It’s round two for Google in the battle to get into your living room and with the failed first attempt a distant memory, the soon to be released Nexus Player will be the company’s newest weapon in this escalating war to get us onboard with streaming media.
Google’s relationship with TV has been a bumpy ride in the past although they say you learn from your mistakes and it seems that big G has certainly done that. The Nexus Player has its competitors firmly in its sights, namely Apple TV.
We all know that Apple were the kings when its came to playing digital media on your TV and since launching their shiny streaming device in 2012, there have been very few contenders that have been able to knock them from their throne but the Nexus Player might just be the first device to beat the mighty Apple TV at its game.
Lets take a quick look at how the Nexus player compares with Apple TV.
Hardware & Design
looks can be important for some and it’s where Apple wins over many of its users although the Apple TV has changed very little over the years with its square design with crafted curved edges. The Nexus Player tackles this head on with a different but elegant sleek black “puck” like design which is slightly thinner and wider in size.
Under the hood is where things rev up for the Nexus, a 1.8GHz Quad Core Intel Atom processor with 1GB of RAM are wedged inside to get the performance that we all crave and compared to the thrust lacking single-core A5 with 512MB of RAM found in the Apple TV. Now processor size and speed may not be overly noticeable on a set-top box but the RAM is where it’s at and you should notice the extra kick from the 1GB found in the nexus Player.
Along with the quad-core processing goodness found in the Nexus, Google have also included 8GB of storage, video output at 1080p via HDMI, Bluetooth LE and 802.11ac Wi-Fi for super fast connectivity. The Apple TV matches most of this apart from the Wi-Fi but it does have optical audio-out which is not found on the Nexus Player.
Something that is almost as important as the set-top box itself is the remote. Both the Nexus and Apple remotes look great and are designed for ease of use by keeping the buttons and layout to a minimum but the Nexus has one extra special button that will activate voice search. Now you can search for TV show’s or movies just by speaking into the in-built mic on the remote.This has to be the one standout feature of for the Nexus Player when compared to the Apple TV.
Content and Gaming
Apple and Google already have an impressive array of TV shows, Movies and music to feed their streaming gizmo boxes. For Apple TV its the iTunes store and for the Nexus Player its the entire Google Play store, both have similar content available and apps that you can download to the device for watching things like YouTube and Netflix. The popular Plex service will also be available on the Nexus Player, making it real easy for you to stream your own media.
Gaming is something that you won’t find on the Apple TV. Having full access to the Google Store and running on the same OS that you’ll soon find on most Android phones and tablets means that the Nexus Player merges games console and set-top TV box into one extremely cool device and more of an entertainment system. Now you can play all those games you love on Android but on the big screen and there’s even a dedicated games controller so you can smash-up double dragon like a boss !, you can’t do that on the Apple TV.
OS & UI
The Nexus Player is running on the new Android TV platform based on the latest release of Android 5.0 aka “Lollipop”, the Apple TV also has its own OS based on a version of iOS. Having a tried and tested operating system may work in favor for the Apple TV compared to a relatively new OS for the Nexus Player but time will tell which OS is best.
Layout and UI for both devices is pretty much the same format, each keeps it simple and easy to navigate so you can get to the content you want with minimal fuss, although as mentioned before, the voice search on the Nexus Player is clearly a winning feature over the Apple TV UI.
Airplay & Casting
A big hit for the Apple TV is “AirPlay”, a function that allows other Apple devices like the iPad and Mac to stream video directly to it but it doesn’t play well with Android or Windows which makes it a bit restrictive if you not an Apple purist. However, it is a really nice feature that works flawlessly.
The Nexus Player’s answer to Airplay is Casting. This is basically a more open approach of Airplay that allows you to stream video or photos to the Nexus, you can even mirror tabs from within the Google Chrome browser from either a Mac or Windows machine and doesn’t make the Nexus Player tied to any particular device.
And the Winner is…..
The Nexus Player. This is “next-gen” stuff and a complete entertainment system, so it’s no real surprise that it beats the Apple TV hands down when compared side by side.
Apple will catch up and no doubt the next version of Apple TV will try to be on par with the Nexus Player but as it stands ,Google do have a great piece of kit on a platform that is certainly leaps ahead of Apple.
The Apple TV is $99 in the US and £79 in the UK. In the US the Nexus Player is $99 and is likely to be £79-99 when it lands in the UK.