nvidia shield k1 review (5)

NVIDIA Shield Tablet K1 gets an upgrade and fixes its biggest flaw

One of the biggest issues with the Android OS is fragmentation, and getting the latest update for your device model can sometimes be a gamble. The older your device, the less likely it’s going to get updated. Fortunately for NVIDIA Shield Tablet K1 owners, the latest Android OS version, Nougat, just got released to the K1 on February 9.

We've covered NVIDIA's powerful gaming tablet before, so let’s dig into all of the new features that come with this update.

General Updates

A lot of the changes are part and parcel to Android Nougat, but a couple of the updates are specific to the K1 and the Shield ecosystem. Here’s the full list (along with commentary):

New Multitasking Features

  • Split-screen: Run two (supported) apps side by side in Portrait or Landscape modes
  • Quick switch: Double tap the Overview button to quickly switch back to the last opened app (awesome for copying and pasting)

Improved Notifications

  • Multiple notifications from the same app are now bundled for a streamlined experience
  • Reply to messages directly from within the notification (only if supported by the app)
  • Tap and hold on a notification to quickly silence or block notifications from the app

Usability Improvements

  • Display & Font size are now separately adjustable to improve readability or screenspace
  • Quick Settings can now be customized directly from the menu by tapping “Edit”
  • The top Quick Setting tiles can now be accessed with a downward swipe from the lock screen
  • Settings now includes a Navigation Menu & Suggestions to improve usability
  • The “Clear all” option in Overview have been relocated to the top right

Improved Power Consumption

  • Doze on the Go: Doze is now smarter & kicks in even when the device is being carried around

System wide improvements including

  • New Data Saver: when enabled, limits access to Cellular data for background apps (it's unlikely many people are using the K1 with an actual data plan, so this isn't that useful for SHIELD owners)
  • New JIT compiler: improves the speed of App & System updates
  • Update to Android Security Patch Level December 1, 2016

Emoji

  • Includes all-new Unicode 9 emojis

SHIELD Rewards Program

After updating the K1, I was asked to enroll in the SHIELD Rewards Program, which was described as an exclusive loyalty program for SHIELD owners. Curious, I enrolled and received the following email:

THANK YOU FOR JOINING THE NVIDIA SHIELD REWARDS PROGRAM

As a member, we’ll be providing you the latest news for apps, games, and products for the NVIDIA SHIELD, as well access to premium rewards. Goodies like free games, discounts, chances to win great prizes and more. Stand by for more details to come.

That information feels a little thin, but the promise of free stuff sounds good. We’ll have more to share as the information becomes available.

Update to the SHIELD Controller

Ever since the original SHIELD was first released, one of the biggest and long-standing complaints was the dead zones in the analog sticks on the SHIELD controller. For the uninitiated, a dead zone on an analog stick is the amount of movement area surrounding the stick where no input is detected. Every analog stick has a dead zone of a certain size because the stick never returns to a perfect 0,0 on the x,y grid. And without a dead zone, every unintended input from a “resting” analog stick would register and the game would be impossible to control. Unfortunately, the SHIELD controller went the other direction and has dead zones that are too large. So you were forced to move the stick much farther than you expected for the amount of movement you wanted in the game. Not only did this result in delayed reactions in the game, since your character didn’t move until the analog stick exited the dead zone, but your movements were also very exaggerated because the analog stick was being pushed to its extremities.

Even as late as November 2015, when the K1 was released, the controller’s analog sticks still had dead zones big enough to make most games that required accuracy or precise movements nearly unplayable. This was especially noticeable in first-person shooters. I found myself trying to aim more by positioning my character (left analog stick) instead of using the aiming reticle (right analog stick) because movement felt more predictable than aiming. I eventually gave up and bought a third-party controller, which seemed to alleviate most of the issue. Strangely, the SHIELD controller performed just fine within the Android OS, offering the kind of performance I would have expected in the games.

So you can imagine my piqued interest when I connected my SHIELD controller and noticed a firmware update. I fired up a couple of games, like DOOM 3 and Dead Island to see if the dead zones had been addressed. Lo and behold, they had! The experience felt like any other controller, and I no longer felt like the controls were fighting me. This was exactly how tablet gaming should have been from the beginning.

At $199.99 for the K1 by itself, you’re looking at another $100 for the 2017 controller and a cover that also doubles as a stand. At $300 plus tax, this is probably one of the best gaming bundles around. It’s portable for gaming on the go. It can be hooked up to a TV via mini-HDMI for gaming at home. It’s running Android, so it can stream all of your entertainment. And it’s also a tablet, so you can do everything else you need to as well. Finally, $8 a month also gets you access to the GeForce NOW game streaming service, which gives you access to streaming games with graphics run on a GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card. All you need is a decent internet connection.

Nintendo Switch eat your heart out (though, of course, I’m still getting one.)