Android TV is here. No, I don’t mean robotic TVs that walk and talk like humans while displaying TV images. What we have here, is another streaming device. Google announced their Nexus Player during the middle of October. The Nexus Player garnered a list of “firsts” to its credit when it was announced. The device itself is pretty stylish-looking and doesn’t look like it would be an eyesore in any décor. Let’s take a dive into the guts of this thing and see if it’s something that we all need or want.
What is Android TV?
Is it something that’s going to be hosted by Brent Spiner dressed as Commander Data? Android TV is a set-top streaming device made my Google that is similar to Apple TV. Google unveiled Android TV at its Google IO conference held in San Francisco in October of this year. The product is Google’s latest attempt at becoming a leader in providing entertainment options for consumers. As such, it brings Google into closer competition with companies like Roku, Apple, and even Amazon for the delivery of entertainment content to your TV.
Android TV isn’t Google’s first attempt to steal streaming TV market share. Back in 2010 they introduced Google TV, which was an abject failure. In 2013 they tried again, with Chromecast. It’s still too early to be able to honestly call Chromecast a flop, but it isn’t looking good for the little USB dongle from Google.
Some of you may also remember another “not-so-good” offering from Google, the Nexus Q. About the best thing I can say about the Q is that it has a unique look that could make it a conversation starter. Other than, it was, in my opinion, pretty horrible. You could only stream content from Google services. You had to have something running Android in order to use it, because it didn’t have a remote. All that “convenience” and “all those options” came at the price of $300. $300 an no access to Netflix, Blockbuster, Amazon, Pandora, or any of the other online services. Thanks, but no thanks.
Introducing the Google Nexus Player
Google is one of those companies that has been known to take our complaints and suggestions under consideration when developing things. The devices listed above mark a progression from the pretty terrible to the “it’s still lacking a couple of things.” The Nexus Player for Android TV is ready for pre-order now. Google has so far only announced US pricing (about $100) and availability.
Except for Chromecast, most set-top streaming devices are “pucks,” called such because they resemble a hockey puck in appearance. The Nexus Player is no exception. The features and capabilities of the Nexus Player most closely resemble those of Amazon’s Fire TV player. It also has a remote.
That remote doesn’t use infrared to communicate with the device like most remotes do. It uses Bluetooth, so it can communicate with the set-top device even when in another room, as long as the two devices can communicate wirelessly. This makes playing games with people fun and easy. You can hide the remote under a pillow and control the Nexus Player without being obvious. You can even appear to be working magic, because the remote also offers voice control. For gamers, there’s also an optional game controller pad that allows you to control your favorite Android games.
Limited Connectivity Options Are Available
Most set-top boxes offer both Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity options. Unfortunately, the Google Nexus Player doesn’t; it only has Wi-Fi capability. According to Google, the Nexus Player only has an HDMI out port for connecting to a TV. That means that if your TV only has a coaxial connector and VGA port on the back, you either have to find an adapter, buy a new TV, or pass. However, there are reviewers out there that have mentioned their devices came with a Micro-USB 2.0 port. I found that if you dig a little deeper into the specs listed on the page, you find that the USB port is listed.
Varied Tech Specs
The specs on the Nexus Player are somewhat confusing. It’s got an excellent 1.8 GHz Quad-Core processor, so it loads fast and has minimal delay. As mentioned above, the remote communicates using Bluetooth instead of infrared and has a voice search option. However, it’s only equipped with eight gigs of memory. With the size of most high-end video games out there, this seems terribly stingy. Hopefully the USB port allows for memory expansion.
Does It Have Enough Apps?
Google says that the Nexus Player offers your favorite apps, but, in my opinion, they’re only half correct. The image above shows the apps that are currently available on the Nexus Player. Looking closely, you’ll notice that although favorites such as Netflix, Crackle, Pandora, Hulu and others are there, it’s noticeably missing a few important ones. For example, there’s no HBO GO, and no sports apps from the networks like ESPN, ABC, CBS, and NBC.
For the quoted price ($100), you can definitely do worse than the Google Nexus Player for Android TV. It’s got a good processor so you won’t have to wait around for apps to load. It’s got a full-featured remote, but it’s got limited connectivity options and anemic memory. As a non-gamer, that really isn’t very important to me, but it would be a deal breaker for my son. Google will address the issue of the missing apps. IF you already have a TV with HDMI input, I’d say it’s a good deal. Obviously, if your TV doesn’t have HDMI, unless you’re also in the market for a new TV, this is a non-starter.