Google’s latest Nexus smartphone is the company’s biggest and fastest yet, with a 6 inch, high-resolution display and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor.

The latest Nexus tablet sports an 8.9 inch screen and and NVIDIA Tegra K1 64-bit processor, making it one of the first devices to ship with that CPU.

And the new Google Nexus Player is the first box to ship with Google’s new Android TV software.

All three new Nexus products are up for order with expected ship dates starting in November. I plan to have in-depth reviews of each in the coming weeks, but since the package of devices Google loaned me to test just showed up, how about a little sneak peek?

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The Nexus 9 tablet looks a lot like last year’s Nexus 7… but bigger and wider. It has a 4:3 aspect ratio display and the front-facing stereo speakers are visible. But flip the tablets over and you’ll see the same curved edges, camera in the upper left corner, and Nexus logo in the center.

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While Asus manufactured the Nexus 7 for Google, the Nexus 9 is made by HTC. But clearly Google had a lot of input in the design.

Under the hood has a faster processor, a higher-resolution display, higher-resolution cameras, and faster WiFi, thanks to support for 802.11ac.

I haven’t had a chance to test the new Nexus 9 extensively, but I’m already trying to figure out if I can justify spending $399 on a tablet for reading comic books. I’ve been using my Nexus 7 with Marvel Unlimited and other digital comic apps for a while, but the screen’s really a little too small. Comics look amazing on the Nexus 9’s larger display.

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The Nexus 6 is the most expensive smartphone Google has launched to date, but it’s also the most powerful. Priced at $649 and up (unlocked) or $199 with a 2-year contract, the phone has a 5.96 inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel AMOLE Ddisplay, a speedy processor, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB to 64GB of storage.

It also has a 13MP rear camera, 2MP front camera, stereo front-facing speakers, and a 3220mAh battery. In other words its faster, bigger, and could get better battery life than the Nexus 5.

The new tablet also has a few other features its predecessor lacked, including support for double-tap to wake, which lets you turn on the screen without touching the power button.

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I haven’t had much time to test the Nexus 6 yet either… but while it’s the biggest phone I’ve ever had in my house I can still slide it into the pocket of my blue jeans.

It’s also relatively slim and light, at about 10mm (0.4 inches) and 6.5 ounces (184 grams).

Overall this is the kind of phone you buy if you don’t also want a 7 inch tablet. I can’t think of many things I’d do with a Nexus 7 that I couldn’t also do with a phone with a 6 inch screen — except that I don’t really worry about my tablet battery dying. I can play games or read books for hours on a tablet and if the battery dies I won’t miss any phone calls. The same can’t be said for a phone, no matter how big the screen is.

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Other interesting features include support for active notifications. The Nexus 6 is made by Motorola and like the company’s Moto X phones it has an AMOLED display that can remain off for the most part while a small part of the screen springs to life to display notifications.

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The Nexus Player is the first in a new breed of devices expected to ship with Android TV software.

Android TV is based on Google Android 5.0 Lollipop, but it features a user interface and suite of apps that have been designed for televisions. You can easily navigate between apps, launch movies, music, and other media, or play games using just a remote control or optional Bluetooth gamepad.

I’ve tested a lot if TV boxes running Android software over the past few years. Some have custom app launchers designed to take an operating system made for phones and tablets and make it easier to use on a television. But underneath, they’re all limited by the fact that they’re running software designed for touchscreens on a device that doesn’t have a touchscreen.

Google TV doesn’t have that problem. In some ways it’s more limited in scope: there are many Android apps that aren’t officially supported and which you won’t be able to download from the Google Play Store. But the apps that are supported all work perfectly out of the box.

There may be a way to sideload content if you want to push the $99 Nexus Player to its limits, and I’ll look into that possibility in the future. But sometimes more is less. By offering a simpler interface and app store than Android for phones, Android TV is designed to compete with Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and similar boxes designed first and foremost for televisions.

This isn’t Google’s first play for the living room: the company launched Google TV software a few years ago, but it never gained much of a foothold due to a clunky user interface and the underpowered hardware it shipped on.

With an Intel Atom Moorefield processor and a simpler UI and remote control, Android TV might have a better shot… if it can differentiate itself from the competition.

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43 replies on “First look: Google Nexus 6, Nexus 9, Nexus Player (unboxing)”

  1. Does the Nexus Player have a web browser? No one really addresses this subject, but not every site has an App for their videos, so I would hope Flash works decently well on this thing.

  2. I have Note 4 and the quick charge really is a game changer!! I must have a defective Note 4 because it kept draining battery fast but I don’t mind it as long as I have the quick charger…its that good! Within a few year I would imagine all phone comes with this type of charger/battery

  3. Brad, in your Nexus 6 review will you compare or comment on how the OnePlus One stacks up against it?

  4. I can pretty much summarize this batch of Nexus devices. Limited and expensive. I could add disappointment to that list, but it pretty much goes without saying. I was excited to get the Nexus 6, that is until I read about the price.

  5. I’m most curious about the gaming controller, seeing as I already went ahead and bought a $200 MINIX NEO X8-H just about a week prior to Google’s official announcement of the Nexus Player.

  6. Wondering how the Nexus Player connects. Is there an option for user name and password or just wifi password? Chromecast let me down by not having the WPA2 option to connect…need the username and password option.

  7. A few questions abuot the Player:

    1. Can the micro USB used to expand the storage (via USB stick, etc) for apps/games/media ?
    2. Can you pair other BT controllers (eg. PS3)
    3. How easy is it to sideload apps?
    4. What content sources does the microphone search? (just google media? Netflix?)

    1. These answer might change, but out of the box on day 1:

      1. I connected a keyboard and it worked. But there’s no file explorer so when I tried connecting a USB flash drive I had no way to access its contents.
      2. Should be able to. The Nexus gamepad pairs like a normal Bluetooth controller and there’s an option to add additional devices.
      3. Not easy… (update: but definitely possible)

        1. So far it looks like mostly YouTube and Google Play Movies, but I need to experiment a bit more to be certain.

          Google is making APIs available to encourage developers to bring more apps to Android TV. Hopefully some of them will tap into the voice search as well.

      1. I might go ahead and purchase an Xbox-style PlayStation controller for my MINIX NEO X8-H, since my actual Xbox 360 controller obviously doesn’t connect over the same Bluetooth protocol for cross-platform compatibility.

      2. Maybe access external USB through an app – like Kodi (XBMC). Of course, without a browser or way to sideload apps there is no way to get XBMC on the unit as it isn’t available through the play store I think.
        So…

  8. Does this device support Amazon Instant Video? Does it support (officially or unofficially) a web browser? Those would make it at least equivalent to a Fire TV box.

    1. Nope. There’s no Amazon app yet and there’s no web browser.

      So far I really like the UI. But the functionality is a bit limited. At this point it might be best to think of the Nexus Player as a Chromecast Plus.

      I’ll have more thoughts once I’ve had more than a few hours to tinker though.

      1. I’m glad that I took a look at these comments. I’m hoping for an Android TV launcher to be released for use on fully functional versions of Android — just with the TV-friendly interface to better outfit my MINIX NEO X8-H.

        1. Since they have mentioned several times that Android TV really is just Android 5 underneath I was rather hoping that any Android 5 device hooked to an external monitor might be able to express the Android TV UI. Do it just like the Nvidia Shield tablet – when attached it asks if you want to mirror or express the leanback interface. That would be nice.

          1. I was unaware of that possibility. I would enjoy seeing that happen, as I want the Android TV interface with the full Android experience.

  9. Haven’t seen this yet in any reviews…Can the Nexus Player be turned off, or is it always on? I recently had a Fire TV, but the fact that it couldn’t be turned off (other than unplugging the power cable) caused issues with the way I have things connected (through HDMI switch).

    1. Haven’t found an off switch yet. I’ll make sure to include it in my review if I do find a way to turn it off without unplugging the power cable.

  10. Waiting to hear if the Android TV supports third party BD controllers.
    Anyone else think it looks like a Nexus Q that got run over???

      1. There’s actually an “Edit” button on your own posts; I just thought that I’d point that out for your future reference.
        Also, Brad replied to another commenter that, since the controller that can be added to your order is Bluetooth, other brands should work fine as well.

        1. Spent a bit of time searching for an edit option, couldn’t find it…
          Maybe cause I posted as a guest?

  11. Brad – could you please speak to whether or not Nexus Player (and Android TV in general) has multi account support?
    Given the fact Android TV is supposed to just be a specific UI on Android 5 and how important keeping accounts separated on a device which aims to surface content for you is, I’d expect it to be present. It is present on both phone and tablet with Android 5 so I’m hoping it is present on Android TV. But I’ve seen zero mention of it.
    If it’s not present then that is an insane oversight for a device type which more than any other is likely to be subject to use by multiple individuals.

    1. Nope, looks like you’re stuck using a single account (for now).

      You can remove the account you created at startup and then the settings include a menu option to add an account. But that option disappears once you have an active account.

      1. That’s extremely disappointing. Thanks for the quick reply. Look forward to your full review.

  12. Nice, really looking forward to your in-depth reviews. Most interested in the Nexus 6 battery life, charge time and the sound quality of the front-facing speakers.

    1. Really want to see his review of the nexus 6 as well. Trust his reviews over most anyone.

      1. Aww, thanks. But keep in mind, I don’t normally review phones so this one might be a bit rough around the edges. I still need to go buy a SIM card for this one, so I can actually start using it as a phone, since I’m scared to cut my Nexus 5’s micro SIM down to nano SIM size. 🙂

  13. At the $399 price point, slightly larger Windows 8.1 tablets become an option. I guess it depends on what you want to do with it, but yes, spending that much money to read comic books (or for me magazines) is hard to justify.

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