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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.

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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