Nexus Player Review [VIDEO]



Google is taking another stab at entering your living room with the introduction of Android TV and its flagship device, the Nexus Player. The new platform promises a simplified, content-driven approach to home entertainment, but will a lack of options ultimately doom the Nexus Player’s chances to get a foothold in the market? How long until Google reinvents its TV strategy again? Read on to find out.

11 Things new Nexus Player owners should know



For Google’s simplified television solution it makes sense that the company would go with a simplified hardware design. The discreet set-top box, which is manufacturer by Asus, has been compared to a hockey puck, and that’s not so far off. It’s more like a regulation hockey puck that has been run over by a truck. It’s thinner but takes up a larger footprint overall. All that is to say, once you have it setup among your home entertainment options, it’s hardly a focal point of the living room. This isn’t the eye-catching design of the short-lived Nexus Q and it’s not as bulky as many of the Google TV devices that came before.

The Nexus Player is powered by a quad-core Intel Atom processor clocked at 1.8GHz. The Imagination PowerVR Series 6 Graphics 2D/3D Engine makes the Player a more-than-capable gaming device, but some might be disappointed to learn that Google only provides 1GB RAM. The Nexus Player only includes 8GB of on board storage and no options for expansion.

Setup is quick and easy. Connect the Nexus Player with an HDMI cable to your TV and plug in the power supply. Throw some batteries in the remote and you are done. It takes less than five minutes to go from the box to completed setup (not including software).


The smooth circle of the Nexus Player is interrupted by a cutout for its various ports. There are only three: HDMI-out, microUSB, and power jack.

There is no ethernet connection (though ethernet is listed as an option under the Nexus Player’s settings menu). There are no outputs for digital or even analog audio to connect to a home theater system. There is no HDMI pass-through (you’ll have to switch television inputs to access Nexus Player content). Oh, and that USB port? Lest you think you will be expanding storage or sideloading apps out of the box, Google says the port exists solely to allow developers to debug their app experiences. [Editor’s Note: While this appears to be Google’s official stance, users have reported that the USB port can indeed support wired peripherals including keyboards and mice in addition to expandable storage, though it is not its intended use and therefore is not as simple as plug-and-play in all cases. MicroUSB-to-ethernet adaptors will also work, apparently. We are working to confirm.]

As for wireless connectivity, WiFi 802.11ac is the only option for networking (remember: no ethernet port). We understand the reasoning behind it. As long as they have a fast, reliable WiFi network it won’t make much of a difference to the average consumer whether the device is connecting to their home network via a wireless or wired connection, and one less port means one less component adding to the cost of the device. Still, it’s a simple addition that would have gone a long way.

The Nexus Player also includes Bluetooth for pairing accessories like the included remote and optional gamepad. A button (the only hardware button on the actual Nexus Player) that initiates the pairing process is centered on the underside of the puck. We appreciate Google going with Bluetooth here. It opens up the possibility of connecting all sorts of controller accessories down the road, but it also means we aren’t dealing with pesky line-of-sight IR sensors. The Nexus Player could be stashed in a drawer and the remote would still work effortlessly.

The Remote

Google didn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel with the Nexus Player remote. It looks similar to the controllers included with devices like Amazon’s Fire TV, the Roku, and, yes, Apple TV.

A large circular D-pad is used to navigate system menus. It’s not capacitive so there is no scrolling simply by running your finger around it; you will have to click. The select button is centered within the circle and below both are Android’s standard navigation controls (home, back) and a play/pause button. Perhaps the best addition to the remote is a voice search button and built-in microphone, but more on that later.

The remote runs on two AAA batteries (included). The construction of the whole thing feels a bit cheap, but we don’t really need much more for a device like the Nexus Player. Alternatively, Android users can download an app that allows remote control from their smartphone.

Software and Experience


Time for a very brief history lesson: Google’s path to the Nexus Player began in 2010 with the launch of Google TV, a smart TV solution based on Android that acted as an intermediary between your television service provider and you. Google TV allowed users to search the internet alongside TV listings, jump from an app to live television, and access services like YouTube and Netflix. It never caught on with consumers and the consensus seems to be that Google TV attempted to do too much. It was feature packed but often clunky and buggy.

Why is this important to the story of the Nexus Player? Because the Nexus Player is the first consumer-ready device based on the Android TV platform, a completely revamped experience from Google TV. It is built off of Android 5.0 Lollipop as part of Google’s effort to unify the Android operating system across devices that now include smart watches, tablets, smartphones, and your television.

Android TV is far simpler than Google TV. Starting up the Nexus Player we are greeted with a main menu. A top row emphasizes recently viewed and suggested content and below are rows for installed apps and games. It’s Google, so of course there is a search bar at the top. Everything Android TV can do is accessible from this menu, which is to say it doesn’t take long to learn the ins and outs of the Nexus Player.

Native apps

As the first commercially available Android TV device, the Nexus Player suffers initially from a limited ecosystem when it comes to available apps and games. The Google services are there — YouTube, Play Music, Movies & TV, and the Play Store — though we don’t get the full suite. The included apps are all tailored toward the media experience (and mostly toward Google’s content ecosystem). Don’t expect to find full web access via Chrome or even the ability to check your Gmail.

The decision not to include such Google apps speaks to what Android TV is attempting to accomplish. It also shows when checking out the currently available selection of non-Google apps and games. Android is known for its wild west approach to openness, but here Google is being a bit more choosy about the content available for their television platform. Apps and games must be specifically tailored for Android TV or they don’t make the cut.

We are not faulting Google for wanting a consistent quality across the Android TV experience, but it does mean early adopters won’t be greeted with the widest selection. At worst, Android TV never catches on with developers and a lack of approved apps and games turns into persistent issue (as was the case with Google TV).

So what do users get access to out of the box? The aforementioned Google services are there plus Netflix and Hulu Plus. Users can opt to download from a selection of other streaming providers including Food Network, PBS Kids, Bloomberg TV, TED TV, and more. For music options include Pandora, Vevo, and iHeartRadio. A Plex app is available for local content streaming.

What is almost inexcusable, though, is a lack of certain streaming apps that have become staples of competitors like Apple TV and Roku. Want HBO Go? It’s not available yet. Spotify as a music option? Not here. And forget about Amazon content. Perhaps some of these apps will eventually find their way to Android TV and the Nexus Player, but not having them at launch is disappointing to say the least.

Google Cast

Some of Android TV’s shortcomings in the apps department are addressed with the addition of perhaps the device’s most killer feature: Google Cast. Google Cast allows users to wirelessly beam content from a smartphone, tablet, or computer directly to the TV with the tap of a button (provided the service supports casting). No HBO Go app on the Nexus Player? No problem. HBO’s mobile app supports the ability to cast content to your TV. For apps that don’t support casting directly, the Chrome browser features tab casting, allowing for a quick and easy work around (provided the service can be accessed via the web).

So why isn’t the presence of Google Cast a true saving grace? A completely native app experience still trumps the ability to cast content from your phone or computer. It’s the most accessible option for a shared media device like the Nexus Player. More importantly, though, Google Cast capabilities can be brought to your television for much cheaper with a $30 Chromecast dongle. If beaming content is a suitable solution, there is almost no reason to justify buying the Nexus Player.

Voice search

Like Google Cast, voice search might not be reason enough to run out and buy a Nexus Player, but it is one of the better software features. Typing out search queries using the remote turns into a real chore, but pressing the microphone button on the remote and speaking the same query is a quick and easy task. Voice recognition is fairly good, though not perfect — background noise and others speaking in the room can be an issue — but the responsiveness is what we have come to expect from Google’s voice integration.

Your range of searchable options, like with other aspects of Android TV, is limited. You can’t search for web content, but you can still ask classic questions like “How old is Barack Obama?” and get a result. You can search for a specific movie, search for content by artist, tell your Nexus Player to start playing your favorite artist — it all works and works well.


nexus-player-gamepadAside from streaming content, gaming is a huge part of what Google is hoping to accomplish with the Nexus Player and Android TV. Like with streaming content, options are limited at launch. The games that are available, though, really show off the best of what the Nexus Player can do. There is a range of content, including games designed to work using only the included remote.

There is a taste of console-quality graphics and gameplay with titles like Riptide GP2. We get to see the quirky, indie side of Android with side-scrolling title Badland. Arcade classics like Pac-Man offer familiar fun.

This was perhaps the most unexpected aspect of the Nexus Player. The games felt polished and ready for larger screens. The controls worked. The hardware handled it all without any major hiccups. We hesitate to say the Nexus Player has what it takes to be a serious contender in the console wars, but it provides an excellent gaming experience that is not strictly set on the casual market.


The Nexus Player’s optional gamepad is what allows the device to transcend above being simply a box for playing blown-up mobile games. It’s a full-on Bluetooth wireless gaming controller that most closely resembles that of the Xbox 360. The buttons are all there: two analog stick, one D-pad, four trigger buttons, and four action buttons. Like the remote control, it’s not the most premium-feeling thing in the world, but it gets the job done.

The nice thing is you can use the controller to navigate the entire Android TV system, and we actually almost preferred it over the standard remote if not for the lack of a microphone and voice command support.



The problem with the Nexus Player is that it shows a lot of promise but is in many ways limited by its fledgling Android TV interface. It’s the sort of device where content like available apps and games make a huge difference, and should more become available in the coming months our opinions about the Nexus Player overall could change.

For now, though, it’s hard to say the Nexus Player and Android TV are the answer we were looking for. While Google TV was never the biggest success, it holds some advantages over Android TV. The same can be said the other way around, but neither of Google’s television platforms has gotten it completely right at this point. For $99, we can think of a couple TV streaming devices (Chromecast, Roku 3) we would purchase ahead of the Nexus Player, and it’s hard to recommend the average consumer not do the same.

If your are engrained in the Google content ecosystem it may the device for you, but otherwise you will want to weigh your options.


  • Google Cast expands content source options
  • Responsive voice search
  • Easy to set up and jump into content


  • No TV pass-through
  • Limited app and game selections
  • Lack of hardware ports (ethernet, audio-out) and internal storage

Overall: 3/5

Kevin Krause
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  1. Mine stutters when i watch HBO go does anyone else have this experience or do I just have a bad unit?

    1. I’ve read a few reviews and they say that the device has a hard time playing videos. I think what you are experiencing is normal. Hopefully they fix it soon since that’s the main purpose of this device.

      1. yeah.. I had issues with Netflix. I restarted it and it seemed to work ok.

    2. I stream video from Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Plex without issue. I don’t have HBO so I can’t say if that’s the issue or not. All I know is mine has been working well, using it every day to play movies and TV shows. I don’t have cable. My wife and kids would notice if it caused problems. Thankfully it hasn’t. I love this little guy.

  2. Per Android Central, that USB port supports peripherals (keyboard and mice), expandable storage, and a USB Ethernet connection. So, nuts on Google. My only question is if it supports a self-powered hub with all of these things on it. That would rock!

    1. Yes, it does. I have mine running a USB hub, which has an ethernet adapter, USB flash drive and wireless keyboard hooked up to it. Granted, much more and you would likely need a powered hub.

      1. Dude…YOU ROCK! Now I seriously have to consider this. Hook up a WD My Cloud I have, throw in a wireless mouse & keyboard, shove in ethernet, and sideload…I could seriously consider this a “just-about-everything” machine. Watch vids? Throw up web pages? Play and share my content anywhere? Create and edit docs/vids? Check, check, check, check!

    2. Is it possible to install apps on external storage like a USB memory?

  3. I got the “This video is unavailable” error

  4. Absence of Ethernet port is inexcusable for HD content. It’s not a money saver these days, I don’t understand why it’s not there. That’s the only reason why I’m skipping on this device.

    1. The USB port is said to be compatible with most USB Ethernet adapters. However, it’s neither “officially” supported nor USB 3.0 to work with Gigabit adapters.

      1. funny when you go to the network settings and it has 2 options. Wifi and ethernet !

        1. I got a micro USB OTG adapter and got a USB 2.0 Gigabit USB adapter. Works great. I also got a mini Bluetooth keyboard with built in mouse touch pad. I side loaded Chrome. No root neccessary.

  5. Can you play video files from a NAS?

    1. Apparently you can if you install XBMC – I will be doing this in the weekend

      1. Plex also works too, if you have a Plex Server for your NAS.

        1. Hi Derek, I had some issues with the YouTube and netflix app buffering to 99% but video not starting. I ended up restarting the player and it seemed to work.
          Plex worked ok but hung when I tried to fast forward.
          It seemed “slower” than my apple tv is to start the streaming of video. I’ll be doing more tests over the weekend.
          First disappointment is that I cant change the DNS servers on the device. I want to use blockless DNS from Canada to Access US Netflix. Dont want to put the DSN on my router.

          1. The Plex app is in beta and depending on the media you’re trying to stream might have an issue. Plex has been told about the issue with their app on Android TV. Their response is it’s beta. As for YouTube and Netflix, I just don’t have those issues. I really use mine daily for hours every day as I don’t have cable. I just don’t see those issues.

            If you rooted your Nexus Player you’d be able to change your DNS config. I’ve never

            I’ve never used an Apple TV so I cannot compare to that, you could be correct. Thanks for the tip.

          2. I’ll retry Youtube and Netflix again. I must admit I only had a short time with it.
            Yeah, the apple tv like lots of devices you can set the DNS… luckily. I’m really hoping this Nexus player can replace my apple tv which I use for the front room, not my home theatre… got myself a MacMini running Plex for that :) (and thats also the Plex server).
            I dont think there’s a root available yet? for the Nexus Player.
            If I can get the thing rooted and remove/Change the DNS, then things would be ok. I wonder if I can block the google DNS and redirect it?? I thought I read that somewhere..

          3. KiwiBri, after Roku locked down the DNS controls, there were instructions placed on how to create IP tables on a router, which forceably redirect the device set DNS request to the router set DNS. Here is an example http://support.unblock-us.com/customer/portal/articles/1523877-netflix-on-roku-dd-wrt-router-guide. Note this is different to just putting DNS on the router.

          4. thanks mate!

            If anyone is following this. I have an update. You can change the DNS by simply going to the WiFi settings and setting the DCHP to STATIC and then enter your own IP and DNS. I have done this and now enjoying my US Netflix from Canada :-)

          5. Hey Derek, I have an update. You can change the DNS by simply going to the WiFi settigns and setting the DCHP to STATIC and then enter your own IP and DNS. I have done this and now enjoying my US Netflix from Canada :-)
            Oh, and Plex is working great now too.

            I hope we get more features in the future like the ability to turn off the “Suggested” viewing area etc.

        2. Ok, I’m becoming a believer now ;-)
          XBMC running ok. Local content streaming on XBMC and ES Explorer. :-)

    2. update: I just installed XMBC, then and its awesome on it. Lot faster than the Apple TV 2 was ;-)
      Also, I used ES Explorer to navigate my network to my NAS and play a 1080p MKV! only watched for about 2mins but the quality was amazing.

  6. I really wanted to love the Nexus Player because I like Google search, the UI and the ecosystem. However, it’s shortcomings in hardware make this player less desirable.

    Things that would have made the Nexus Player better than it’s competition:

    1. Ethernet port
    2. Additional or expandable storage (16GB+)
    3. 2GB+ of memory

    This is a nice little player, but I will hold onto my Roku 3 and Amazon Fire TV until something better comes along…

    1. The real issue is internal storage, which you may hit the hardware limit sometime in the future. I’ve had the ADT-1 since IO and now the Nexus Player and haven’t had issues with storage. In the future with many, many games, I could see a problem.

  7. Got mine last night. Talk about buggy. Freaking slower than my apple tv 2 at times.
    Also, no easy way to use a different DNS for netflix . :-(
    At least PLEX looked good on it.

    1. What issues do you have with it being slow? I haven’t encountered any yet. Did you get the OTA as soon as you booted up the device? That should have resolved any preproduction jank.

      1. Things were a bit better today. :-)
        Just installed Xbmc. Hoping I can find root instructions soon to remove the google dns. Otherwise this seems to work ok.
        I love the voice search. Google even understands my kiwi accent. Lol.

  8. is this better than the dongle they made?? I use my xbox to watch Netflix/HBO go and it does the trick. Should I switch to this? doesnt sound like i should

    1. Chromecast is great for streaming content, a device you’d like on every TV in your house. A Nexus Player is great for streaming content AND for those that like to play a few games now and then. If you have an XBox, this won’t replace that.

      1. so maybe switch over to a Chromecast?? I’m really trying to get rid of the Xbox. I literally use it JUST for streaming content.

        1. Sure. It’s really a personal preference though. I have a Chromecast on every TV in my house and on my main TV I have the Nexus Player for streaming and for minor gaming. I only bought it to give it a try and I don’t regret the extra $100 because my son and I play games on it all of the time. That’s worth it to me.

          1. That does seem like a plus….I think I’ll grab one this next week for black friday, I see them everywhere for cheap. As if they are not already cheap enough! haha Thanks for your help Derek :)

          2. Good luck! Chromecast is great.

          3. Agree with Derek on that. Ive been without cable for 18mths. Love that I can cast from any chrome browser to the 58th. I had some online rugby games I was able to cast the web page to the big screen.

  9. This is laughable seeing everyone complain about a the lack of an Ethernet port. 5GHZ 802.11AC is PLENTY fast for HD video. You only need a 7-15mbit connection for HD video and I’m happily connecting at home at speeds close to 1000mbit (1gbit) over WiFi.

    1. Some people don’t have connections that are this good. Maybe they live in an apartment building or dorm where the connection/bandwidth are getting split many different ways. If you live in the ‘burbs then sure… but not everyone has the luxury of an unfettered connection where they have all the bandwidth to themselves.

      1. You still only need 7mbit to stream HD Netflix. So even if you’re on an 12 year old 802.11B connection that connects at 22mbps you’ll still be fine. This has nothing to do with your bandwidth getting split in your dorm or your apartment. If it’s split on WiFi, it’s still going to be split on the LAN.

        Edit the only issue WiFi has versus an Ethernet connection is the signal strength. Some people don’t place their router or wireless device in areas that provide optimal strength. But apparently it’s easy enough to run a cat5e cable to your basement versus moving your access point.

        1. Plex streams HD much faster than that on the LAN. I used to have issues of 802.11G and even N, that theoretically (on paper) should not have been a problem. Signal was strong, even ran a dedicated wireless bridge between my router and entertainment center, and router traffic diagnostics was showing I wasn’t exceeding my theoretical limits. All these problems went away by running a cable.

          The hard-wired gigabit “peace of mind” is invaluable and prevents any embarrassing buffering issues when you have friends over to watch a movie. But I agree, Netflix shouldn’t be a problem wireless.

          1. I had this issue with high rate mkv files. I got sick of it and ran gigabit lam from router to tv where I have a switch. Xbox, Mac mini Htpc, tv and bluray all on cable network.
            Smaller tv upstairs on Wi-Fi where its Wi-Fi for Apple tv and now goole nexus player.

          2. Hi KiwiBri,
            Just wondering how you are finding the Nexus Player, specifically casting from a browser. I’m wanting to cast the rugby from livesport.tv to a chromecast. Is the chromecast (being wifi only) up to the task? If not is the Nexus Player over ethernet good enough?

            I see in one of your other posts you stream the rugby, what site do you use?


    2. Yes, the 5Ghz 802.11a/c/n spectrum are plenty fast for streaming 1080p content to a single player. However, I have multiple players and live in a neighborhood with no less than 15 visible access points and 75+ devices sharing the spectrum. Not to mention, each and every TV is already wired with CAT6.

    3. What is laughable is seeing you troll every negative comment on here and not being able to understand that not everyone loves their device as much as you. Give it a rest and let people chime in with their negative comments about how the device is functioning for them. You really come off as a shill and I personally find your comments to be dismissive and unhelpful.

  10. Yeah… Google poisoned the well when they left me up a river with the Revue… gonna “wait & see” on this one. XB1 has made a fine replacement, especially since Plex became available.

  11. I returned mine :/

    it just wasn’t working well. the youtube suggested tiles were playing the wrong videos. chromecast lost sync w/phone once. another youtube video crashed all together. remote lost sync once while playing a game (and died cause of it) should never lose sync in the first place. no browser, no gmail, no HDMI cable in the box.. no MPEG2 hardware decoder. and sometimes the entire row of suggested tiles would fail to load. only way to get it back seemed to be through restarting the device.

    it’d be great to be able to remove suggested tiles. for example.. I will never watch maleficent, yet it’s staring at me every time I go to the front screen. would be nice to rate/remove suggested tiles.

    no 3rd party voice search integration (yet?) would be great to see Netflix movies in search results.
    i’ll be waiting til next year to see what comes of android tv on other devices.

    1. Would be nice to remove those tiles.

    2. I agree completely with your assessment. I had mine a couple of days and requested return labels already. There is no value in buying this over a Chromecast or Roku. It all seems geared towards forcing people to Google’s pay Play services. If this was their main intention they should be giving the boxes away for free and not charging a premium over their existing device. This is an alpha tester at best and there are just some huge oversights that I thought would be remedied by the time it shipped. Even native Google apps don’t function well as noted with Youtube problems, and the inability to use most Google apps already available on Android. Maybe there is still a future for Google in the traditional living room, but why do they keep failing so hard at it? It shouldn’t be as big of a problem as they are making it, but this just gives their competition one more reason to laugh the next time they try to roll out another device like this. It also tarnishes the existing Nexus brand that was very strong after the 4 and 5, but has started to go down hill with the poor performance of the 6, 9, and Player.

    3. Same here. Incredibly buggy. Continual crashes. Chromecast wouldn’t stream. Returned.

  12. Is it worth it to buy one if you already have a pc hooked on your TV?

  13. Can you stream NAS files without using a DLNA server like PLEX and or XBMC server? Can you load up ES File Explorer, navigate to your NAS, and then play a movie?

    1. Yes you can. Btw I don’t think Xbmc is a server like plex. It plays video directly from its source. I just installed it this morning before work and saw that it could find my NAS .

      1. Excellent!
        I’m trying to find a replacement for my bug riddled WD Live media boxes.

      2. How do you stream NAS files? I couldn’t figure it out. Plus, Plex kept crashing every time I tried to play a file.

        1. Do you Have a plex server running?
          Use XBMC as well. Or ES Explorer as well to play directly from a NAS.

  14. Soooo no Internet Browser ?? Think i might hang onto my Asus Cube a bit longer.

    1. Not true. Full desktop version of Chrome is available.

      1. Through the Nexus Player ? I’m not talking about casting. I mean an actual chrome app available on the player.

        1. Honest to goodness full desktop chrome executing from within NP.


          1. Cool. Because the video here didn’t even show the browser by accident. Lol. Thanks.

          2. To install Chrome of the Nexus Player you go to the Google Play Store on your computer and push the Chome install. No sideloading necessary. But the Play Store in the Nexus Player will not show you Chrome as an available app, this is why it needs to be installed via a computer and push Installed to the Nexus Player.

  15. I had my AndroidTV plugged in for less than 15 minutes before pulling it out and getting an RMA. I’ll stick with my Sony Google TV. It is three years old and still more useful. The remote is garbage and Plex kept crashing.

    1. didn’t bother with the nexus player, I knew as soon as it didn’t have passthrough it wouldn’t be worth getting it. I wanted it to be there, but like you I have a google tv device, and it still works. so bang on google TV.

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