Google is taking a second stab at the living room this time with a media streaming player it has dubbed the Nexus Q. Think of it as an Apple TV crossed with a Sonos or Squeezebox with a heavy-dose of Android and Google Play.
The Nexus Q doesn't look too impressive at first. From a distance the tiny ball could be easily mistaken for a speaker, or an actual ball for that matter. Connect it to your television, however, and you'll quickly discover it's a whole lot more.
We're picking up a Q later this afternoon, but Google had a few of the devices set up in model living room spaces where we could get a quick peek.
Google is dubbing the Q as "the world's first social streaming media player," but that seems to ignore all of the streaming media devices that have been on the market for the last decade.
While it may not be the first, the Nexus Q does have the distinction of being the first Google-anointed Android-based streaming player.
The impetus behind the Q is to bring all of your content from the cloud into the living room. No downloads, no syncing, no managing NAS or external hard drives, just your content blasting out of your home theater.
As for connections, the Q has micro HDMI, NFC and Bluetooth. It also supports Ethernet, optical audio output, micro USB and standard banana jack speaker outputs. It even has a built-in amplifier, so you can connect it directly to a pair of bookshelf speakers if you don't have a more dedicated amp or receiver for your home theater needs.
Using a Nexus 7 tablet, we were able to add music to a playback queue to be played on a television connected to the Q device. Tunes could be changed almost instantly, which was great when we wanted to play something, but could get a bit hairy if you have friends over who all enjoy playing DJ. You can also use the Q to stream YouTube videos and movies.
TV shows and movies purchased from the Google Play store can also be streamed from an Android device running Gingerbread or higher directly to the Q. In this way, the playback is very similar to what Apple offers with AirPlay.
Of course, the big advantage of AirPlay is that tons of third-party apps support the service. We'll have to see whether Google opens up playback APIs for the Q.
The Q has colorful LED lights that light up around the center of the device in time with the music. Swiping your hand across the front of the ball will mute your music, and running your hand in the area behind it will let you adjust the volume.
The physical controls on the Q were easy to operate, but were also so easy that we managed to stop the music and then blast it pretty loud when we tried to pick the device up - so keep that in mind if you are entertaining.
Priced at $299, the Q is available for pre-order now and will ship in mid-July. Be sure to check back soon for our full review of the device.
The Q competes not just with the Apple TV which is 1/3 of the price but also against streaming music players from Sonos and Logitech. Microsoft's SmartGlass for Xbox offers similar functionality in terms of cloud and third-party device playback and is expected to debut this Fall.
Sony also supports wireless playback of music, movies and photos with the PlayStation 3 with compatible DLNA devices.
What do you think of the Nexus Q? Want to own one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.