Why does Google’s Nexus Player exist?
When the company unveiled its the hockey-puck-shaped device — the first piece of hardware to run Android TV — there was some confusion. Google had tried, several times, to introduce a way to get its software into the living room. Google TV. The Nexus Q. And the latest, best streaming-to-your-TV product, Chromecast.
Chromecast was brilliant: it shrunk the streaming box down to the size of a dongle, it used your phone as the remote control, and it was cheap.
The Nexus Player, which costs $99, does none of those things
It marks a return to the box by the company that sparked the era of the dongle
It marks a return to the box by the company that sparked the era of the dongle. Yes, Android TV technically does everything Chromecast does and more, but the software isn’t about blowing up your phone apps onto a big TV screen. It’s all about re-imagining the entire Android experience for a television.
For starters, the device has its own remote control, and the user interface puts your TV-friendly Android apps — think Netflix, Hulu and games — into onscreen tiles. There’s also an optional game controller for $39.99.
The Nexus Player does a fine job running streaming apps, but the secret sauce here is Google software — specifically, your profile information, which the Nexus Player will use to surface your most recently viewed content. Your favorite game, the show on Netflix you’re binge-watching and your favorite video apps will all appear front and center on Android TV.
I was most impressed with the remote’s voice search. When I asked it who starred in Arrow, it correctly called up the cast of the CW’s superhero show, and a query about David Letterman’s first late-night talkshow correctly identified “Late Night” and not “Late Show.”
Google’s Nexus Player has its work cut out for it if it hopes to challenge Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV, and it doesn’t help that the existence of Chromecast confuses things. But its purpose will become rapidly clear to anyone on Android: Putting your favorite “consumption” apps on your TV — while letting you keep the phone in your pocket.
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