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Ideally, every set-top box would have access to every streaming service, game library (both iOS and Android) and music collection. Sadly, this is not a perfect world.
Google, however, made the best of the situation with the Nexus Player. It gets full marks for its simplistic, it'll-fit-anywhere design and sharp-looking interface. It does a decent job of putting the right specs in while keeping cost down and making a complementary platform for Android 5.0 Lollipop. But, unfortunately, it takes a huge loss when it comes to the level of service on offer.
The biggest issue we had with the UK version of the Nexus Player is that it doesn't make enough of a case for buying it ahead of cheaper options like Chromecast and the Amazon Firestick, and at its price point it feels less powerful (and less functional) than the Amazon Fire TV. The tie-in to your Google accounts is nice, but it's not enough to compete with its peers or justify the extra outlay on the cheap streamers.
The Nexus Player is the first device in what is sure to be a successful line of Android TVs. The OS is smart, functional and fast, even on lower-end hardware. Its interface, full of curated and recommended content, feels like a tailor-made system. Plus, when you run out of content to watch, or feel the urge to stream from a laptop or tablet, pushing the Google Cast button brings whatever content you were viewing on your mobile device to the big screen.
If you're buying it as a gift for someone less technologically oriented than you, make sure you let them know about the search feature located on the remote. It not only saves a serious amount of time zipping from one tile to the next on your own, it's a pretty neat party trick as well. Everything on the remote feels necessary and works cohesively to make an overall painless viewing experience.
While the design is aesthetically pleasing, it's not the most functional. For example, why on a system that desperately needs a consistent connection to the internet, would you not have an ethernet port? It is, without a doubt, a bit of a miss. And, while it's not directly Google's fault, the inability to display content from iPlayer and Amazon Instant Video starves the system's already barebone streaming options.
Picking a single, trite idiom, the Nexus Player's biggest problem is "too little, too late." It's the last horse to show up for the set-top box derby and it came in with the least amount of content. Now, that's something that could change quickly if Google chooses to invest the time and money to get the platform off the ground but, if I had to bet, I'd wager that it won't be a problem the Mountain View company will fix until the next iteration of Android TV.
It's hard to recommend the Nexus Player as a purchase. If you want a great, powerful and slick box that can also play games (and you don't mind forking out for Amazon Prime) then the Fire TV is better at a similar price point, if you want great Google-tied functionality then it's not enough better than the Chromecast which is half the price. There's plenty of potential here, but until that is realised then other options remains a better choice.