requires two hands to hold, made playing touch-based games on the go a bit difficult. With Gamepad Mapper, however, users can create their own custom control schemes for thousands of touch games including "Angry Birds," "NBA Jam" and "Temple Run."
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With Console Mode, users can connect their Shield to their TV and output video and games in 1080p. The console could previously only output video at 720p. Connect the Nvidia-recommended Nyko PlayPad Pro or any other Bluetooth control, and you can use the Shield as a digital media center. Better yet, the feature works with the Shield's GameStream, which lets you wirelessly stream games from your PC to the handheld and directly to your big-screen TV. And thanks to improvements Nvidia has made to GameStream, games now stream at 70 frames per second at 720p. Push the resolution to 1080p and performance may suffer a bit.
The Tegra 4-powered Shield is still a rather niche device, and these updates won't do much to change that. But for users who already have one or were thinking of buying one, this update will be very welcome.