Hands-On Review: ASUS CUBE with Google TV
Last week a peculiarly shaped device appeared on my desk. It was a compact, solid square box with a rather alien aesthetic, by which I mean it looked like something out of a Star Trek episode. The perfectly square cube was dark gray with long diagonal grooves across its entire surface. The only visible signs that suggested this device was terrestrial in origin was a purple LED light in the bottom righthand corner, an AC power cord coming out of the back and a small diagonal ASUS logo on the front panel. It turns out that this uniquely shaped device was the new ASUS CUBE with Google TV—their latest media player.
I brought the CUBE home with me that night, and in less than 20 minutes I had it hooked up to my wireless home Wi-Fi network and my HDTV via an HDMI cable. I included this link because the CUBE is not packaged with an HDMI cable. You will need to supply one yourself. The unit features an HDMI input as well, for connecting your set-top box, Blu-ray Disc player or gaming console to your HDTV through the CUBE. It also features a single IR Blaster output, which will allow you to use the CUBE to change the channels of your set-top box (for example). Another IR Blaster output (for say, AV receiver volume control) would have been convenient, but still, one IR Blaster output is more than a lot of other media players offer. Plus, the CUBE ships with the necessary IR Blaster cable.
|ASUS CUBE with Google TV Image Gallery|
The ASUS CUBE provides access to media through the Google TV platform and it also features an Android 3.2 Honeycomb operating system. To understand the CUBE, you first have to understand Google TV. Basically, Google TV is available in two forms: it is either already integrated into your Smart TV, or it comes in what Google calls a “buddy box.” The ASUS CUBE is one of these buddy boxes, which means that it is a separate unit you can use along with, or in place of, a traditional cable or satellite set-top box. The CUBE streams media wirelessly using your home Wi-Fi network. However, if you only have wired Internet access, the device features a 10/100 BASE-T Ethernet port as well. The ASUS CUBE will play this streaming media on any TV with an HDMI input.
The next step is to understand the potential of the Google TV-equipped ASUS CUBE. What kind of entertainment does it provide? Thanks to Google TV, the ASUS CUBE affords access to more than 100,000 movies and TV shows through a variety of entertainment apps including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO, YouTube, Crackle and more. It also provides access to music through apps like Pandora. So, whether you’re a cinema buff, a reality TV addict, a music lover or a rabid sports fan, Google TV has enough content to keep your whole family entertained. Plus, with thousands of apps already available through Google Play, and new apps being released frequently, Google TV and other Internet-based media players are really the future of home entertainment.
Passive media consumption isn’t the only form of entertainment available with the ASUS CUBE. Google TV provides access to all your favorite social networking apps as well. This will keep you connected with friends and you can also use social networking apps to comment on what you’re watching and what shows you like or dislike. The other interactive aspect of the ASUS CUBE is its gaming ability. In fact, Google Play offers several unique games that can be played using the CUBE including 3D racing and shooter games. You can play these games with the included remote control or an XBOX or PS3 controller via the USB 2.0 ports. ASUS made sure that the CUBE would support interactive search and control function as well. This is all achieved with the CUBE’s innovative remote control.
Each CUBE ships with a unique dual-sided remote control. On one side of the remote is a full QWERTY keyboard that you can use to quickly type out the name or genre of whatever media, app, game or website you happen to be searching for. On the other side of the remote are the regular remote-control buttons, a touchpad controller and a few surprises as well. The first surprise is an integrated microphone into which you can speak directly. You can use voice commands to search for any channel name, any channel number, any movie or TV show title, any genre or any trending web video. If you connect your DVR box to the ASUS CUBE through HDMI, you can even voice search for live TV channels. The remote’s other surprise is its series of motion-control sensors, which allow you to turn the remote sideways and use it as a motion-sensing game controller for any number of motion-based games available from Google Play or ASUS.
The included remote isn’t the only searching tool that the ASUS CUBE provides either. The CUBE’s user-friendly interface also makes it easy to search for content. Plus, once you have developed a list of your favorite entertainment apps, you can categorize that list right on your TV screen using the CUBE’s user interface. This way, your favorite apps can be neatly organized for faster and easier accessibility. You can even customize the CUBE’s interface to your own preference by adding widgets, just as you can with an Android smartphone or tablet. The CUBE also provides access to the Google TV-powered PrimeTime search application, which works like an interactive TV guide. You can use it to find out what’s available on live TV through your cable service provider, what’s available through on-demand online media, and to find out what media is available on the Web.
Another benefit of having a Google-TV-powered media player is Google Chrome. Google Chrome is the CUBE’s integrated web browser. It provides full web-browsing capabilities. This means that you aren’t limited to just entertainment, games and social networking apps. You can search and view virtually any website you want—without leaving the comfort of your living room couch. The ASUS CUBE supports DLNA home-network sharing as well, so you’ll be able to stream a variety of multimedia files from any other compatible network-connected computer, hard drive or mobile device in your house.
The ASUS CUBE also features two USB 2.0 ports. One is located on the right side of the device, while the other is located on the back. Once you have the CUBE totally hooked up, you will pretty much never have to touch the device again—unless you’re using one of these USB 2.0 ports. Each USB port allows you to connect any type of USB storage device, including tiny USB thumb drives and external USB hard drives. By connecting one of these USB storage devices to the ASUS CUBE, you’ll be able to use your TV and any connected speaker system to view and/or listen to a variety of video, photo and music files.
The CUBE also includes 50GB of free ASUS WebStorage. Basically, this means you can safely store any media files you want on the ASUS cloud server, which you can then access anytime and anywhere you like. Another perk that many of the other Google TV-equipped devices don’t offer is the inclusion of several specific ASUS applications. These ASUS apps are exclusive to the CUBE and most of them were designed to work in conjunction with the Google TV platform. One of these ASUS apps is the mobile remote app, which allows you to use your Android-based mobile device to control the CUBE. This remote app also lets you search for media using your Android smartphone or tablet.
Besides the mobile remote app, ASUS also includes a handy Task Manager app and a useful Whiteboard app for taking notes and creating memos with text, images and videos. You can send these Whiteboard messages to friends, and you can even set up the Whiteboard widget on the CUBE’s home screen. This will allow you to set reminders for yourself and share thoughts, video clips or images with family members. The CUBE supports Google TV’s YouTube DIAL function as well, which lets you send YouTube videos between Android devices and Google TV devices.
After spending some time with the ASUS CUBE, I realized that it is the CUBE’s ability to offer all the standard Google TV features, as well as the additional ASUS CUBE-specific apps, functions and features, and access to Google Play that make it a truly unique media player. The unique design also helps it stand out among myriad other Internet-connected media players. Anyone thinking about adding a Google TV device to his or her entertainment arsenal should definitely consider the ASUS CUBE. Not only does it enhance the Google TV experience, it also adds several ASUS apps, functions and features that you won’t find on any other Google TV devices or Google TV-equipped Smart TVs.
For more information on the ASUS CUBE with Google TV, be sure to stop by the B&H Website or the B&H SuperStore in Manhattan. You can also get more information on the ASUS CUBE by reaching out to one of our sales professionals over the phone, at 1-800-606-6969 or online via Live Chat.
|ASUS CUBE with Google TV|
|Platform||Android 3.2 Honeycomb|
|Chipset||Marvell Armada 1500 Chipset|
|Memory||1GB (may be only 532MB of useable RAM)|
|Storage Capacity||50GB (ASUS WebStorage)|
|Supported Video Formats||H.263, H.264 AVC, MP4, VP6, WMV9, VC-1|
|Supported Video File Extensions||.3gp, .mp4, .ts, .mkv, .avo, .flv, .f4v, .mov, .mts, .divx, .wmv, .asf|
|Supported Audio Formats||MP3, AAC LC, AAC LTP, HE-AACv1 (AAC+), HE-AACv2 (Enhanced AAC+), DD/AC3, WMA, DTS|
|Supported Image Formats||JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF|
|Wireless Connectivity||Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)|
|Interfaces||1 x HDMI Input (Rear)
1 x HDMI Output (Rear)
1 x USB 2.0 Port (Right Side)
1 x USB 2.0 Port (Rear)
1 x 10/100 BASE-T Ethernet Port (Rear)
1 x IR Blaster Output (Rear)
1 x DC Power Input (Rear)
|Power Source||DC 12V (2A)|
|Operating Temperature||41 to 95°F (5 to 35°C)|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||4.9 x 4.9 x 4.9" (125 x 125 x 125mm)|
|Weight||1.15 lb (520 g)|