The Nexus Q is the first bit of hardware that Google built all by itself from the ground up, according to the dev team that unveiled the minimalist, spheroid home entertainment hub Wednesday at Google I/O.
Google’s streaming media player is “a cloud-connected jukebox where everybody brings their own music to the party,” according to Google director of engineering Joe Britt. It’s also really black and really round. With the thin LED strip girdling the Nexus Q at the equator, the device looks like nothing so much as a dark force object in Lego: Star Wars.
I got my hands on the device and found it to be a pretty good gadget for simple home entertainment operations like making a music queue but a little too feature-y to quickly learn how to perform more complicated tasks.
The Nexus Q is a “small, Android-based computer” that’s permanently dialed into a user’s Google cloud content. It works by syncing with an Android 4.1 Jellybean device, which serves as nothing but a remote control. So the Nexus Q isn’t pulling music, movies, YouTube video, e-books, etc. from the tablet or smartphone with which it’s synced—it’s just directed by the mobile device.
Right now, the only device that works with Nexus Q is the Nexus 7 tablet from Google and Asus that was also made available Wednesday. Future Jellybean-based devices will also work with the streaming media player and so will tablets and handsets running earlier versions of Android, according to Google. The search giant isn’t saying if non-Android devices will ever be able to work with the Nexus Q.
The Nexus Q is packing a Texas Instruments OMAP chipset, optical video/audio and HDMI, dual-band Wi-Fi, Ethernet, NFC, and Bluetooth. It draws 25 watts and takes “just a few minutes to set up out of the box,” according to Google.
The 4.6-inch sphere weighs in at 2 pounds and lets users stream content from Google Play and YouTube to speakers and screens in the house. Nexus Q can be paired with bookshelf speakers via the built-in 25W amp, or connect to an AV receiver or HDTV.