HTC and Motorola may have been tapped to make Google’s new mobile Nexus devices, but Nexus 7 veteran Asus wasn’t given the cold shoulder: It’s making the Nexus Player, a puck-like set-top box that signals Google’s renewed assault on the living room with Android TV.
And good news: At first glance, the Nexus Player certainly looks less quirky and far more functional than Google’s disastrous Nexus Q project or that handful of dead Google TV devices—though its announcement comes just a day before Apple is expected to possibly announce a revamped Apple TV of its own. The battle for your boob tube is warming up.
Android all up in your living room
Android TV is Google’s OS reimagined for the living room, with a simplified, elegant 10-foot interface and a focus on streaming. Numerous video and music streaming apps—including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vevo, Plex, YouTube, and more—are already available for the device. Beyond that, the Nexus Player will offer personalized viewing recommendations on your home screen, and any Google Play videos you watch on your TV will sync across all your Android devices, so that you can keep watching your movie on your phone or tablet if you’d like.
An included remote offers voice-recognition capabilities, so you can search for content using natural speech. Android TV is also compatible with Google’s Casting technology and you can cast videos and movies to the Nexus Player, just like you would with a Chromecast.
But Android TV isn’t all about TV, despite its name. Gaming is a focus for Google, and the Nexus Player will sync your achievements and progress across devices for supported games, as well as offer free multiplayer in supported titles via the Google Play Games backend service. The Nexus Player is powered by an Intel Atom chip rather than an ARM processor, which power the vast majority of Android devices; maybe the extra oomph is needed for games?
Connectivity-wise, the Nexus Player includes an HDMI-out port and support for blazing-fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The GamePad for Nexus Player will be a separate purchase, similarly to how Amazon handles the Fire TV’s gaming capabilities.
Google’s keeping mum on the Nexus Player’s price for now, but preorders will open October 17, with the first devices slated to ship on November 3.
The story behind the story
For all the talk about how much time we use our mobile devices, people spend a vast amount of time sitting in front of the television. Despite the rise of streaming services like Netflix and YouTube, no over-the-top box has truly grabbed a stranglehold on the living room—Roku and Apple TV are doing well, but they're far from dominant forces. Tech giants are slugging it out in a bid to capture those eyeballs, with the Nexus Player squaring off against Microsoft's Xbox One, Sony's PlayStation 4, Google's own $35 Chromecast dongle, Amazon's Fire TV, the aforementioned Roku and Apple TV, and many, many more.
Will this be the device that finally cracks the nut? Who knows—but it certainly looks more poised for success (and less frustrating to use) than any of Google's previous attempts to land in your living room.