We broke the news of Nvidia's ambitious gaming tablet plans back in May and now the Shield tablet got a bit better, thanks to Android 5.0. While Nvidia is still relatively new to this space, we must admit we are impressed by the speed of the update rollout. Just two weeks after official Android 5.0 Lollipop release, Nvidia sent out an over-the-air update to its latest tablet. The company rolled it out on the 18 November, 9AM eastern time and after a 678MB download we gave it a try.
Of course, the installation reboots your tablet and it takes rather long time until it boots the first time. This is nothing new, but at one point you are not sure if the installation is still working. Just leave it alone for 10 to 15 minutes and it will eventually boot to new Android 5.0.
Material Design and other tweaks
You can see the difference from the start. The lock screen changes and you spot Google's Material Design as soon as you try to unlock the device. The notifications are now in a somewhat different, more user friendly banner style and we like the fact that it will also give you an estimated time to fully charge your tablet. You can swipe to dismiss the notifications or tap to open. Material Design will make your icons and fonts looks smoother and nicer and most Google applications were updated to support this look. We like it.
We won't tell you every single detail as we already went through most of the options in our Nexus 4 Android 5.0 piece, but we have to mention that the new design looks nice. It will paint your keyboard and the app drawer white, touched off with new animations. Lollipop reminds us of Apple-like thinking, especially with the power settings, but we managed to keep Nick Farrell from hitting it with a sledgehammer.
You have a share button that helps you easily capture screenshots, record video or broadcast on the Twitch and Cast screen is back. We could not use Miracast with Android 4.4.2. The keyboard looks good in white and the keys are borderless and the keyboard swipe kind of input works well.
Android multitasking will stack dozens of applications on top of each other and event the restart will keep the ads in the multitasking. While we find this rather unnecessary we like the fact that restart will let us start from the start. We counted 28 applications running in the background without any noticeable change in performance for our everyday use.
There are a dozen or so Android 5.0 features like priority apps, user profiles additional as well as the new ART Android RunTime that works on both 32bit Tegra K1 in Shield Tablet and in 64-bit mode on Nexus 9 tablet. We run a few benchmarks and got 53093 in AnTutu 5.2.0, almost identical to what we were getting with Android 4.4.2 and in SunSpider 1.0.2 we scored 575 ms versus 563.6 ms that we got with the new software. The performance is similar.
Geekbench 3.0 with Android 4.4.2 scored 1087 in Single-core score and jumped to 1145 with Android 5.0 update while the multi-core score jumped to from 3220 to 3622.
Nvidia updates GRID, Dabbler and more
We have to mention two other Nvidia updates. First is that creative people who use the drawing app Dabbler got an updated version, 2.0 and they will have many nice features. You need to know how to paint to really test this one but the pen is really precise and easy to use.
The second major update is the Grid gaming that Nvidia offers for free. There is a list of 20ish games available to stream and we played some of them. You need the wireless controller to take a benefit from it as well as 5GHz Wlan router but it worked fine for us. We will tell you more about it as soon as we spend a bit more time, but this might become Netflix of gaming and it is free until mid-2015.
Even without this update the Shield Tablet 16GB WiFi was the tablet of choice for gamers and with Android 5.0, faster graphics performance, grid gaming and Gamestream, this is the one to have. Android 5.0 is a wonderful refresh to a design and it will be fun to look at, at least for a few days as it is a nice change to the visual part of Android user interface.