In addition to launching the Nexus 9 tablet and the Nexus 6 smartphone on Wednesday, Google also finally introduced its set-top-box, the Nexus Player. As previously predicted, it doubles as a media player as well as an Android game console, allowing customers to rent or purchase video content and enjoy the best of what Google Play has to offer in the gaming department.
So what's under the hood? The specs reveal an Intel Atom quad-core processor clocked at 1.8 GHz, the Imagination PowerVR Series 6 Graphics 2D/3D Engine, 1 GB of memory, and 8 GB of internal storage. There's also dual-band Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity, an HDMI port (1920 x 1080 @ 60 Hz), and a microUSB 2.0 port. This is also the very first device to sport Android TV.
The bad news here is that the device doesn't provide a microSD card slot. Android customers know that 8 GB isn't a whole lot of space, as the operating system itself takes about 2 GB. That limits the number of high-definition games that can be locally installed, such as titles from Gameloft (N.O.V.A., Modern Combat, etc).
The big selling point with the Nexus Player seems to be its remote control. The device isn't cluttered with a plethora of buttons, but rather just four: Play/Pause, Back, Start and Search. Hit that last button, and you can use voice search to find a movie, TV show or other content.
"Nexus Player is Google Cast Ready so you can cast your favorite entertainment from almost any Chromebook or Android or iOS phone or tablet to your TV," said Sundar Pichai
Another big selling point is in its games library. This is where the Nexus Player outranks the OUYA and Amazon's own Fire TV set-top box. Oh sure, Amazon has Android games, but they're usually listed long after they've appeared on Google Play... if at all. The OUYA console doesn't even officially have Netflix, let alone most of the blockbuster games that can be purchased on Google Play.
According to the Nexus Player listing, owners will have access to Netflix, TuneIn Radio, PBS Kids, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Crackle, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Goggle Games, Google Movies & TV, Google Music and loads more. Already have a Google phone or tablet? Then this set-top-box is definitely for you.
Google also revealed on Wednesday a new controller that works with the set-top-box. The device is a standard issue console controller, packed with two analog sticks; the D-pad; the ABXY buttons; shoulder buttons; and dedicated buttons for power, Start and Back. This controller, along with the Nexus Player, is manufactured by Asus, the company who built the two Nexus 7 tablets.
The beauty of this setup is that gamers can start a session on the Nexus Player, and pick up where they left off on a tablet or smartphone (and vice versa). Presumably, the same holds true when watching a movie or TV show episode. Plus, there's no more having to tether the smartphone or tablet to an HDTV via an HDMI cable to play games and watch media on a big screen; the set-top-box is already connected.
So what does this box mean for Android gamers? At a glance, the Nexus Player will be just another micro-console out on the market. However, what will hurt competition is the Google branding, as well as the fact that this device comes straight from the search engine giant and not through a Kickstarter project or a third-party peripheral maker.
All that said, Google has just made your Android life a lot easier -- and a lot bigger -- with the launch of this set-top-box. Google will start taking preorders on October 17, costing customers $99.99 for the box and remote and an extra $39.99 for the game controller.