A bold design and great software additions make the ASUS CUBE unique, but is that enough to push Google TV to mainstream living rooms?

The ASUS CUBE with Google TV is the latest premium Google TV box to come out, and it’s also one of the most anticipated. It has a unique look and design, a nifty rotating-cube user interface, and plenty of features both in the hardware and software. We’ve been waiting for it since it was first unveiled in January at CES, and now it’s here.

I’m convinced that the Google TV platform is “almost there”, and one key component to get it from a cool toy for enthusiasts to something you would find in a mainstream consumer’s living room is great hardware. The $140 price tag will help -- you can grab one from various e-tailers including Newegg --  provided the unit provides a good experience with the current Google TV software.

The ASUS CUBE is certainly unique, but is it great? Hit the break and we’ll have a look.


The unit itself is not something tiny that you can tuck away behind another component in your entertainment center or TV stand. It’s a 125mm (about 5-inches) cube, which makes it a good bit taller than any of the previous Google TV set-top boxes we’ve seen. You’ll need to find somewhere to place the CUBE in your current set-up, preferably up front where the IR sensor is unobstructed. The good news is that it does look pretty unique, and the textured piano black finish should fit in with the rest of your living room electronics.

The surface of the ASUS CUBE is pretty much unbroken solid plastic. On the front, you have the ASUS badge and the previously mentioned IR sensor, as well as a power indicator. When the unit is on it’s blue, and it’s red (and muted) when off. On the right side of the CUBE you have a recessed reset switch and a USB 2.0 port. Around back you’ll find all the connections for hook up -- HDMI in and out ports, an IR Blaster output, a CAT 5 Ethernet jack, a second USB 2.0 port and the DC power port.

Hooking the ASUS CUBE up to your existing television is pretty easy. You bring the TV signal from your cable or satellite box to the HDMI input, and run the HDMI output to your television. In my case I was also using an Oynko A/V receiver, so things were different, but just as easy -- send the HDMI output into the back of my receiver. Your configuration will depend on your other equipment, but hooking it all up will likely be simple.


Once you have it hooked up and turned on, make sure your TV is set to the right input and you’ll see the Google TV set-up routine. Here, you set the screen size so the viewing area matches the exact aspect and dimensions of your screen, set up your input and out devices, and log in to your Google account. My television, receiver, and cable box were all set up automatically after giving the correct model number to the CUBE’s set-up software routine. With it all completed, I can control the CUBE itself, my receiver volume, my TV volume, and all the channel and multimedia functions of my cable box right through the CUBE’s awesome remote. Once you have everything set up, the only time you’ll need to ever touch the cube portion of the CUBE is if you plug in an external storage device into one of the USB ports.

The Remote


The remote is how you interface with everything about your ASUS CUBE, so it needs to be a good one. The one ASUS built just so happens to be a great one. It's dual sided, and comes complete with two very important features -- a set of motion control sensors and a microphone for voice input. The motion control sensors can turn the remote into a sort of a game controller. ASUS provided us with a version of My Paper Plane 2 built for use with the CUBE, and it worked well enough. It's a bit of detachment using a motion-based controller in your hands while looking at a screen across the room, but you adjust in short order. Once suitable games are built to take advantage of the function -- I'm looking at you Riptide GP -- it looks to be a pretty cool addition. The microphone works with voice search on the Google TV 3 platform, works as described most of the time, and transcribes your spoken word into a search as well as it does on your phone or tablet.

On one side you have a full qwerty keyboard. The keys are rounded chiclet style, and are easy to press when you need to press them. You won't be typing 80 words per minute on it, but you will be able to easily input text into the browser or apps. A big part of the reason why is the other keys that are also on the keyboard. You have a full one though zero row of dedicated number keys, with the symbols for things like the "@" sign where you would see them on your computer keyboard. There's also an escape key, a delete key, control and function keys for typing those special characters we talked about, a shift key and a caps lock key. Add in directional keys and Android function keys for back, menu and search, and you have a perfect way to input any sort of text anywhere you need to input it. 


On the flip side, you have your standard remote functions. In addition to normal things you'll find on a remote, like volume and channel rockers and multimedia keys (including a record button that works with your DVR), you have some specialized keys for things a Google TV box needs. The upper third of the remote is a dedicated directional pad that also doubles as a trackpad. Click up, down, left or right to move your selection box, then press the center to enter your choice. Or tap the cursor key on the right of the remote and use the surface as a trackpad. Both methods work well enough, but the directional pad combined with the user interface is a really nice way to navigate through the system. You'll also find a dedicated Netflix key, the obligatory Android function key of Home and back, a voice search key, and an info button that works with your cable or satellite box.

The remote takes a little while to get used to, but the layout is well planned and in just a few days you'll be able to expertly use it in a dark room while your favorite show or movie is playing. 

The Software


The big thing here is the way ASUS has customized the Google TV interface. Your home screen has three dimensional cube in the center, taking about a third of the total viewing space. The cube itself is an overlay, so you can bring it up while on your home screen or during a movie or other full-screen activity. Because it doesn't take over the entire frame, you have room for widgets on your home screen, or more importantly, to see the content that's playing while navigating through the interface. Move up and down through the cube to pull up different pages, like a "Home" category with access to all your apps and some quick shortcuts to often used tools and apps, or Sports where you can store things like sports score apps and bookmarks to things like, or even a favorites panel that you can fill with apps and shortcuts you use most often. When you're on the page you want to be on, a quick jump to the right via the directional pad on the remote allows you to navigate through the individual entries. Once you memorize how you have things laid out, jumping between them is lightning fast compared to the more traditional menu set up you find on the stock Google TV interface. This is one of those times that a manufacturer has made the standard Google interface better -- by a good margin.


The ASUS CUBE runs version 3 of the Google TV platform, which equates to Android 3.2 in terms we're more familiar with. The platform update brought stability improvements and bug fixes, but the two big user facing features were voice search and input, and Primetime. Voice search is much as it in on our phones and tablets, and works about as well. It's very handy to have, and something you won't want to give up once you're used to having it. Grab your remote and search for anything you want to look for on the web, as well as searching for content to watch. You can do this by name, but also by genre, or actor, or even subject. A search for Android Central will guide you here, and a search for "movies with Ving Rhames" will give you a list of choices from Lilo and Stitch to Dawn of the Dead, from all the sources you have set up on your ASUS CUBE -- like the Internet, content streamed from your cable or satellite box, or online services like Netflix, Amazon, or Google Play. From there it's a click to start watching.

PrimeTime search

In addition to the standard fare, ASUS has bundled in a few of their own applications. You have a front end to ASUS WebStorage, with 50GB of free space for signing up via the ASUS CUBE. This is a service like Dropbox where you can store files for safekeeping and accessing anywhere you have a browser, and it syncs across multiple devices. You'll also find a nice Whiteboard app for note taking designed with the Google TV interface in mind. You can attach media to create rich notes, and color code them for easy sorting. The Easy Multimedia services will automatically find and connect to streaming servers on your home network. Playback is smooth, and the application is easy to navigate and use. Of course, they have also thrown a task manager into the mix, which could be handy if an app gets hung. Knock on wood we haven't had to use that just yet.

ASUS WebStorage

Of course, other Google TV specific features like YouTube Dial where you can send YouTube videos between Android devices and Google TV are on board, as are all the standard Google services built for the platform. 

The Verdict


The ASUS CUBE is easily the best Google TV box we've seen yet. ASUS has made changes that enhance the system rather than detract from it, and everything is bundled up into a unique and interesting package that you wont want to hide away in the back of your TV stand. They've done an excellent job of building the software, and the system is the most stable and well-working that I've seen from any Google TV manufacturer. When you consider that it retails for just $139.99 it's a pretty compelling choice.

Another thing to consider, if you're an Android fan, is the way ASUS has traditionally stayed on top of updates. We assume Google still has big things in store for Google TV, and as they roll out the changes you're going to want them on your device quickly. ASUS has shined in that department, and their community outreach and support makes me think they will continue.

If you ever wanted a Google TV box, the ASUS CUBE is the one to buy.


Reader comments

The ASUS CUBE with Google TV review


Rather get a stick like the Archos tv connect with a keyboard and a game controller all in one that puts android right on your tv, and then you can play almost all the android games especially the FPS that a lot of people buy and haven't played yet waiting for a good non root controller device, plus you can still watch videos from the net for free w/out having to pay for them on play only and watch hulu or netflix or what ever free services that are out there, plus the archos tv connect is about the same price or cheaper, also allows you to use all your android apps and a browser too on your hd tv

I realize you made this post months ago, but I'd never heard of the Archos TV connect before.

You mentioned watching videos from the net for free and you mentioned Hulu. But you can't watch Hulu for free, can you? Every Android device I have tried was blocked when I tried to go to Considering flash is dead on Android, how are you playing video content from any site that doesn't have an app?

Google TV acts as a pass-through for content from a cable box. If you don't connect one, it just wont use it as a source for content when searching.

Good Lord I'm getting old.

I read your question as CATV (CAble TV) not CAT V. What the dude below me said. And it has Wifi if you'd rather do that, but I always use a wire for my streaming media when i can.

RJ45 refers specifically to the *connector* on the end of an Ethernet cable.

A standard phone line has four wires and uses an RJ11 connector. This is the type of wire you used to use to hook up your modem.

An Ethernet cable has eight wires arranged in 4 pairs, generally either rated as Cat5 or Cat6 (which denotes shielding and impedance) and has an RJ45 connector on either end.

I'm starting to think you read it correctly, though I usually think of CATV as Coax. At any rate, I read that the Cube will search your Cable/Sat provider for content when you search for video to play, whether it be a movie or tv show by title, actor, genre, etc. That is why you may wish to connect your Cable/Sat box via HDMI to the device.

You don't "need" the cat5 connection as the device has WiFi, however, wired network is always faster and more reliable than wifi.

I have been using a Roku as my media streamer with plex but I've really been looking for an excuse to get a Google TV box. I think I am just going to see what happens at I/O and depending what the show off(or don't show off I should say) I might just have to pick this little number up.

Worthy upgrade from the Revue? I still have one and it still works beautifully, but I have a feeling it feels sluggish compared to this. I am concerned about it still being on Honeycomb.

The video walk throughs don't seem to show anything that's really faster, so the main benefit seems to be slightly better hardware and Amazon video native. Otherwise, there doesn't seem to be an increase in app selection, UI speed enhancement, etc. I agree the Revue is old, but it still works and since it was half the cost of this, I'm curious if it's worth going in for another $140. Is there a wow factor above and beyond just being a Google TV device? Something that makes you immediately realize it's almost 3 years newer? I'm not 100% sure why no one is making on on Jelly Bean with the full Google Play store selection.

Care to expound on that? Like NothingisTrue said, I don't see how this is a major upgrade or provides the much needed improvements that could actually push Google TV into the mainstream.

The app selection for google TV is horrid, and most of what is available is weak. The available options for Hulu/Netflix/Amazon are clunky at best, and they don't provide nearly as many features as their tablet/phone/pc counterparts. This may sound like an app problem, but I don't think so. It's got to be hard/expensive enough to maintain all of the apps that a media provider has to, much less needing to add another one to the mix. I personally think that if Google TV just used the tablet UI, we would all be better off.

Does it feel snappy or laggy when you use it? Is there any way to turn off the rotating cube GUI? How is it for streaming video from local network shares?


After seeing the Punk'd box-set in the out-of-focus background of the first image, I'm not entirely sure we can trust your choices when it comes to in-home entertainment...

Since a cable/satellite box gets connected into it, does this mean the Cube can act as a DVR and record such content?

The only connection is HDMI which supports HDCP (copyright protection). So, no, unfortunately it cannot record any content from the SAT/CATV box.

Does the Google TV Android app work with it? My Revue keyboard broke, using my phone or N7 as the remote has become very helpful.

Yes it will work with the Google TV Remote and/or Able Remote and/or YouTube Remote or whatever those apps are called from the Play Store but the Logitech Revue K700 keyboard is so much easier to use in my opinion. I have a Logitech Revue, Sony NSZ-GS7 and Sony NSZ-GT1 connected in my home and all are controlled by the Logitech Revue K700 keyboard, playing with phone or table remote apps made me realize I much prefer the full sized keyboard controller.

If you liked the Revue, the new Google TV models are a modest upgrade in my opinion but for those that were underwhelmed by the Revue, I sure don't think the new models will be so much better that the Revue haters will now love Google TV. The Marvell Armada 1500 ARM processor used with the new boxes is an upgrade to the Intel Atom processor used with the Revue and some newer apps will only run on ARM processors.

I use Google TV with Tivo with OTA and the combination is the best solution for cord cutting I have seen since I don't particularly want to use an HTPC although I would consider that the second best solution I have seen. I also use a Roku 2 XS and Roku LT and love those simple to use little boxes, some things both Roku and Google TV can do are done better or easier by Roku but Google TV does so much more than Roku that if I was only going to use one or the other, it would definitely be Google TV.

Since I am among the world's biggest Google TV fans, I sure hope this new Asus model is a big success but for my needs, the Sony NSZ-GS7 beats it since it includes optical audio output and twice the flash storage. It also appears to me that the Sony boxes have better codec support but that could be an individual preference. Voice control/voice search works well enough but for me, it was just a fun gimic to play with briefly and I went right back to using a full sized keyboard.

It is good to see a positive review of the Asus Cube here.

I would've though that a video would be the ideal way to review this product. We really need to see how it works.

Cool software, cool remote, stupid form factor for the device. Since it won't play DVDs, I still need my DVD player which is about 16" wide and 1.5" tall, and I obviously still need my cable box which is about 16" wide and 3" tall... and then there's this freakshow cube. Wtf, Bob? For 30+ years, all of the stuff that connects to TVs (VCR, DVD, Cable) has been in a single form factor. That means all of the furniture is designed to accommodate that form factor. I'm tired of cubes and spheres and slanted cubes and shiny damned pyramids. Just give me a bland looking, short, wide device with nice software on it.

Also, where's the IR in? If you're going to make it ugly and difficult to place, at least give it an IR in so I can use a $4 remote IR bud and put the box-o-stupidity somewhere out of the way.

Would really love to see a Blu-ray/DVD player with stock 4.2.2, full play store, full features, Google Now, etc, easily up-gradable to KLP in a few weeks, etc. with support for HDMI IN/OUT, the software support to manage Dish/DTV/Cable browsing, etc. Taking it off the rails to something that you have to choose between it and the PS3 depending on whether or not you're using HBO Go, Amazon or a Blu-ray is making things more complicated.

You're really asking for a lot. Way too much in fact, especially from a set top player. Heck, phones and tablets (which SHOULD have 4.2.2 and be upgraded to KLP) are rare enough as it is. And you want a set top box to have it and be upgraded quickly? Not going to happen.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'd love to be able to purchase and own exactly the kind of device you described but sadly that's just not in the cards anytime soon. Maybe one day though.

Why don't these things have an over the air TV tuner...and maybe even DVR functionality? Give it that and I'm sold, until then they just do so much less than a media center TV that I can't find any reason to have it. Having a simpler interface would be nice but not worth losing everything that the media center gives me.

I'd be on it in a heartbeat. It's hard to cut the cord using a device that can't get OTA signal. Right now I just change sources as needed, but that's losing out on some of the GTV features.

I switched from my Revue to an Xbox 360, but I'd snap up a GTV box with a TV tuner the second it came out.

Not having really researched much about Google TV does it do an airplay-like feature where I can play back music or videos from my Galaxy S3?

Also, as for Netflix (my primary viewing platform), I assume GoogleTV supports 1080p and 5.1 playback?

I've been looking at getting a Roku 3, but wanted to look at GoogleTV devices as well.

Yes. You can use DLNA to share music, JPGs, and movies. There are plenty of options for that in the Play Store. I've sent movies over my phone to play on my Revue, which is ancient by today's standards.

As for 1080p, yes, AFAIK it does.


You didn't mentioned the android phone remote app. I'm going to be too far for the hard remote so dependent on the phone for a remote. Will it work as the main driver?

I am very excited about this new Google TV. I have the Revue and I am itching to upgrade it. However, I find it odd that I can't seem to find the Cube on Asus's site nor does any other website offer pre-order or even have it listed. I am just wondering if 4/25 is really the release date or if Newegg just threw that date out there.

I'm in the same boat. Revue user from day one.

Not sure if it was clear but Jerry indicated that this Asus device runs 3.2 just like the Revue. I'm sure it's faster, but ultimately it's old Android - really old.

Hoping for a refresh for Google TV @ I/O this year... I'm waiting to see before I buy more of it.

Looking for a reason to upgrade from my WDTV. But my WDTV will play any media file I throw at it..xvid, avi, etc...will this thing play different video formats as well?

In the beginning of the review it talks about keeping the IR sensor unobstructed. Does this remote really use IR instead of bluetooth? That would be a huge selling point for me. I like to run things as much as I can off of my universal remote. Or is the IR just talking about an IR blaster?

So other than an old press release, I can find no mention of this product on any of Asus' websites. So I'll ask the following questions: 1) What codecs and what pass-thru modes are supported (DTS, AC3 DD)? 2) Can it play media files (depending on the codecs it supports) via DLNA from another device (i.e. HDD w/media files attached to Pogoplug, a NAS appliance, etc.), 3) This is $40 more than the Vizio CoStar which has been out since Aug-2012 - other than a fancy cube home screen and the addition of an IR Blaster output, how does it compare - why is it $40 more - more codecs, better hardware, etc.? 4) What makes this the best GoogleTV box you've seen yet and why? 5) As others have mentioned above - does this fully support the GoogleTV Remote app and Able Remote app?

I won't be buying a replacement for my Revue until someone releases a GoogleTV with Miracast support. I really love the HDMI pass-through feature of GoogleTVs vs Rokus, ATV, etc but we really need miracast now! Come on...

This ^^

Google has a synergy opportunity here - use the googleTV and also share content from your android phones, tablets, and PC (does Chromebook support miracast?)

I don't feel the need to buy two devices to make this happen, they just need to drop a 2nd wifi adapter in and add the support in software.

Can anyone comment on how this will work with comcast/xfinity? My roku is somewhat limited because of comcast, they has no interest in making hbo go availible, and they dont make an xfinity app for roku. Should a comcast customer be hesitant about buying this?

Jerry, have you tried loading XBMC on this? If that works, I would take this hands down as my next HTPC.

XBMC won't work because there is no NDK for Google TV devices. Plex has clients that work but aren't optimized for the tv viewing experience. One that is optimized is Serenity for Android. It has an XBMC like skin but interfaces to a plex media server.

Can it play content from a NAS? My PS3 and Apple TV both fail at that. I have jailbroken my Apple TV to get that, but it still doesn't work very well.

Well for someone like myself who's a cable cutter but has been using a Roku 2 XS, this is a MAJOR departure..So many questions such as will the Chrome browser sync with my desktop like my GS3?.. And how good is the streaming quality of Netflix or other channels when compared to other streaming devices using a wired connection? And like others have asked there was no mention of Dolby Digital surround access for streaming movies from Netflix or Vudu.. That really would make the decision for me since I was looking at the Roku 3.. This is FAR beyond any Roku though :)

I was wondering if it supports Miracast over WiFi Direct ? Also, where can I find a list of supported voice commands ? Can you power on you TV just by saying "TV ON" or something like that ? And one last thing for you Jerry, how would you rate the 'hackability' of this thing ? How easy is it to root it and fiddle around with it ?

GoogleTV interests me but I still don't understand quite what the purpose of it is. What does it compete with? Roku? Boxee?

Perhaps the reason I get confused is because it also serves a cable box pass through, which is not of interest to me because I am considering cutting the cord.

Right now I have an Xbox 360 and a Sony Blu-Ray player, plus a Panasonic plasma with apps. All 3 have Netflix capability. 2 of the 3 have YouTube and Hulu+.

So I'm wondering what does this box give that's different other than browsing the Internet on my TV using Chrome?

I'm pretty much in the same boat as you, just a little different. I've cut the cord on my cable, and have a PS3 from which I can access Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, YouTube, and (the streaming services I use most), so I don't really see what this box would add for me.

As others have said, I would be all over this if it could pick up OTA TV signals and/or if it had Miracast that I could use in conjunction with my Nexus devices (Galaxy Nexus phone and Nexus 10 tab). I doubt the OTA signal capability would ever be integrated with it, but I'm a bit surprised they haven't gone for Miracast yet. It seems like Google is trying to lead the Miracast charge by making their mobile devices Miracast-compatible, but what good is it if I can send a signal, but there is nothing to receive it? As far as I know, there is one Miracast dongle (I think Netgear makes it?) that is rather meh, and I think there's one TV made by LG that has Miracast. I'm not in a position to drop $1K on a new TV right now though. GTV seems like a great way for Google to offer a complete Miracast package (at least in terms of sending/receiving).

I'm going to wait until Google I/O before considering to buy Asus Cube. Hopefully they will take another stab at Nexus Q, or release a Nexus Google TV box. Or maybe they'll release Google TV running Jelly Bean with build in Google Now.

No Miracast is hugely disappointing, so we continue to wait for a competent feature set in a Google set top. My money is on the scenario where as soon as there is decent hardware for Miracast, Google abandons it.

I just got my ASUS Cube last night and was very excited to upgrade my aging slow Revue. Setup was easy then I discovered it only has 532 MB of usable RAM. RAM is so cheap it is practically free but it was only using half. It only comes with 1 IR blaster and unlike the Revue it must be within 2-3 cm of the IR port of the device you are trying to control. That is a huge disappointment because I was able to successfully setup the Cube to control my TV, cable box and AV receiver by moving the IR blaster close but it only comes with 1 !!! So it is most likely going to be planted next to your cable box and that is it. That's one point to the ancient Revue. Every time I search for my paper airplane it defaults from apps to music every single time when I click on apps it still goes back to music search!!!! My paper airplane 2 is compatible with my Nexus One but not my brand new Asus cube what the HECK!!! Automatically rebooted 5 times within the first night due to launching apps such as the Play Store, clearing the cache of the Play Store did correct this. With the Redux app not so lucky. It was rebooting upon launch of Redux, cleared cache, still rebooting because of an app that runs flawlessly on a 1st gen Google TV. One positive is that a slim Logitech keyboard / touchpad for a PC works great, even two finger scrolling, alt-tab, ctl-alt-del. Oh well, after this and my ASUS TF201 I am pretty much done with ASUS Android half-baked failures. If they performed like this in the motherboard of video card field they would have gone under long ago....
This thing is going back!!!

I'm setting up the Asus Cube right now and I'm stuck. The cable box/dvr setup isn't 'automatic.' I entered the correct model, Cisco 8642HDC and the Cube wants an entry in the 'command set' field or it won't proceed to the next setup step. The Cube manual is worthless about this item. Until I figure out what that command set is I can't setup tv through the cube.
I'm dreading wading through Asus tech support.

The CD manual auotplay bring up a window with a 'Manual' radio button. When I click on the button I get an error message 'You need to install Service Pack first before installing the VGA driver. Installation aborts.' I have Windows 8 64-bit with an ATI 6870 graphics adapter. That error message is ridiculous. I can read the manual pdf file from the disc fine.

Has anyone attempted to connect a USB DVD or Bluray drive to it to play movies? I want to replace all the crap, not just add another piece to the crap.

Sad thing is my raspberry pi with xbmc running on it does a better job streaming videos. Thing can't stream a video without studdering every minute. Thing is underpowered crap! Sent mine back after two or three hours of use. Very painful to use! Waiting for nexus Google TV! My white unicorn!! It is out there!!!

Just became a member and have patiently read through all the comments. No mention of my dilemma. I've been attracted to this little niche since the WEBTV days, then MSNTV2, then the Revue, which I use now. I want to upgrade to 4.2 and the latest Chrome version, and the Cube would be my choice of the contenders - EXCEPT there is no discussion of printing. There is an App in the Play Store called PrinterShare, which supposedly allows a printer to work. It does not fully work with the Revue (Prints PDF's, won't print .docx). Anyone know if this is a Revue problem? A 3.2 problem? A systemic GTV problem? Email to the App support address has brought forth a wall of silence. George

Im more leaning towards getting one of the Android TV boxes I see pop up all over Ebay these days. You can get them with Jelly Bean now for a very good price. Im currently using Roku Boxes with Plex.

I have an asus cube bought a couple weeks ago. The voice search will not work on the remote control. was on the tech support site last week for over 2 hours with 4 different tech people to try and help me out. I have a case number here 3290407. The tech finally said i needed to replace the unit, so I bundled it up and sent it back and got a new one. I set the new one up this evening and it is doing the same thing. when i press the voice search button o get a message on my tv saying "This button function is not available"
There is nothing in the instructions saying that i have to do anything special to make this work. The techs that I was speaking to did npt seem to have much familiarity with this product, can someone help me get this working correctly.

Great article, Jerry. For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix, Hulu and similar media stations on your Google TV by using UnoTelly or similar tools.