Dirt-cheap alternatives to the Google Nexus Q

Before you plunk down $300 on Google's new media-streaming orb, consider the many other products that do a lot more for a lot less.

The Google Nexus Q looks pretty slick, but $300? For that kind of money you could buy five Roku boxes.
The Google Nexus Q looks pretty slick, but $300? For that kind of money you could buy five Roku boxes. Google

A 7-inch quad-core tablet for $199? Got my credit card right here!

A media-streaming orb for $299? Not so fast.

These were the two big announcements during yesterday's Google I/O keynote , and while the Google Nexus 7 tablet has "smash hit" written all over it, the Nexus Q media-streaming orb will probably be the biggest flop since Google TV.

What's wrong with the Q? Simple: it has too many digits in its price tag.

As noted in CNET's Nexus Q First Take , this heavy black orb is designed to stream songs, videos, and photos to your TV.

Sound familiar? Yeah, a lot of devices can do that, including the Apple TV, Orb Music Player, Roku HD, and Western Digital WD TV Live -- not to mention any modern game console. And every single one costs less, in some cases considerably less.

In fact, let's take a look at what you can buy for the price of one Google Nexus Q:

  • 5 Roku HDs
  • 3 Apple TVs
  • 2 WD Live TV Hubs (if you take advantage of a current CNET exclusive promotion)
  • 1 Xbox 360 4GB system and a 1-year Xbox Gold Family Pack subscription
  • 1 PlayStation 3 160GB system and a Roku LT

You get the idea. Now, to be fair, the Q includes a 25-watt amp that can power a pair of speakers, something these other gizmos can't do. That brings it closer to Sonos territory, and the entry-level Sonos also costs $299.

However, if all you want is audio, you can accomplish the same thing with a Bluetooth speaker -- or even a Bluetooth adapter for your current stereo system.

My main objection with the Nexus Q is that it requires an Android smartphone or tablet, which acts as a controller for choosing content to stream from your Google Play account or YouTube. (If you're getting vested in the Google Play ecosystem, at least you'll now have a way to watch movies and TV shows on your TV.)

What's more, those are currently the only two services supported by the device. Want to stream from Pandora? Spotify? Songza ? Forget it. Even Apple TV lets you watch Netflix. The Nexus Q seems severely limited in comparison with most other devices, yet costs quite a bit more.

Is there more to the Nexus Q than meets the eye? Maybe so, but on paper it looks like an overpriced, under-featured gadget that few people will have reason to buy. To my thinking, this looks like a $99 product at best.

Agree? Disagree? Let's hear from you in the comments.

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