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Review: The curious case of the Nexus Q

Google is causing some big waves with their current Nexus lineup. Not due to the general Nexus privileges like early Android updates and great hardware, but especially because of the incredible price tags. Getting a high-end smartphone like the Nexus 4 for only 299 $ unlocked and without a contract was unheard of. The same is true for the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 price tags. Then there is another Nexus device which was presented earlier this year and soon pulled from the Google Store: the Nexus Q.

This Orb which looks like it was taken directly from a Tron movie set was presented alongside the Nexus 7, and supposed to be the streaming media player for your TV. When you take it out of the package the first thing you’ll think is ‘this thing is heavy’. It weights about one kilogram, and is solidly built. Google also specifically mentions that it’s completely manufactured in the USA.

I really like the hardware design though. Especially the circular light strip as well as the small LED on top look futuristic and stylish when in action. This little device will look good on any TV rack. The upper half of the Q can be spinned to change the volume, and the single LED on the top is touch sensitive. Tapping the LED will mute the Q.

The back of the Nexus Q sports a HDMI out as well as an optical audio output, an ethernet jack, and a USB port. External speakers can also be connected directly.

Powering the device on will result in some nice light effects which change to a solid blue when the device is ready to go.

So there is no doubt that the hardware is looking good, but how about the functionality? Well, this is where everything starts to fall apart.

First of all the Nexus Q doesn’t have an own user interface. When you connect it to the TV and turn it on, you’ll only see a screen saver animation. So you need to have an Android device and install the Nexus Q app.

Using the app you can connect your device to the Nexus Q via Bluetooth. I had the problem that the Nexus Q just wasn’t found, no matter how much I tried. Neither the Nexus S nor a Nexus 7 would find the Q. After some Google searching I found out how to reset the Nexus Q without any connection to the app. You have to restart the device and keep one hand on the Nexus Q during the bootup. All LEDs will turn red and if you keep holding the device the factory reset will be started.

After that, I could immediately connect to my phone and tablet. But it was a little bit of a hassle to find out what I have to do to reset the Nexus Q in the first place.

The next thing I tried to do was streaming some of my family videos to the TV. But that’s not possible. There is also no way to stream your images. I read somewhere that you can only stream content from the Google cloud, so I uploaded all my images and videos to Google+. And you know what? There is still no way to stream that content using the Nexus Q.

This basically leaves only YouTube, Google Movies and Google Music as possible sources. With Google Music you can playback all of your tunes that have been stored in the Google cloud, which will result in very nice light effects on the Nexus Q LED ring based on the current music rhythm. Google Movies is ok but a little bit too expensive and can’t compete with the large content selection of other services like iTunes.

The Verdict – Nexus Q

Goole released the Nexus Q as social streaming player, but without some important features. After using the nexus Q for a while its clear why it was pulled from the Google store. Its too expensive and you can’t really do a lot with it. I wonder why Google provided such a watered down experience, instead of providing common functionality like streaming your own content. The hardware of the Nexus Q is definitely capable of more, with its dual core CPU, 16 GB storage and 1 GB RAM.

Since all customers which preordered a Nexus Q got a free device after Google decided to stop selling it, this is a cool gadget too have on your TV rack to show off the stylish light effects. But I wouldn’t pay 300$ for that cool looks only.