Google Nexus Q Review

Chris Burns - Jul 2, 2012, 5:11pm CDT
Google Nexus Q Review

This week we’re having a look at the Nexus Q, a Google device released during the 2012 Google I/O developers conference both for free to all attendees and for $299 to anyone wanting to buy one from home from the Google Play store. This device is a mid-point between your media devices (like your HDTV or stereo) and your Android device(s). We’ve also got the Google Nexus 7 as well as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, both of them running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and the Nexus Q app – downloadable now to everyone running Jelly Bean at the moment.

Hardware

It’s a two-pound beast, if you’re thinking about carrying it around, but since it’s designed to remain stationary – it doesn’t really matter how much it weighs. It’s also a sphere, or nearly a sphere, this allowing the Nexus Q to look and feel completely unique in a tech world saturated with rectangles and squares in the living room. The Nexus Q has a ring of LED lights around its center, this lovely display of color showing you the status of the device as well as indicating when its being touched.

The top half of the Nexus Q currently works as both a volume knob and a power on/off button, while the center hole near the top also acts as a light sensor – this and touch-responsiveness across the whole top half allow you to mute the device. The bottom has a rubbery stopper so that you’re not rolling about, and the back of the device has all manner of connection ports.

You’ll see on the back that you’ve got two ports for right and two for left for your audio, you’ve got an optical out port, Ethernet port, microHDMI port, and microUSB port. Below all of that you’ve got a power port which connects with the cord you’re given in the box. This unit also ships with a microHDMI to full-sized HDMI converter cord so you can use the whole thing right out of the box.

This device cannot be used on its own.

To activate the device – and to control it – you’ve got to download the Nexus Q app from the Google Play store with a device running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. This minimum software requirement is sure to change rather quickly as it actually says that only Android 2.3 Gingerbread is required in the app’s description in the store, but for now, you’ll need a Galaxy Nexus (with the software upgrade) or a Nexus 7 tablet – which we’ve also reviewed in full here.

Actually connecting your Android smartphone or tablet to your Nexus Q is simple – it just requires that you have your Wi-fi connection’s password and that you enter it once (or twice if you’ve never set up your own device’s connection to the Wi-fi in your home). From there, you’ve got a near-instant connection between the Nexus Q and your Android device for playing YouTube, Google Play Music, and Google Play Movies – these are the only three apps that work with the Nexus Q at the moment (unless you want to hack.)

Software

There is no software – so to speak – unless you hack past the basic settings that the device comes with. What you use this device for, then, is a conduit between your Android device and your stereo or television. If you’ve got the Nexus Q hooked up to your television and are letting it sit without playing music or video, you’ll get a simple sleep screen with a collection of blue orbs spinning around one another in an organic pattern (as seen very briefly in the hands-on video above.)

If you do play some music from your Android smartphone or tablet, you’ll get a visualizer showing some spectacular colors and shapes representing the sound. If you play a video, you’ll get the video up on the screen – same goes for YouTube videos. The Nexus Q certainly does not mirror your device’s display – instead it shows a stream of media from your smartphone or tablet that’s controlled by your smartphone or tablet.

We’ve had an amazing experience with connection speed and playback with the applications that work with the Nexux Q thus far. Audio sounds fabulous in every way, be it through your HDMI connection alone or through the audio ports provided. The video, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to be tuned quite as well as it could be just yet.

Above: While you’ve got something playing via your smartphone or tablet, your Notifications window lets you know – this notification then links back to the player it associates with.

The word “murky” comes to mind with video playback – but just a bit. The blacks are just a bit too overzealous in taking over the screen while the other colors seem to be quite ready to take a dip. Playing streaming video worked perfectly well, with no hiccups other than when our actual web connection failed – with no fault of Google’s at play. Playing video from our device’s own memory worked similarly well, with a slightly too-dark image but perfectly quick playback speed.

The software is fairly straightforward when it comes to working on your device, with a little Play icon appearing at the top of YouTube, Google Movies, and Google Music once the Nexus Q software was installed – tapping once makes your interface Blue and active, tapping again turns it Gray and no longer connects to the Nexus Q.

Adding more than one device to one Nexus Q is a bit more of a challenge, as once the Galaxy Nexus was connected to the Q it took a couple tries to make the Nexus 7 connect as well, but it’s nothing a tiny bit of troubleshooting didn’t fix.

Wrap-Up

The Nexus Q is an absolutely gorgeous looking device, and one that’ll be sought after long after it’s been left for dead by Google in the future. But know this: that’s a long, long time away from now. Google will hopefully take the capabilities of this system and embrace them wholly, because the Nexus Q is exactly what Google needs to bring the public’s perception of Android to the nexus level. With this device you’ve got an Apple TV for nearly every single Android device on the market, and since it is a Nexus device, Google has in so many words encouraged us to hack it.

Once the floodgates open, the Nexus Q will be capable of so very many things that it’ll be on every developer’s holiday season wish list without a doubt. The device feels great physically, only has a few software-related issues here before its big launch, and will be ready to entertain for many years to come. Will people buy it at $299? That’s a different story entirely. Is it worth $299 from our perspective? If you’re the sort of person who spent $199 on your smartphone and $499 on your tablet when you bought them both in the past year, then yes, the Nexus Q is worth every penny.



Must Read Bits & Bytes

15 Responses to Google Nexus Q Review

  1. good point about the price, no one complains spending $200-300 for a smartphone or $500 for a tablet yet somehow this high end streaming stereo that is cheaper than the Sonos is priced too expensive?

  2. Apple TV costs $99. Weights nothing, it’s much smaller, it can be used on its own as it comes with a remote control and it’s fully compatible with the biggest content library in the planet. Why on earth would anyone pay $300 for Google’s media hub

    • The cost on this is not the streamer. The cost is the 25 watt amp built
      in to power speakers. If you’re using the hdmi for audio you’re wasting your money. The 25 watt amp makes it more reasonable, but still expensive.

      • Well, for those who would care, it’s also “Designed And Made In The USA”.

        So not the usual sweatshop, environmentally unregulated, manufacturing discount involved.

        While it does have pretty decent specs and it’s only a matter of time before it gets hacked to be more useful.

  3. What the hell is this thing lol?! Airplay for Android? I read halfway through the article and then got frustrated. Just spit out EXACTLY what the thing does. Portable speakers?

    • Felt the same way when I first saw this thing. Honestly, I still don’t really see the need/point of it (well, I see the purpose but I’m not convinced that it is the best route to go.) Seems like a lot of money to use a DLNA capability.
      Not a terrible device but one that I don’t ever see myself buying. Just my .02.

      • Mind it’s partially to compliment the Nexus 7, which doesn’t have HDMI, etc. Along with the idea of controlling all your media with any Android device.

        So like say you threw a party and you had the guess mode enabled, then anyone with a android device could add their content to the list of streaming content. Meaning a legal way for everyone to share content for meetings, parties, etc.

        Along with removing the need for guests to touch your stuff. ;-P

  4. Roku, starting price $49. Top of the line $90. And I don’t need an android phone or tablet to control it. I’m wondering, if somebody buy this thing, will that person purchase a phone for each member of the family or buy a tablet and leave it on the family room so everybody can see movies on the TV (I mean, you need something to use as remote control)? That would Make $299 plus $199 for the tablet (minimum). Again, Roku $49 and $90 for the top of the line model. Google you are thinking like Microsoft some times.

  5. I hope they support tunein.. would be nice to wirelessly send tunein to my amp , so i dont need to walk 5 steps to my jack. I would definitely pay up for that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *