If you think the tablet space is getting crowded, take a look at all those smart TV gadgets out there.
Today we have Apple TV, Boxee, Roku, and a slew of so-called “Smart TVs” with apps and streaming services built in. Then there are streaming home entertainment systems like the popular Sonos players.
So with all the competition out there, it’s a bit odd that Google is getting into the streaming business with the Nexus Q, especially considering that it already has Google TV.
The Nexus Q is a $299 spherical gadget that hooks up to your TV and streams music or video from the Google Play online store. There’s no interface like you get on the Apple TV or Google TV. Instead, you control everything from an app on your Android phone or tablet. Unlike Apple’s Airplay, content doesn’t stream to your TV from your device, but directly from Google’s servers. Your ‘droid is just the controller.
The Nexus Q is a gorgeous-looking piece of hardware. It has a pleasing, spherical shape with a flat bottom so you can stack it on your entertainment centre. There’s thin LED band that circles the device. The lights react to the music your playing, splaying trippy colours around your living room. Pretty cool.
It’s also surprisingly heavy for such a small device. Google packed a full Android-powered computer in the Nexus Q, so there are a lot of powerful guts inside. Hidden in the back are ports for Micro HDMI, Optical audio, Ethernet, Micro USB, and banana jacks for stereo systems.
The whole package really is impressive, and it’s a nice departure from all those squarish devices clogging my entertainment centre.
Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider
With the Nexus Q, the user experience is more about what you can’t do than what you can.
For example, you can’t:
- Stream music from other services like Spotify or Rdio.
- Play videos on your Android device that come from outside the Google Play store.
- Stream video from third-party video services like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO GO.
- Play your own music files unless you upload them to Google Music first.
So I found it very annoying that a device that costs about three times as much as the competition underperforms in every category possible. Unless all your digital content comes from Google Play, the Nexus Q is next to useless. (And chances are you don’t have much content from Google since the Play store only recently added a broader selection of music, movies, and TV shows.)
When you want to play a video on the Nexus Q, you have to get it started on your Android device first. Then you tap a “Play” icon in the top right corner to tell Google to send the video to your Nexus Q. It takes forever. I often had to wait up to 30 seconds for a video to finally appear on my TV. Music was a bit faster, but overall it’s nowhere as seamless as Apple’s AirPlay.
Once you do get a video up and running, the experience is awful. The Nexus 7 tablet I reviewed came with a free copy of the new Transformers movie. I couldn’t even get the Nexus Q to load the video. After staring at the “loading” animation for several minutes, I just gave up. I was able to get a National Geographic show running, but it was almost unwatchable. Video quality was nowhere near as good as what I get on my Apple TV or Boxee and the stream would stop and restart every few seconds.
Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider
I do like how the Nexus Q integrates with YouTube. Google just released a new version of the YouTube app for Android that makes it a lot easier to share and watch your favourite channels. I didn’t have any problems getting YouTube videos to load on the Nexus Q like I did with Google Play videos. It’s a handy feature, but hardly a redeeming one.
Should You Buy It?
I can’t think of one good reason to buy the Nexus Q. There are so many better, more affordable options like the Apple TV ($99), Roku (starts at $79), and Boxee Box ($179) out there.