Google Nexus Player Review

Received my Nexus Player Friday and spent the weekend messing with it. My first take on it: the Nexus Player gets an F. Want to know why?

Hardware Setup

Google Nexus Player

Google Nexus Player

First let me say I probably had a unique experience as I’ve not seen anyone with a similar write-up, but unique or not, getting this box going was a trial.

First, it just wouldn’t start up. The box, or “puck” as Google would prefer, was stuck on the loading animation. It took 30 minutes of searching to even find a help article, then I had to go through a very consumer-unfriendly wipe and reboot process. On restart, it finally got past the animation, but then I had to download an Android update. Which took an hour. This box quite literally just came out and it needs an update?

Using It

I finally got the box running and authenticated with my various streaming services. That actually wasn’t too bad. Of the four boxes in my house, though, the setup for a Nexus Player ranks 4 out 4. The real issue with using the Player is that there are virtually no apps for it, and the apps I have invested in on the Play store won’t install. Not because they can’t run – I know for a fact these apps work just fine on devices without a touch interface – but because Google has essentially established a secondary Play store just for Android TV blessed apps. I understand the rationale for it, but Google and Android are the anti-Apple, right? So why pursue an Apple like approach to app content?

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV

Like the Fire TV, the Nexus Player’s app store has games available for download, although the launch line-up was weak, and had nothing as impressive as the Fire TV launch game Sev Zero. Two of the best games are the ubiquitous Badlands and Riptide GP2. Also like the Fire TV, there is an optional game controller available for the Nexus Player, although most of the launch games play just fine with the remote.

The Player does have some nice features. Voice input mostly works (although not as well as the Fire TV) and the connectivity is good, although I question the decision not to have an Ethernet jack. If you like to “cast” from your Android device to the TV, that feature is carried over from ChromeCast.

So…

Apple TV

Apple TV

Given a choice, and I do have one, I’m not likely to use the Google box. The Apple TV still has the best user interface, especially for browsing Netflix and Hulu, and the best video app content selection (judging by quality.) Roku and Fire TV tie for second for different reasons. Roku for depth of video channels, Fire TV for its ability to play non-video apps. Google comes in a distant last. The test for me is always, “could my mom use it? And would she like it?” The answer is: yes, so long as she didn’t have to go through the launch process I did, and no, because it just isn’t that consumer friendly.

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