The Nexus Q is Google’s answer to the Android@Home question it asked at last year’s I/O conference. The first-ever Google designed and built consumer product is a small, Android-powered computer that Google says is “something unexpected, powerful and mysterious.” Right. What they’ve actually created is a device that connects to a user’s media stored in the cloud, and pulls it down to their TV or speaker system.
The Nexus Q is powered by a TI OMAP dual-core processor, the same one found inside the Galaxy Nexus, and features an “audiophile-grade amplifier” with 25 watts of power. Also on board are optical digital audio, micro HDMI capable of 1080p output, micro USB, dual band WiFi, an ethernet port, NFC and Bluetooth.
It’s an always-connected device, integrating directly with Google Play to instantly stream music and videos from the cloud. It’s controlled via an Android phone or tablet, but they don’t directly control the Q — instead, they control the content it accesses in the cloud. This means that multiple devices can control the same Q, enabling what Google calls social streaming. The owner can connect with the device, and load their own playlist of music from their Google Play content, and then their friends can use their devices to add their music into the mix. Every device can see the playlist, adding to it and changing playback order, as well as starting and stopping whatever song is currently playing. It’s a “cloud connected jukebox,” apparently. Users can select from multiple devices in the same house, playing one song in the living room, and another in the kitchen, or both devices and music playback will occur instantly and simultaneously on both Qs. Any connected TV will display a visualizer, and the Q itself features a pulsating LED ring that will light up and change color when it’s in use.
Videos can also be played, with users again choosing a film or TV show in their Google Play catalogue to be streamed instantly to the Q. It also works with YouTube, so if one person mentions a funny cat video they watched last night, they can pick up their phone or tablet, and instantly share it from the YouTube app with the Q, making it available for everyone to enjoy on a TV. No more crowding round a laptop or tablet to enjoy a funny cat video.
All told, it’s a very slick device, offering a level of ease and interactivity that many other such devices are missing.
But here comes the main problem with the Q — price. At $299, it’s vastly more expensive than similar devices such as the Roku box ($49.99) or even Apple’s TV device ($99).
Of course, there will be those who jump on it just for the level of ease it offers — instant on-demand streaming from Google’s vast array of content, as well as the social functions it employs. Google has undoubtedly created a high-quality, useful device. How many actually buy it, however, is another question entirely.
The Nexus Q is available for pre-order now, with shipping expected in July.
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