Android TV is here: Google will start to sell the very first Android TV device next month. The Nexus Player, which was announced in conjunction with the Nexus 6 phone, the Nexus 9 tablet and Android Lollipop on Wednesday, is being manufactured by Asus and will be available for pre-order starting October 17 and go on sale on November 3. The device itself will be available for $99, and an optional gamepad will be made available for $39.99, according to a Google spokesperson.
The Nexus Player is powered by a 1.8GHz Quad Core Intel Atom processor and comes with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The device will sell with a Bluetooth remote control that comes with an integrated microphone for voice search, and a game pad will apparently be able for sale separately.
There is no Ethernet port, but the Nexus Player will have a micro USB port, which could be used for extra storage or to sideload apps. Speaking of which: The Nexus Player website currently features 28 apps, including must-haves like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Plex and all the essential Google Play services as well as YouTube, but it is a little light on TV Everywhere apps. There’s no HBO Go, for example. However, Android TV is compatible with Google Cast, the technology that Chromecast is based on, so any app available on Chromecast should be accessible through Android TV via casting as well.
Google first announced Android TV at its Google I/O developer conference in June, and at the time revealed that it will work with Sony and Sharp on integrating the platform into 2015 TV sets. Razer also said that it wants to release a “micro game console” powered by Android TV this fall, and Asus had been mentioned as a partner as well.
Android TV is Google’s third attempt to capture the living room, and in many ways, it combines lessons from the failed Google TV as well as the best part of the much more successful Chromecast streaming stick. Android TV is based on the latest version of Android, dubbed Lollipop, but comes with a TV-optimized UI framework called Leanback. The Android TV home screen not only shows off apps available on the device, but also directly surfaces movies, TV show episodes and other types of content from frequently used apps. And users who don’t want to navigate through Android TV’s menus can instead opt to cast content straight from their mobile device.
Android TV also puts a big emphasis on gaming, which is one of the reasons for the pretty aggressive specs of the Nexus Player as well as the optional gamepad. In that way, the device competes closely with Amazon’s Fire TV, another Android-based set-top box that tries to combine streaming media apps with games for the big screen. However, Fire TV sales have been slow from what I’ve heard. It will be interesting to see whether the Nexus Player will fare any better with consumers.