Google’s Chromecast is a fine product, but it’s not enough to control the living room and fend off set-top boxes like the Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV. While there are now more set-top boxes than we have HDMI ports to connect them to, Google’s Nexus Player is another bid for controlling the living room. We got to toy with Google’s Nexus Player and get a first look at how it stacks up to the competition. Read on for our preview.


  • Processor: 1.8GHz quad-core Intel Atom
  • Graphics: Imagination PowerVR Series 6 Graphics 2D/3D Engine
  • Memory: 1GB
  • Internal storage: 8GB
  • Operating System: Android TV
  • Dimensions: 120mm x 120mm x 20mm
  • Weight: 235 grams


The Nexus Player isn’t your typical square-shaped set-top box. It’s rounded, like a puck, a very large puck. It’s an attractive design, and I can see it fitting snuggly into any entertainment center and not being an eyesore.

It measures 120mm x 120mm x 20mm and weighs 235 grams. (Not that you’ll be moving it much once it’s plugged into your TV.)

There really isn’t much to ooze about. The top is matte and the sides are glossy. Not sure why set-top boxes are always like this, since the sides tend to scratch from dust particles. One thing I really appreciate is the smaller Nexus logo. On the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9, the logos are too large and overbearing. On the Nexus Player, it’s classy.

Software: Android TV


No Android 5.0 Lollipop here. Instead, you’ll find Android TV as the operating system. Android TV is a small fork from the main Android release, much as Android Wear is. It’s still very much Android, but it’s designed specifically for the TV.

Android TV resembles the interfaces on other set-top boxes. Content is organized in rectangular card-like icons. You can use the direction pad on the remote to scroll around or use voice search (more on that below).

As you’d expect from Google-powered software, the entire OS learns what you like and will throw up recommendations based on content you’ve consumed.

And if you want the features of Chromecast, you’ll also get that as well in the Nexus Player.

Android TV is much more elegant than Google TV and more advanced than Chromecast. Content is still key. It has the usual Netflix and Hulu Plus, but Google says it’s still working to get popular content such as HBO Go and Starz.


One of the things I love about the Fire TV is its speed; it’s really fast. Unlike the Fire TV and Apple TV, the Nexus Player doesn’t use a typical mobile processor. It’s armed with a 1.8GHz quad-core Intel Atom chip, Imagination PowerVR Series 6 Graphics 2D/3D Engine, and 1GB of RAM. Internal storage is capped at 8GB.

There’s an HDMI port and a Micro USB port on the back, but no Ethernet port. However, you do get 802.11ac 2×2 (MIMO) Wi-Fi, which is super fast if you have the appropriate routers and connection to get it.

Navigating around with the Nexus Player appeared to be snappy. I didn’t see any chugging or slowdown anywhere, which is a good sign.

Voice Control Remote

Another thing Google seems to have shamelessly lifted from the Fire TV is a voice search remote. Pressing the voice search button located at the top of the remote triggers voice recognition. Not surprisingly, the entire backend is very intelligent and easily recognized my request for “Mad Men” and “Jackie Chan movies.” It’s also smart enough to bring up results for genres and YouTube videos.


Like the Amazon Fire TV, the Nexus Player is also a micro gaming console. You’ll can enjoy all the games on Android and some of them will even work with the Asus-made Nexus Player GamePad, a dual-analog controller with a D-pad, ABXY buttons, a pair of shoulder buttons and a pair of triggers.

The analog sticks are arranged like the PlayStation’s DualShock—they’re located below the D-pad and ABXY buttons. Up to four controllers can be connected via Bluetooth 3.0/4.0 to the Nexus Player and the range is good up to 30 feet. The controllers take two AA batteries.

The GamePad itself is part glossy and matte plastic. It’s not the grippiest controller I’ve used, but it should be sufficient for playing Android games without any issues.

First impressions

It’s been years since Google TV failed. Chromecast was a step in the right direction, but Google wants more. The Nexus Player is a clear-cut rival for the Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.

After the success of Chromecast, it’s obvious Google wants a second chance at making your TV smarter. The Nexus Player appears to be a great set-top box that does everything a Chromecast dongle does and more. Ultimately, what a set-top box comes down to is content and simplicity; two things the Nexus Player gets right.

I wish the $99 price was more aggressive and undercut the Apple TV and Fire TV, but for what you get, it’s very competitive.

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