The most immediately noticeable difference between the Apple TV and the Nexus Player is, of course, the shape of its body. The Apple TV is a square while the Nexus Player is a circle. Both sport a semi-shiny, semi-matte black finish. The Nexus Player is a bit thinner than the Apple TV, but it’s also about 20% larger across. However, given that both these devices are meant to sit on a shelf below your TV, size--and even thickness--doesn’t matter too much.
Internally there are two major differences between the two devices. The Nexus Player sports a 1.8GHz Quad Core Intel Atom processor and has 1GB of RAM. That’s compared to Apple’s now paltry-looking single-core A5 with 512MB of RAM. The extra RAM in the Nexus Player should greatly help with video buffering and also gaming--something the Apple TV doesn’t support (more on that in a bit).
Once the Nexus Player is set up and connected to a Google account, the device presents users with their first look at Android TV. Despite the platform's name, the user interface doesn't really resemble the OS you find on the company's phones. Rows of icons and thumbnails do show off Google's new Material Design visual style that was introduced with the underlying Android 5.0, though. The layout is as efficient as it is visually pleasing, and the device's 1.8GHz quad-core Intel Atom CPU and 1GB of RAM kept things running smoothly.