The Nvidia Shield Tablet isn't for everyone, but it's a pretty solid Android machine. It's about to get even better in three distinct ways: Android 5.0 Lollipop, Half-Life 2: Episode 1, and a whole bunch of absolutely free streaming games.
First off, if you've read anything we've said about Google's new Lollipop, you know how big a deal it might be to have a solid tablet running the new OS. With the $300 Shield Tablet becoming one of the cheapest ways to get stock Lollipop on November 18th—$100 cheaper than the iffy Nexus 9— that might be reason alone to perk up your ears.
Second, it looks like game developers might be starting to warm to the potential of porting PC games to Nvidia's Tegra K1 processor. Following Nvidia's ports of Half-Life 2 and Portal, owners of the Shield Tablet will get exclusive access to Half-Life 2: Episode 1 as well. If you buy a new 32GB Shield Tablet, Nvidia will throw in all three Valve titles as a bonus.
Half-Life isn't alone: Nvidia says there are now 20 Tegra K1-optimized games, including new additions Oddworld: Strangers Wrath, Pure Pool, Flyhunter Origins, Turbo Dismount and Strike Suit Zero. Nothing to buy a tablet for, perhaps, but more is better.
But there's another way to get PC games on Shield without waiting for ports: Nvidia is taking the Grid cloud gaming service out of beta, and planning to stream games across the world.
For months now, if you had a Shield and a fairly decent connection to Nvidia's servers in San Jose, California, you could instantly stream a handful of PC games like Darksiders, Batman: Arkham City and Street Fighter vs. Tekken to your handheld. It really works, but I never spent much time with Grid, because nobody knew how long Nvidia planned to keep it up.
But now, with new servers on the East Coast, and soon Europe and Asia, Nvidia plans to stream an increasing number of games across the world. It'll be a legitimate service with new games every week, and Nvidia says they'll all be free through June 30th, 2015.
After which point, the company tells me, they'll probably go to a Netflix-like flat monthly fee for access to a collection of back-catalog titles, and possibly rental pricing for brand-new games.
Is all this enough to make you want to buy a Shield Tablet? I'm genuinely curious. I bought the original Shield in 2013 (which will also get Lollipop, by the way) and have a Shield Tablet hanging around, but both spend a lot of time collecting dust. Primarily, I use 'em when I'm sick in bed, but still want to play some PC games while I'm fighting those germs.