Between the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 announcements, Google's had a busy day, but its third new product has gotten a bit lost in the shuffle. The Nexus Player is Google's answer to full-featured streaming boxes like the Roku, Apple TV and the Fire TV, and bringing Android functionality to televisions might be the next major step in set-top box design.
Google revealed details about the Nexus Player on its website today (Oct. 15), and while none of it is shocking, most of it looks promising. The Nexus Player itself is a small black cylinder that runs the Android TV operating system. The device comes with a small voice search-enabled remote control.
As an online media player, the Nexus Player can run a variety of streaming apps. Google's webpage for the Nexus Player highlights 28 popular choices, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Crackle, Plex and Pandora. Naturally, the device will also support Google Movies & TV as well as Google Music. Like a Chromecast, Nexus Player can also screen-mirror Android devices or cast just about anything from a Google Chrome browser tab on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, ChromeOS, iOS and Android.
Where the device gets interesting is in its capacity for gaming. Like Amazon's Fire TV, the Nexus Player will offer a large selection of games as well as an optional Asus controller (made by Asus, which, at first glance, looks much more streamlined than Amazon's model). Where it differs from the Fire TV, though, is that it will have direct access to a huge selection of titles from the Google Play Games section.
While it's not reasonable to expect that every single game on the Play Store will run on the device, the vast majority probably will, and that gives gamers an enormous selection. Whether your tastes skew to Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies or Final Fantasy and Max Payne, the Play Store has a broad selection of phenomenal games (often buried under mountains of sludge, to be fair) at reasonable prices.
The Nexus Player will not replace a PS4 or an Xbox One. Depending on its price point, though, it may finally provide the midpoint between set-top box and game console that everything from the Ouya to the Fire TV to the recently released PlayStation TV has tried, and failed, to provide.
Although the device shows potential, it's far too early to make any sweeping statements about how well the Nexus Player might work, or how it might affect the overall set-top box scene. Whether Android TV supports the entirety of the Play Store or just a specific selection of media apps, for example, is still up in the air.
Details like price and release date for the Nexus Player are also still a mystery. The only thing that's certain is that the device is on its way, and once it arrives, Tom's Guide will put it through its paces.
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