Shield users, rejoice! Nvidia has announced its October software update for the handheld game console thingamajig.
The update brings "official" support for GameStream, the Shield's killer feature. GameStream allows Shield handhelds to stream games from GeForce GTX-powered PCs over Wi-Fi. Early reviews suggested that GameStream worked well despite being a beta feature. 42 games were supported initially; now, Nvidia says the list has grown to "over 50." If those early reviews are any indication, though, even unsupported games should play well with GameStream.
More exciting is the addition of Console Mode, which is exactly what it sounds like. Users can now connect the Shield to their TV and control the device remotely with a Nyko PlayPad Pro wireless gamepad. GameStream is supported, so it's possible to play PC games on your TV without having to hold the Shield in your hands—and without running an HDMI cable to your couch. Nvidia says Console Mode also works with Android games, movies, and web surfing at 1080p.
How, you may ask, is one supposed to play Android games with a controller? This is where the new Gamepad Mapper comes in. This feature allows "1000s" of Android games to be played with a controller using custom profiles that are "automatically installed from the cloud." Users can create their own profiles and share them, too. If your favorite Android game isn't supported, you should be able to map the controls to the gamepad and share your Gamepad Mapper profile online. Handy.
Major new features aren't the only additions in the October update. Nvidia says it's upgraded the Shield's OS to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. A couple of usability tweaks have been made, as well. In the company's words words:
Ability to move your app and game files (APK + OBB files) to external microSD card. Access from Settings -> Apps -> Select App. Compatible with select apps and games.
Changed Home button functionality - double tap Home button to access Recent Apps & hold Home button to launch Google Now.
If the October update is anything like prior updates, users should be able to grab it directly from their device by heading to the "System updates" section of the settings menu (under "About SHIELD"). As far as I'm aware, the GameStream feature still requires a PC with a GeForce GTX 650 or faster Nvidia graphics card and the company's GeForce Experience software installed.
Update 3:30 PM: Nvidia tells us that, while it has worked with Nyko to optimize the PlayPad Pro with Shield, "other Bluetooth controllers will work." Also, we're told that GameStream is limited to 720p in Console Mode (as it is outside of that mode). Nvidia says it is "working to bring GameStream in 1080p to SHIELD."