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Eye on Demand | July 26, 2017

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Nexus Player Review

Nexus Player Review

Review Overview

Value For Money
6
User Interface
6
Availability And Quality Of Services
3
5

Huge potential, just not there yet...

Google really made a mess with their previous attempts at a streaming set-top-box. Google TV was a complete failure whichever incarnation you looked at, whilst the Nexus Q was little more than a raw Kohlrabi attached to a television. But with the new “Android TV”, have they finally got it right? We look at the Nexus Player from Asus & Google and decide for ourselves.

It’s not often we start a review at Eye on-Demand with everything that was previously wrong with a product, but it is incredibly difficult not to with Google’s earlier set-top-boxes. To put it in a nutshell, they were so bad we couldn’t spare the time to test them for review. But things turned around enormously for the giant global conglomerate when they released the amazing little Chromecast. This cheap HDMI dongle shook the IPTV world with their new $35 AirPlay competitor, but if there was one thing we never really got used to, that was the complete lack of a UI.

So up to the plate steps in the Android TV, which combines a Chromecast device with a full set-top-box UI – the best of both worlds! Or at least it has potential to be.

For all intents and purposes, the Android TV is first and foremost an STB designed to compete with the Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV box. It fits in a similar sized footprint (if uniquely round), hovers at approximately the same price (US$100 ± a tenner) and does effectively the same thing. The biggest problem it has right now is its name.

Long before Google launched their “Android TV”, plenty of Android TVs already existed. They were labelled as such because they a) operated on Android and b) connected to a TV. They were not (and still not) blessed by Google however. We’ve even got a a couple of reviews here, in both the Favi Smart Stick and Minix Box.

Although these devices indeed run off Android, it is the very same Android and apps that were designed first and foremost for a small handheld touch-screen device, and not a set-top-box in a 10-foot environment – and it really shows. The user interface on these 3rd party Android TV boxes are for the most part horrid. This is not Android’s fault, but the simple fact that the OS was never designed for a STB anyway, and neither for that matter were the apps on it.

Google’s own Android TV on the other hand was made for a 10-foot experience and the apps that come with it are built with the sofa in mind. The problem is, a great deal of any search on the Internet mixes results from both sources and it is incredibly difficult to know which platform is the official Android TV.

Although Google’s Android TV will be available on a myriad of devices including not only STBs, but baked directly into TVs as well, we’ll concentrate on the name of the hardware itself. In this case, the Nexus Player by Asus.

 

  • Physical

    The Nexus Player looks a bit like a Nexus Q that was sat on, or effectively an oversized hockey puck. On the surface the base unit looks pretty flash, with a well crafted, high quality finish in complete contrast to the cheap-feeling remote. Which is a pity since most people will no doubt find themselves handling the remote far more than the STB itself.

    Measuring 120mm by 20mm, there shouldn’t be any serious problems finding a space for the device in your television cabinet. Especially as the remote uses bluetooth, there is no real need for line-of-sight. But sadly there is no way to mount this directly behind a television – this would be handy for those with wall hanging TVs.

    nexus-player-dimensions

    The remote for the most part, looks not to dissimilar to the Amazon Fire TV box’s remote, but not quite up to the same level of quality. This is not to say it handles like the AFTV Stick’s remote, which is so bad Amazon should have paid us to hold it, but it won’t win any awards either.

    As mentioned, it’s a bluetooth remote, which means that on the positive side, you don’t need line-of-sight, but on the negative, only the more expensive universal remotes can replace it.

    Included on the remote is a microphone to help with searching for content. It sort of works, but is rather limited in what results are delivered – and that’s about it. There aren’t a lot of controls on the remote, with only a play/pause, select, d-pad, back, and the mysteriously labelled circle button (which actually should just say Home).

    As for ports, the Nexus Player is somewhat more spartan than the competition. Missing, and sure to be a major issue with many people are both an Ethernet port and digital audio out. Although we haven’t experienced any major Wi-Fi issues (our access point is only a couple of meters away from the puck) I’m pretty sure some others won’t be so lucky. That said, with the latest routers and the box’s own 802.11 ac WiFi 2×2 MIMO WiFi support, it may be more of a fear of what could go wrong rather than reality.

    Ports

    What you do get is an HDMI port, a Micro USB port (more on that later) and a power socket that connects to a 12V, 1.5A global power supply (100-240v) – although it will supply prongs only for the country it was purchased in.

    That Micro USB port presents a few interesting options. For a start, it can be used for additional storage, although no file system app is currently available (you’ll have to sideload one in). But you could also use this for a USB mouse, USB keyboard, and technically speaking, a USB Ethernet adaptor. None of this seems to be officially supported by Asus, but at the moment they seem to work.

    In addition, a gamepad can also be purchased as an optional extra, but as we are concentrating on the streaming side of this device for the review, we won’t dwell into it – other than saying we were disappointed that the Nexus Player couldn’t just use an Xbox or PlayStation controller instead.

    Controller

     

     

  • US Services

    There was a time when the Apple TV was critisized for having the fewest useful apps of all the television STBs, but nothing quite compares to the lack of apps that the Nexus Player natively supports (at the time of publication).

    We counted a total of three worthwhile streaming apps, which at first we thought there must be a mistake. Surely, there must be more useful streaming apps available than just three? After-all, the Nexus Player has been around for a few months now.

    At the time of publication, the only major streaming television apps available was Netflix, Hulu Plus and Crackle. Granted, there are a few other pointless ones, but apps like Bloomberg TV are just not as exciting as HBO Now. What we would have liked to see are also HBO Go (and HBO Now for that matter after Apple’s exclusivity) Amazon Prime, Sling TV, A&E, History, Lifetime and catch-up apps from PBS, NBC, ABC, FOX as well as CBS All Access just to name a few.

    Considering also that this is an Android device, and porting over Android apps from alternative platforms should be a breeze, it remains rather surprising that so few apps have been released.

    Below is a list of entertainment apps that were promoted by Google at the time of publication. As you can see, there’s not much to get terribly excited about.

    Nexus US

     

  • UK Services

    If you were pretty disappointed with the range of US apps available, you won’t be any happier with the UK line-up either. In fact, if it is possible to find a UK set-top-box with fewer worthwhile on-demand or catchup TV apps, I haven’t seen one yet.

    The Apple TV is pretty poorly represented in the UK, but at least you get Now TV along with Netflix. Here, you get no real UK-based services at all. No Now TV, no Demand 5, no All 4, no ITV Player and not even the BBC iPlayer. The BBC iPlayer is on pretty much every device, but not on the Nexus Player.

    That said, you can get France 24. But then, no BBC News. Thankfully there is at least Sky News, so a tiny bit of UK representation is visible.

    Dramafever is there, but really, what we want are the four main free catch-up services and Now TV, along with TVPlayer, Amazon Prime and possibly Sky Go (but that last two are probably unlikely).

    Below is a list of UK entertainment apps Google were promoting at the time of publication. It goes without saying they have inflated the list a bit by showing the Google Play Store (which you would only use to get hold of the apps in the first place) and other Google apps such as Music and Games.

    Nexus UK

     

  • Additional Services

    The Nexus Player is also available in Canada, Japan, France and Germany, with more countries likely to arrive soon.

    This means the range of apps will be growing over time, and making this device especially interesting for Smart DNS users.

    Noteworthy apps from other countries include MyTV1 from France, ARD and ZDF from Germany, along with Zattoo.

    Zattoo especially raises an eyebrow here at Eye on-Demand, as we love this service to access great quality live UK television feeds, including all the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5 channels. Unfortunately, until the service reaches Switzerland, it is unlikely that it will offer the amazing Zattoo Recall and Recording features mentioned in our review. But being a Nexus Player, this can easily be remedied first by the official method (using Google Cast), or the unofficial method via sideloading.

    Both France and Germany have Netflix, but Germany is also missing Watchever, Maxdome and Amazon Prime as well. (It should be pointed out that Amazon are playing all propriety on us at the moment, as they seem to have halted apps to 3rd party devices so they can push their own AFTV platform.)

     

     

  • Google Cast

    As mentioned in the services tabs, one potential killer feature of the Nexus Player box, is that fact they throw in a free Chromecast as well. Here, it’s called Google Cast, but effectively it works the same way. If you have an app or service that provides a chromecasting option, in most cases you can cast to the Nexus Player and it will operate in essentially the same way.

    What is Google Cast?

    Some people like to compare it to Apple’s AirPlay, which although it may appear to be similar at first, it is in fact entirely different. Google Cast (and Chromecast for that matter) uses your mobile phone, tablet or Chrome web browser as the controlling device for online content.

    This means you can use normal iOS or Android apps for IPTV content, and have it playback on your TV.

    Although control is from the mobile device, the actual stream will originate from the Nexus Player, so you can use the mobile device for other tasks, switch it off, or even remove it from the network.

    As it is relatively easy to mix apps from multiple countries onto a single mobile device (especially the iPhone or iPad), when combined with a Smart DNS service, it can make a great way to get a pile of additional apps working on your main TV. Just because the app isn’t yet available directly on the Nexus Player, doesn’t mean it can’t be accessed via Google Cast.

    As another additional bonus to the Nexus Player’s possible attributes, it seems that Google have not hardwired their own DNS servers into the box. If you don’t intend to watch content from other countries you can skip this part, but one of the problems with the Chromecast device is that Google force their own DNS servers, making it impossible to use Smart DNS to unblock global content unless some static routes are set up on the router – a task which although not terribly hard, can be above the technical ability of many people, and even impossible on some home routers.

    I’m still testing this out if it really is the case that Google have not forced their own DNS servers onto Nexus Player customers, so please let me know of your success or failure here. 

    I’ve currently had success with the following apps via Google Cast to the Nexus Player, using OverPlay’s Smart DNS for unblocking any regional restrictions. All tests were done without any static routes configured on my router: (the list below is far from exhaustive).

    • BBC iplayer (UK)
    • FilmOn (UK)
    • Zattoo (For UK television)
    • Hulu Plus (US)
    • Netflix (Global)
    • Watch ABC (US)
    • Crackle (US)
    • ABC iView (AU)
    • Plex (Global)

    Apps that support Chromecasting as promoted by Google include:

    Chromecast UK

     

  • Sideloading Android Apps

    Some of you may be wondering if it’s possible to install mobile Android apps onto the Nexus Player, and the answer is yes. This is called sideloading, and it allows non-official Android apps, such as those designed for mobile phones, to be installed on the set-top box.

    Why would anyone want to do this? Well, with so few apps officially supported, it may be a way to get a pile of other apps that would otherwise be denied.

    On the other hand, it should be pointed out that just because the app on your phone was created for Android, doesn’t mean it will work well on a set-top-box. A touch-sensitive mobile screen is very different to the 10-foot interface required for watching on a TV whilst sitting on a sofa. Few mobile apps work well when translated across to an STB and some don’t work at all, with video quality often lower as they were designed for smaller screens.

    In order to help decide whether you actually want to sideload an Android app to the Nexus Player, ask yourself the following questions: (If the answer is yes to any point, you won’t need to sideload)

    1. Does the Nexus Player provide a native version of the app that you require?
    2. If not, is there a version of this native app available in another region (The Nexus Player is currently available in the US, UK, Germany, France, Canada and Japan).
    3. If not, is there a mobile or desktop app that supports full, native Google Cast (Chromecast?).
    4. Do you really need this app?
    5. Do you really, really need this app?
    6. Consider sideloading.

    If you just have to do it, our recommendation is to use a wireless mouse. Even the cheapest will make life easier and less painful.

    If you are interested in side loading apps to your Nexus Player, there are plenty of guides over on the Internet. Some work well, others don’t. But we’ll be adding our own guide here very soon, so watch this space.

     

  • User Interface

    The UI seems clearly designed to push people towards Google’s content, which wouldn’t be so bad if there were a few more apps. In all fairness, the Apple TV also gears towards iTunes with the Amazon Fire TV pointing people towards Prime and Instant Video content. It just looks a little more cluttered and forceful here on the Nexus Player.

    Under Google’s cluttered line of YouTube and Google Play posters lies the selection of installed apps – which may not be in the order you would like. There is no way to manually reorder the apps, but the more you use one, the further left it should end up – but only to a point as there are certain bloatware apps that will always be in front. (Namely Google apps)

    Underneath that is the refreshingly spartan Settings button, which once clicked, reminds you very much that you are in the chaotic world of Android, where you can control certain aspects of things called the Activity Stub, Basic Daydreams, BugReporterSender, Certificate Installer, Canvas Cloud Services, com.android.shreds…, com.intel.thermal, ConfigUpdater, Fused Location and plenty more…

    If the above exploded your brain, welcome to the club. It seems to me there are a lot of things that can go wrong here. Still, as long as the little inquisitive ones in your household keeps their sticky fingers well clear of the Settings button, things shouldn’t get too stuffed up.

    Like the Amazon Fire TV (and now even the Roku 3 box), the Nexus Player supports voice-search via the supplied remote control. In theory, this has huge potential. After all, typing in “Thought provoking movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger” or “films starring Anna Maria Francesca Enriquez Perez de Tagle” can be a little tiring after a while, and I had become rather fond of the AFTV’s voice search. So how well does it actually work.

    • Searching for “Arnold Schwarzenegger movies” originally was heard as “the good movies”, but by the third attempt it did indeed provide a list of films for the Austrian import. Unfortunately, all I could do with the results was watch a trailer or read some reviews – it didn’t actually link me to anything useful.
    • Wondering what would happen if I searched for an Amazon title, I asked for “Transparent”, of which it delivered “Jared”
    • Searching for Game of Cards” brought up “Thermal Tights” – seriously, is my accent so difficult to understand?
    • Considering that Netflix was installed, I also asked for “Orange Is The New Black” which it understood correctly, and directed me not to Netflix, but trailers on Google’s owned YouTube.

    Results will be affected by your accent and geographic location, and if you reside in a country which doesn’t market the Nexus Player, voice-search will deliver fewer results. Generally speaking though, I had far more luck with the AFTV version.

    UI Pros:

    • Commonly used apps are easily reached.
    • Ability to mix apps from different regions on the single hub. (Requires Smart DNS)

    UI Cons:

    • Cluttered.
    • Settings can be complex and a muddle of Android configurations.
    • Voice search seemed as good as useless for me.

    Signing up once the device was unboxed had to be one of the most complicated affairs I have ever had to go through on streaming set-top-boxes. I needed two user accounts, plus passwords as well as SMS authentication. Half of it was performed on nothing more than an on-screen webpage, and it took ages for the service to accept my passwords. I know security is an important thing, but this really is taking the piss.

  • Combining Regional Apps

    To be honest, this is one of the greatest advantages of the Nexus Player over many other devices. There are surprisingly not a lot of other devices that allow apps from multiple regions to live happily together on the same hub, mainly because this won’t work for most customers unless they use a Smart DNS service.

    But it is possible for the Nexus Player, though it is just a pity that at the time of publication, there really are not many apps worth installing.

    On the plus side, the hack to do this is one of the easiest of them all (despite the 11 steps shown here). There is no messing around with accounts as required on the Amazon Fire TV, and no telnetting into a hacked TV like the Samsung Smart TVs ask for. Granted, the Xbox One and PlayStation are even easier in regards to mixing apps from different regions, but they do cost a lot more money.

    The catch: You will require a VPN to the country you wish to install other apps from. You only need a VPN to install the apps, and it must connect to a server in the country where you want the Google Store to be located.

    There are a few VPN services around, but two we’ve tested are from OverPlay or IPVanish. The advantage of OverPlay is that they offer a VPN+Smart DNS service in the same package, IPVanish however offer more comprehensive software as they are a service that concentrates on VPNs only. Both of them offer an enormous range of servers most likely in the country you want.

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”18067″]

     

     

    We’re working on different guides to show alternative ways on how to add apps from different regions to the Nexus Player, but the moment, the first one uses a Mac as a VPN wireless access point (as this is one of the easiest methods). We’re looking at a way to do this entirely on the desktop, and that guide should come soon.

    What you require (For the Mac method):
    • A Nexus Player.
    • A Mac with both WiFi and Ethernet access.
    • A VPN service that provides access to the country’s Google App store that you wish.

     

    Step 1.

    Switch off your Wi-Fi connection, and connect your Apple computer to the Internet via an Ethernet cable. Generally speaking, this just requires a direct cabled connection from your Mac to your router without any configuration.

     

    Step 2.

    Switch on your iMac’s Wi-Fi by clicking the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar.

    Step 2

     

     

     

     

     

    Step 3.

    Next, either manually select your VPN or fire up your chosen VPN software to open a VPN tunnel to the country of your choice. In this example, I have used IPVanish simply because I really love their new iOS app.

    Step 3

     

     Step 4.

    Select the VPN and connect. (Make sure you choose an L2TP connection – this can often be selected in the Settings).

    Step 4

     

    Step 5.

    Now open the Sharing panel in the iMac’s System Preferences. Make sure the “Share your connection from” option is set to the VPN service you will be using – here I set it to IPVanish (L2TP), and that the “To computers using” radio button is checked for “Wi-Fi”. (Your Nexus Player will connect by Wi-Fi to your iMac, and then via VPN and the Ethernet port to the Internet). Once this is done, click the Wi-Fi Options button.

    Step 5

     

    Step 6.

    Here you can set a Network Name (this is what you will see on the Nexus Player when you want to choose this network), Security to WPA2 Personal, and a password (which you will type in on the Nexus Player to connect to this network). Technically, you don’t have to set any security here, but it is highly recommended.

    Step 6

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Step 7.

    Now click on Internet Sharing, and then Start when prompted.

    Step 7

    If everything worked correctly, you should now see an upward’s pointing arrow where the Wi-Fi icon was on your menu bar. This means your computer is now sharing the Internet to anyone who can connect via Wi-Fi. (Tip: Sometimes if things go wrong, it helps to reboot the Mac and try again from the beginning)

    Step 7b

     

     

     

     

    Step 8.

    Now, on the Nexus Player, scroll down and select the Network options.

    Step 8

     

     

    Step 9.

    Select the new Wi-Fi network you just created instead of your normal one.

    Step 9

     

     

    Step 10.

    Once connected, your Nexus Player should be connecting to the Internet via the VPN configured on your Mac. However, if you visit the Google Play Store, the cache may still take you to your old region’s store. So, you must clear the cache. This can be done by rebooting the Nexus Player, but you may have to reconnect to the new Wi-Fi Network. Otherwise clear the cache using the following method:

    Go to Settings >> Device >> Apps >> System Apps >> Google Play Store.

    Step 10

     

     

    Step 11.

    You now want to clear the Data, Cache and Defaults before finally pressing the Open button.

    Step 11

     

     

    Step 12.

    Download any of the apps that you want from this country’s store, and then make sure you normalise everything afterwards.

    1. First turn off Sharing.
    2. Then switch off the VPN.
    3. Return your Nexus Player to the previous Wi-Fi network if it doesn’t automatically.
    4. Finally, return your Mac to its normal network situation (whether that is by Ethernet or Wi-Fi).

    You will have to repeat all these steps for each region you want to add apps from, but once they are installed, they should all sit together in the main menu.

    Of course, regionally restricted apps may require a good VPN or Smart DNS to access them. We recommend Smart DNS as that handles multiple regions much easier than VPNs do.

     

     

  • Compared To…

    There are a lot of good streaming set-top-boxes out there right now, so comparing to every one would be a bit too much work. For this reason, we’ll look at how theNexus Player compares to similar set-top-boxes that sit around the US$100 mark.

    Apple TV: Both set-top boxes don’t actually look too far apart, but inside they are quite different beasts.

    Whereas the Nexus Player accepts 3rd party apps, but just doesn’t have many, the Apple TV doesn’t have an app store, yet suffers a similar fate for choice. In this case, the ATV arrives preloaded with a selection of apps, but there is no actual app store to add new ones. If you are interested in the US region, there is a reasonable selection available. Most other countries are not so lucky though.

    In the UK this includes Netflix & Now TV, but no BBC iPlayer, 4oD, Demand 5, ITV Player or pretty much anything else UK based. On the American side, there are a few really nice built-in Apps such as Hulu Plus, HBO Now, Netflix, Crackle and PBS, but a lot of other major services are also missing.

    However, what the Apple TV lacks in built-in apps, it makes up for with AirPlay. AirPlay, when developers do it right, can provide one of the most amazing user interfaces available for streaming television, especially when coupled with the larger iPad screen. Essentially, you can use your hand-held device as the ultimate remote, scrolling and swiping through on-demand and catch-up content, to stream to your television via the Apple TV. What makes this so attractive is that so much content is possible this way. The full BBC iPlayer or ITV Player from Britain, RTE and TV3 from Ireland, ABC iView and SBS from Australia etc as well as using the normal Hulu Plus and Netflix apps on the actual ATV. This is similar in a way to the Nexus Player’s Google Cast, but a little more established.

    One final thing to keep in mind with the current Apple TV3 – it’s quite old. Apple have been rumoured for years to launch a completely redesigned STB (or even perhaps a television itself), but although this is bound to happen eventually, the current model is certainly looking its age.

    Generally speaking, the Apple TV goes for around $80, but unlike the Nexus Player, can easily be bought in any country.

    Apple TV small
    Roku 3: Another cousin to the Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV & Nexus Player is the very similar looking Roku 3. In fact, it could be almost the perfect box for UK viewers as it offers apps from all the major on-demand and catch-up services bar one – BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, Demand 5, Netflix and Now TV are all there, with only Amazon Prime UK missing from the party.

    American users also have it pretty good, with plenty of FTA apps, along with Hulu Plus, Netflix, HBO Go and even Amazon Prime US.

    But this box can only be used in one region or the other, and unlike the Apple TV which is just a simple selector in the settings, the Roku box is a bit more complex to shift regions around.

    The rest is a bit of a seesaw situation. Apple has AirPlayRoku has more US Channels.

    Basically, if you wish to access only US or UK content, the Roku box may very well be the better choice. If you want to make use of AirPlay then the Apple TV is one of the best little boxes out there. But if you want a mix of UK, DE and US apps (and don’t mind the missing ones in hope that they will eventually turn up), then the Amazon Fire TV could very well be the choice.

    Roku front

    Amazon Fire TV: Probably the closest set-top-box to the Nexus Player would be the Amazon Fire TV. The Fire TV is also based around Android, has voice search and can also mix apps from multiple countries together (though this requires Smart DNS). But the big difference is far greater app support.

    At the moment, the AFTV is available in the UK, Germany and US, and from the British Isles we can expect the BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport, STV Player (Scottish version of ITV), Demand 5, TVPlayer (for free live TV streams), Netflix and of course Amazon Prime, with Germany offering ARD, ZDF and the amazing Zattoo service (more live TV), Netflix and Amazon Prime, whilst American apps include Sling TV, Netflix, PBS, Crackle, Hulu Plus, A&E, Lifetime, History, Watch ESPN, Amazon Prime and more.

    That said, you don’t get Google Cast, so as long as that wasn’t part of the criteria, the Amazon Fire TV Box at this stage is probably the better bet.

    Amazon Fire TV

  • Tips

    Like anything regarding a device as complicated as this, there will be a pile of hidden extras to be enjoyed once the tricks are learned. Here are a couple we thought we’d share with you:

    Turn off the ads! Don’t like ads being thrust upon you all the time? Switch them off from the menu. Go to Settings >> About >> Ads and switch off from there.

    Unlock the Flappy Bird Easter Egg Game: Probably not so useful, but worth a try if you are really, really bored.

    • Go to Settings >> About >> Version
    • Whilst hovering over the Version number, press select three times.
    • Press any of the direction keys three times fast.
    • When the lollipop grows, press the any of the direction keys three times (fast) again, which changes the circle’s colour.
    • Now press the up key to play the Android-themed Flappy Bird game.
    • Whoopi.

  • How to Buy

    The Nexus Player can be bought from many brick and mortar and online stores around the world, including Amazon.

    The links below will direct you to the official Amazon sites, where you can find their great deals, whilst costing no more to also support Eye on-Demand at the same time.

     
    Flag US SmallTo buy this item from Amazon US, click here.

    Flag UK SmallAlternatively, to purchase from Amazon UK, click here.

    German FlagGerman Amazon customers can purchase here.

  • Conclusion

    I have to admit, a week after I first powered up this box from Asus & Google I packed it away thinking it was a nice try, but a long way from the proverbial cuban cigar. I had pretty much concluded this was yet another failure from Google – a company which I really want to like, if only because I absolutely love their Street View service.

    But once the box began to launch in other countries, new apps started to appear, bugs slowly were seemed to be ironed out, and I began to look at this device in a new light

    The Nexus Player is Google’s finest attempt at a streaming set-top-box. On the surface, it has huge potential.

    • An Android backend that should allow a wide range of native apps to be developed.
    • Google Cast support to allow even more apps the ability to stream to the main TV (without it seems, the restriction found on Chromecast by forcing Google’s own DNS servers).
    • Voice search which could make it very easy to find content.
    • The ability to mix apps from multiple regions (requires Smart DNS to function).
    • Games for those in want of a gaming console.

    And all in a small footprint that is easy to hide away from view if required.

    That said, there are a few shortcomings with this device.

    For a start, despite the potential of a huge range of apps, these have simply not materialized yet. The chances are this will change in the future, and perhaps rather rapidly once the platform is licensed to more manufacturers, spreads abroad more, and ends up as the UI in smart TVs from the likes of Sony, LG and Philips/TP Vision. But until then, there is not a lot of apps available for this device right now.

    Add this to the potential of installing apps from different regions – this is huge for Smart DNS users, as it means apps from multiple countries can sit together in the main hub.

    Google Cast is also a fantastic feature. We should keep in mind that the Chromecast stick is one of the best selling devices for streaming television anywhere, mainly due to its price. Adding this into the Nexus Player was a great move by Google, and really does add to the usefulness of the device.

    I was also more than a little concerned that I had a virus on my set-top-box within days of firing it up the first time. Yes, a virus! For some reason Crackle will start up at odd occasions, often in the middle of watching something on Netflix. At the time of publication, this problem has not yet been resolved.

    The Nexus Player seems a little short in razzamataz right now, with competing devices from Apple, Roku and Amazon offering more apps, with greater polish. But there is huge potential here and perhaps once it begins to sell globally, developers will invest a little more time

    Pros:

    • Well… looks different.
    • Ability to mix apps from multiple regions (Requires Smart DNS to work)
    • Google Cast (aka Chromecast) built in.
    • Google’s DNS servers are not baked in.
    • Voice Search (when it works).
    • Small and compact.
    • Remote does not need line-of-sight, so you can hide the puck anywhere.
    • Works with Top-end Harmony Hub remotes.
    • Can manually configure Smart DNS directly on the device.
    • Functional USB port.
    • Can sideload Android apps (if you must).

    Cons:

    • Lack of Ethernet port.
    • A bit bulky compared to Apple TV, Roku and AFTV box.
    • Terribly low app count.
    • Remote is very basic.
    • May have issues with Android viruses.
    • Voice search is pretty much useless.

    Technical Details:

    • 1.8GHz Quad Core, Intel® Atom.
    • Imagination PowerVR Series 6 Graphics 2D/3D Engine.
    • 1GB RAM.
    • 8GB storage.
    • 12v 18W DC power.
    • HDMI out (1920 x 1080 @ 60Hz).
    • Micro-USB 2.0.
    • 802.11ac 2×2 (MIMO) WiFi.
    • No Ethernet.
    • Bluetooth 4.1.
    • 235g for main unit.

    Log:

    17.04.2015: Review published 5 – Huge potential, just not there yet.

     

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    (Note: Some selected photos used in this review are property of Google and Asus)