Hands-on: Google Nexus Q review

The Google Nexus Q is a music streaming device that promises to get music from the cloud to your ears in your home as long as you have an Android phone to control it and some speakers to plug in to it, but what's it like up close and personal? We took a closer look at Google I/O to find out.

The 4.6-inch diameter sphere has no controls aside from volume, with everything being done through an Android app.

The Nexus Q doesn't have built-in speakers either, nor a screen; you simply plug in speakers or your TV and Hi-Fi through connectors on the back for audio or use the HDMI connector for full 1080p video. Google does the rest.

Feedback is given through 32 LEDs that ring Nexus Q and they shift and change colour in time to your music. It's all very quaint if not a little cool.

Choosing music requires you to load an app on your tablet or phone, which is then paired to the Q using a built-in NFC reader, so simply tapping the two devices together will link them.

Choosing what you want to watch or hear is simple, and uses Android Jelly Bean's built-in media apps - it will work with Android Gingerbread devices, but you will need a Jelly Bean tablet or smartphone as the main point of call initially.

To display them on the Q, you simply select a "beam" icon at the top of the screen. After a little bit of buffering (in some cases, for high-def video, quite a bit of buffering) your content appears in what Google says is full 1080p resolution.

Connection wise aside from the built in amp (25W class D) allowing you to plug in your own speakers you get Micro HDMI, Optical audio (S/PDIF), 10/100BASE-T Ethernet (RJ45), Micro AB USB (for service and support) and Banana jack speaker outputs for left and right audio.

In practice at Google I/O and it all works well. The integration with Android is impressive - there’s even a "party mode" whereby your friends can all control music playlists, although we suspect that move will only result in plenty of heated debate.

Under the black shell is a full-blown Android ICS device (note, not Jelly Bean) but don't get too excited: there are no apps and no way to run the Nexus Q without a secondary control device. Not even from a computer.

In use the Google Q is a strange device. It is far more expensive than the Apple TV, which does almost exactly the same thing and not as comprehensive as Sonos either. There is even concerns that the overlap with Google's own Google TV could confuse even further.

Google did hint that it will be open to hackers, so perhaps we will eventually see it coming with full third-party app support, but for now it remains a rather odd device that doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of a truly connected living room.

While you will be able to hook up multiple Nexus Q spheres around your home, for multi-room audio, it’s nowhere near as slick as the Sonos, and for general features and price, the Apple TV trumps it in almost every area. Remember there is no app support at all.

While it’s a bold move for Google, it seems to have missed the mark slightly, but if nothing else, it shows Google is serious about taking on Apple in the living room and that it has the urge to become a hardware partner.

The Google Nexus Q is expected to be available in the US in mid-July but Google has confirmed to Pocket-lint that there are currently no plans to launch the Nexus Q media streamer in the UK. 



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