Google had a busy Wednesday. At its I/O Conference for developers in San Francisco, Google unveiled a new Android operating system called "Jelly Bean," a brand-new tablet called the Nexus 7, and even gave a demonstration and pre-order information for its highly anticipated, high-tech headgear, known as Project Glass. But one of the strangest unveilings at I/O was the orb-shaped hub known as the Nexus Q, which was Google's response to the Apple TV.
The Nexus Q looks like a spaceship: Its size and shape is similar to a black billiard ball, but it has a nice color-changing LED ribbon around the middle to give it some flair. But while the modern aesthetic is certainly odd and attention-grabbing, Google says this device is designed to be the hub for all of your Android products in your home.
Like the Apple TV, the Nexus Q is essentially a computer that hooks up to external accessories like TV monitors and speakers to play your movies, TV shows, and music from Google Play. The Nexus Q pulls your content from Google Play simply by tapping the Android device to the Nexus Q, and it has plenty of outputs for streaming music, including optical digital audio, as well as 1080p video for televisions. It can also play videos from YouTube.
The Apple TV can do all of these things, even if it doesn't have as many outputs. The Apple TV only connects to your TV set to play movies, music, TV shows, and other multimedia from third-party applications, and it can all be done on any of your iOS devices nearby. For example, if you were watching a movie on your iPhone, you can instantly beam it to your Apple TV and continue watching where you left off. The same goes for music and TV shows; it all streams seamlessly in full 1080p HD thanks to AirPlay.
So if the Nexus Q can do what an Apple TV does, more or less, why does Google's solution cost $200 more?
Where The Nexus Q Differs From Apple TV
Google calls Nexus Q the "first social-streaming media player made," which is where the comparisons between the Nexus Q and the Apple TV end. Not only can you easily access all of the movies, music, and TV shows stored in your cloud, but any friends that come and visit your house can join in on the action. It's best to think of this feature as Turntable.fm meets Apple TV.
The Nexus Q syncs with Android devices with a single tap, but it can also accommodate many different devices at once. You and your friends can play social playlists with either single songs or entire albums, and your friends can see the queue update in real time and add songs and albums of their own, directly on their Android device.
The important piece to know is that there are many more different Android devices out there than Apple devices. The Apple TV is only accessible with the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The Nexus Q can work with any Android device, either smartphone or tablet, as long as it's running Android 2.3 Gingerbread. In this way, while both are media hubs, the Nexus Q is much more of a social device than the Apple TV.
Nexus Q: Is It Worth $299?
The I/O audience was enthralled by the Nexus Q, but they were not so thrilled with the price. $299?
As mentioned before, you're paying for an Apple TV, and then some, including that cool NFC tapping feature, and the ability to make social playlists for your music and videos. But is it worth it?
If you fall under any of these three categories, you may want to buy a Nexus Q:
You exclusively use Android. This is pretty clear and simple: The Apple TV only works with iOS devices like iPhones, iPads and iPod Touchs; the Nexus Q similarly only works with Android devices. If you own an Android smartphone, and if you plan on possibly buying the new Nexus 7 tablet, you will definitely want the Nexus Q to stream all of your media.
You buy Google Play content often. Google recently added the ability to purchase movies and TV shows from the Google Play store, so now rentals and purchases will show up in your Google Play cloud on your laptop, smartphone, and tablet. If you buy a lot of movies or music on Google Play, or that's just the chosen platform where you keep all your multimedia, the Nexus Q is the right device for you.
You like parties. The value of this device really depends on how often you and your friends sit around a living room taking turns on which music to listen to or what movies to play. But the Nexus Q could be really fun for parties, which are usually governed by just one DJ. Google wants you to be more open in sharing your content with your friends, so with the Nexus Q, your friends can take turns playing music from their Android smartphones and tablets.
Even though the Nexus Q is a slight improvement over the $99 Apple TV, it is considerably more social. But it's only social if you and your friends use Android; otherwise, $300 is pretty hefty for hardware that simply plays Turntable.fm.