By Jonathan Charles | Jun 29, 2012 11:11 AM EDT
Google announced the "Nexus Q," a streaming device that links to Google Play and is controlled by an Android-based device, at the opening of its I/O conference June 27. The service definitely draws comparisons to Apple TV, but is ultimately a more simple device, so here are the details.
The Nexus Q is a spherical device that includes micro-USB, optical out and HDMI. Pairing the Q with Android devices running Android 2.3 and above, an app can be installed from Google Play. It signs into a user's Google account because content is streamed from the Google Play cloud, not from the device itself (unlike Apple TV).
It will then boot up on the television, and opening up any of the apps - Music, for example - streams it to the TV. By default it streams locally, but hitting a button at the top streams music onto the TV in a playlist mode that's probably more suited to a party environment or wanting to play music in the background while multitasking. Volume can be adjusted via the Android device.
Songs can be reordered, or removed, and friends can set a song to play next. Again, great for the party environment. It's also possible to put an entire album of songs onto the Q, and tracks can be selected individually to override what's playing.
Video can be streamed, but HD video has issues with stuttering and lag (surprising considering Google builds YouTube). Again audio can be controlled from the device or from the television. In its hands-on, The Verge started up an episode of The Walking Dead and it stuttered within around 20 seconds of the opening scene. That's on a 30Mbps connection.
Of course YouTube videos can be streamed, which works in the same way as TV shows.
The Nexus Q includes 16GB and 32GB of storage, and will be available from July 2012. The device is available for pre-order in the U.S. only. It's not as full featured as the Apple TV - there's no interface to manage and buy content - so for $299, plus an extra $399 for the speakers and $49 for two speaker cables, the price eclipses the Apple TV's $99. It's probably worth waiting to see what users hack into the device.
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