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7/9/2012
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Nexus Q Is Made In America, Sort Of

Is the Nexus Q, Google's new consumer device for streaming Internet content to home electronics, really made in America? iFixit took it apart to see how true that claim is.

When Google introduced the Nexus Q in June, it subtly tried to distinguish itself from that other consumer electronics giant in Silicon Valley. In addition to being almost perfectly round and matte black, the wireless device, which streams music, TV, movies, and videos to your home entertainment systems under control of your Android device, is made in America.

Google hardware director Matt Hershenson said the Nexus Q has a micro USB port "... to encourage general hackablility." The "hackability" line drew the only applause for Hershenson from an otherwise subdued audience of developers.

In fact, Google is encouraging hacking the OS more than the device itself. A label under the plastic shell warns, "Risk of electrical shock. Do not open." But the engineers at iFixit.net--who grade products on how well they can be disassembled and repaired--pried open the Nexus Q anyway, to see just how much of this "Made in U.S.A." product actually was made in the U.S.

"It's nearly impossible to have a truly American made electronic device," said Miroslav Djuric, chief information architect for iFixit. "The Q also exemplifies how international all our electronics have become. Not everything just shows up on a boat from China."

The takeaway:

  • The Nexus Q is assembled in Silicon Valley, California.
  • The plastic shell and metal base are manufactured in the U.S.
  • Some of the electronics such as the photomicrosensor could have been manufactured only in the U.S.
  • The origin of most of the electronics is ambiguous. For example, the 16GB of flash memory could have been manufactured in Austin, Texas, but might also come from South Korea. The microcontroller was either manufactured in Colorado Springs, Colo., or Nantes, France.
  • Some electronics such as the ethernet port and optical out port could have been manufactured only in China and Japan, respectively.

The Nexus Q scored a high iFixit "repairability" score of 8 out of 10. Disassembling the device is pretty straightforward--limited amounts of adhesive and non-exotic screws help make repairing it fairly easy, although there are lots of tiny parts that can get lost and the device is "cumbersome" to reassemble.

John Lagerling, Google's senior director of Android global partnerships, downplayed the "made in America" claim, telling Reuters that it wasn't the product's main focus. But if it wasn't, why does a gadget that requires the consumer to also own an Android tablet or phone and that streams pretty much only YouTube videos cost $299? That's high if consumers aren't getting something else for their money, such as the warm, fuzzy feeling that it's made in their home country.

Other highlights:

  • The perimeter of the Q is lined with 32 RGB LEDs, enabling it to put on a nighttime light show.
  • The integrated 35 W switching power supply sports a world-ready 50/60 Hz 85-265 V AC input.
  • The Q weighs about two pounds, with the metal base accounting for half of the weight.

Click here to see the full iFixit Nexus Q teardown.

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