Google's Nexus Player is coming to the UK this week. But how does that set-top box differ from the company's Chromecast streaming dongle? Here we discuss what is the difference between Chromecast and Nexus Player. Updated 23/3/15.

Google Chromecast vs Nexus Player: What is Chromecast? 

Chromecast is a £30 dongle that turns any TV into a smart TV. In its simplest form it is a wireless alternative to connecting your phone or tablet to your TV via HDMI in order to stream what's on the screen. Apps make it much more useful than that, however. Check out our full Google Chromecast review. 

To set up Chromecast you simply plug it into a TV's HDMI port and power it up via USB; a mains adaptor is included in the box for use with TVs that do not have a USB port. The Chromecast then connects to your home Wi-Fi network, and is controlled via the Chromecast app on your Android or iOS phone, tablet, PC or laptop. For more detailed instructions see How to set up and use Chromecast.

Chromecast does not have its own user interface. To stream content to your TV you can either cast whatever is on your screen, or tap the Cast icon within compatible apps. BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Netflix are just a handful of apps that support Chromecast. Within the Chromecast app you'll also find apps built specifically for Chromecast, including games, multimedia and educational apps, and even apps that turn your TV and smartphone into a home CCTV system. See our list of the best free Chromecast apps you don't know about. 

Google Chromecast vs Nexus Player: What is Nexus Player? 

Nexus Player is a set-top box from Google, which costs £79 in the UK. Also see: Nexus Player UK release date, price and specs and 4 reasons we can't wait for Nexus Player to come to the UK. 

Nexus Player is very much a Google version of Amazon's Fire TV, and a closer rival to the Apple TV, Sky Now TV and Roku 3 than it is to Chromecast (also see Best media streamers 2015). Nexus Player has its own user interface, Android TV, which is in essence a custom version of Android Lollipop. 

Android TV is like any other smart TV system, except that rather than restricting you to the app stores of Samsung, Sony and the like, you can access Google Play apps and media content, as well as cast content from your other devices. Rather than a device you might pair with a phone or tablet, you might imagine Nexus Player as a device that turns your television into a huge-screen Android tablet, which you can then navigate with a dedicated remote control that supports voice search. 

Given that your TV is likely the largest screen in your house, it's well suited to gaming. Android TV lets you play Android games on your TV, sync progress with your other devices to pick up later, and engage in online multiplayer modes. For the Nexus Player a console-style controller is available as an accessory. 

Google Chromecast vs Nexus Player: What is the difference between Chromecast and Nexus Player? 

The biggest difference between these two devices is the Android TV user interface, which turns the Nexus Player into a proper home-entertainment system, offering personalised recommendations on content you might enjoy; without Android TV, Chromecast is simply a fancy wireless equivalent to an HDMI cable. 

Perhaps the more obvious difference is in their specifications, which goes some way to explain why Nexus Player is three times the price of Chromecast. Whereas the Chromecast is a small (72x35x12mm) and light (34g) dongle with a single HDMI port and a Micro-USB connection, the puc-shaped Nexus Player is a proper set-top box, 120x120x120mm and 235g, with its own hardware inside. Other than your TV, it doesn't rely on a second device - phone, tablet, PC or laptop - to operate. 

The Nexus Player is powered by a 1.8GHz Intel Atom quad-core processor, Imagination PowerVR Series 6 graphics and 1GB of RAM, and it has 8GB of storage. There's support for the lastest 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1, plus an HDMI output for connecting it to your TV. Nexus Player also comes with a dedicated remote control with support for voice search, plus a gaming controller is available as an optional accessory.

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