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Google Nexus Player review – Android TV isn’t quite ready

Nexus Player, Controller and Remote
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £80
inc VAT

Lots of unfulfilled potential - Android TV on the Nexus Player is seriously lacking in content


Video outputs: HDMI, Networking: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, Dimensions: 84x84x23mm, Streaming formats: UPnP, Internet streaming services: Netflix, TuneIn Radio, Google Play Movies & TV, Google Play Music, Plex

Google Play Store

Android TV Apps and Chromecast

As with the Apple TV, the Nexus Player gives you two ways of getting content on your TV. The first is via native apps, which are either pre-installed or you download from the Google Play store. Using these apps, you don’t need anything else bar the remote control to get watching.

As the Nexus Player is essentially running the same Android 5.0 as on smartphones and tablets, albeit with a custom launcher, we were expecting healthy app support at launch, but unfortunately this is exactly the area where Android TV falls short. Very few apps have been updated with support for Android TV, meaning the available choices are currently extremely limited. A glance at the media-related apps and you’ll see that the only real notable options  are YouTube and Netflix.

There’s no sign of any of the catch-up services, such as BBC iPlayer or ITV Player. Similarly, there’s no sign of services like Now TV. It’s perhaps no surprise Amazon Instant Video is missing given Amazon has its own media streaming box, but the lack of services is still somewhat shocking.

Music is equally barren, with the only notable inclusion being TuneIn radio. There’s no official Spotify app, no Napster or Deezer, meaning the only real streaming music option is conveniently Google’s own Google Play Music service.

It is actually possible to ‘sideload’ Android apps on to the Nexus Player using a slightly convoluted process of connecting to the Nexus Player via FTP and installing Sideloader Launcher to access apps that aren’t supposed to work on Android TV. This can create problems, however, because some apps aren’t designed to be navigated using a remote control and are dependent on touch inputs.

We tried getting Spotify to work through this method and couldn’t get past the sign in screen, as it was confusingly oriented horizontally. Similarly, while the BBC iPlayer app happily installed and we were able to navigate around the app, it’s not actually possible to start playing any content, rendering it useless. There’s no choice but to wait for the app to officially be available. It shouldn’t be too difficult for developers to get their apps working on Android TV, but at launch its massively disappointing for the store to be so empty.

Android TV broken Spotify

That doesn’t mean that the Nexus Player is devoid of all content, as the second method of getting media on it is to use Chromecast. This lets you beam content (Casting) from a Chromecast-enabled app (iOS or Android) directly to the Nexus Player. Casting is a mature and smart technology, as your sending device merely tells the Nexus Player where the media stream is, letting the set-top box connect to it directly. This means that you can use your phone or tablet for anything else, or even turn its display off while you watch. Cleverly, you can control playback from your mobile, using the scrubbing bar to quickly skip through content if you like.

Chromecast support also opens up the Nexus Player to a wide range of content both now and in the future, as it’s relatively trivial for developers to add support for the technology. You can check out our list of the best Chromecast apps to see what’s available

With Chromecast you also get a second option: mirroring. This lets you mirror your Android device’s display or a Chrome tab (any OS) to the Nexus Player. In this way, you can cast any bit of content or a game to your TV.  With 802.11ac Wi-Fi, we noticed that Casting content from a NAS or local PC was a much smoother experience. We did notice when casting the entire screen from a connected smartphone that there was a lot of video compression and image artefacts when attempting to play games, however. There’s also a fractional delay between the connected device and what is shown on the Nexus Player.


Using the combination of Chromecast and native apps, the Nexus Player has access to a wide-range of content, both online and over your home network. We’re covering the most popular services here, so this list is not exhaustive.

Movies and TV on demand – Netflix, Now TV, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Google Play Movies

Netflix is the big name in on-demand streaming, carrying some exclusive programming, such as House of Cards and, in the UK, Better Call Saul. With the Nexus Player you get support for Netflix via the clean and responsive dedicated app, although you can also use the iOS and Android Netflix apps to beam content.

As with the Chromecast, Google has hardcoded its own DNS servers into the Nexus Player, which means that you can’t easily change the settings you need if you want to access US Netflix. It’s not impossible to bypass Google’s settings, although you need a router that supports certain features. Our guide on how to get US Netflix on Chromecast will help.

On top of that, the native Google Play Movies & TV app gives you access to Google’s own well-stocked store of film and TV shows. This lets you rent or buy films and TV programmes, which you can then watch on any other Android device.

Android TV Google Play Movies and TV

That’s all you get with integrated apps, as support for other services comes via Chromecast. This means that if you’ve got an iPhone, iPad or Android device, you can stream content from Blinkbox and Wuaki.TV. We’re pleased to see Sky Now TV support via Chromecast, as you can get up-to-date movies, live programming (including Game of Thrones on Sky Atlantic) and access to all of Sky’s sports channels, depending on the type of subscription you pay for. BT Sport support also means that you can watch any of the channel’s live via the app on your mobile device.

Sadly, there’s still no support for Amazon Prime Instant Video, either via a dedicated Android TV app or Chromecast. It’s a shame, as Apple TV has support for this content via AirPlay.

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Audio inputsNone
Audio outputsNone
Video outputsHDMI 1.4
Dock connectorNone
USB portMicro USB
Networking802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1
App supportAndroid TV
Streaming formatsUPnP (via Chromecast), Plex
Supported serversUPnP,Plex
Audio formatsMP3, AAC-LC
Video formatsH.264, H.265, VP8, VP9
Video file extensionsMP4, MOV, AVI, ASF, WMV, MKV, FLV, TS, MTS, M2TS, DAT, MPG, VOB, ISO
Image formatsJPEG, PNG, BMP…
Internet streaming servicesNetflix, TuneIn Radio, Google Play Movies & TV, Google Play Music, Plex
Buying information
Price including VAT£80
WarrantyOne year RTB
Part codeNexus Player

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