Google wowed attendees at the Google IO 2012 conference when they announced the Google Nexus Q media streaming device.
Seeing that multi-screen options for experiencing media are all the rage this year, it should really come as no surprise that Google too, was eager to jump on the bandwagon.
But how does the Nexus Q compare to other options out there? Google was nice enough to send us home with the device and we spent the past week beating up on the little sphere that could.
Keep it simple
The interesting thing about the Nexus Q is its relative simplicity. We plugged the device via HDMI into our television, connected it via an ethernet cable, downloaded the Nexus Q app to our Android 4.1 Jelly Bean-powered Nexus 7 tablet and fired up the app. Within minutes we were up and running.
As we mentioned before, the Nexus Q is an extremely simple device. And here is where criticisms will no doubt be raised.
We were easily able to stream music from our Nexus 7 tablet to the Nexus Q as well as YouTube. Things got a little dicey however, when we streamed video content.
YouTube videos looked like, well, YouTube videos. When we streamed video that looked perfectly fine on the Nexus 7 tablet to the Nexus Q, image quality dropped off precipitously. Google ships the Nexus 7 with "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and while the movie looked great on the device itself, there were some artifacts visible when we streamed the movie to our 70-inch Sharp Aquos HDTV. Of course, the Nexus Q works by streaming the content NOT from the device itself but by streaming it from the Google Play store. An interesting choice to say the least.
While at Google IO 2012 we were super-excited about the Nexus Q. At home we all use myriad services to consume media, from Hulu Plus and Netflix to Xfinity and MLB.tv. Imagine our disappointment upon getting the Nexus Q up and running only to realize that the thing only works with Google products like Google Play and Google music. Simply put, if you use services like Hulu Plus, Netflix, Xfinity and MLB.tv the Nexus Q will be just another neat-looking paperweight. Of course Google designed the Nexus Q for "hack-ability" so here's hoping that down the line an update will enable third-party services.
Additionally, the Nexus Q lacks a standard UI as you have to have an Android 4.1 Jelly Bean device like the Nexus 7 or an Android phone to control it.
An upside to the Nexus Q, according to Google is the device's social aspect. Simply put, multiple users can interact with the same device.
After a bit of wrangling we were able to utilize this function. We started "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" on the Nexus 7 tablet and then interrupted it by playing music that we were controlling on our Galaxy Nexus S mobile phone running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. We can definitely see how this feature would be great in party situations where revelers tend to "fight for the iPod." Of course, this may also be something that turns people off. Can you imagine you're happily bumping DMX only to have another partygoer interrupt that with Justin Bieber?
Google is obviously taking shots at Apple and their iOS and Apple TV solution. That said, the Nexus Q is a whopping $299 (through the Google Play store).That's a lot to pay for a device that essentially does less than competing solutions. Right now TechRadar is hard pressed to see any reason why a regular user would plunk down that much money for a device that does...well...so little. Currently, there are so many other devices that do exactly what you'd expect the Nexus Q to do, stream the media content that you currently consume, for much less money.