The majority of the Android ecosystem consists of smartphone and tablet hardware, but there are some unique devices in there as well. One example is NVIDIA's Shield, a portable gaming console that launched earlier this year with Android 4.2 in tow. The fact that the Shield isn't a "traditional" Android product doesn't mean that it can't be updated like all of the other hardware running Google's mobile OS, though, and today NVIDIA announced that it's bringing a "massive" update to its handheld that includes a newer version of Android.
Starting today, NVIDIA is pushing an over the air update to the Shield that bumps the device up to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and brings with it a number of new, gaming-related features. Perhaps the biggest addition is the Shield Gamepad Mapper, which allows users to create custom controls for touch-based games in order to make them play more nicely with the Shield's physical buttons. Shield was capable of running these games previously, but the Gamepad Mapper can help to make them easier to play by letting owners map controls to the Shield controller. NVIDIA has created default control layouts for hundreds of games in the Google Play Store that are automatically downloaded from the cloud.
Another new feature included with this Shield update is Console Mode. Enabling this new mode will turn the Shield into something more like a dedicated home console, allowing users to connect the unit to an actual television and then control their games by pairing a Bluetooth controller to the Shield. Console Mode supports the Shield's GameStream feature, meaning that owners can stream their PC games to the Shield and then play them on their big-screen TV.
Rounding out this new Shield update is support for moving .OBB and .APK files to the unit's SD card in order to help free up space on the Shield's internal memory. Users will also get the standard Android 4.3 Jelly Bean goodies, including restricted user access and overall improved performance.
This new update sounds like a pretty big deal for the Shield and its owners. The new Gamepad Mapper feature will help users to check out and enjoy more games from the Google Play Store now that they can actually play them with the Shield's physical controls, which is one of the features that many folks likely bought a Shield in the first place. It's also good to see NVIDIA bumping the Shield up to the latest currently-available version of Android, a move that makes this gaming handheld one of only a handful of devices that've been updated to Android 4.3.
NVIDIA says that this new Shield update is available now, so if you've got a unit laying around, you may want to fire that puppy up and see if you've got some Jelly Beans waiting for you.