New $35 Chromecast TV Streaming Adapter Promises Better Connectivity, Faster Playback

Google unveiled the second generation of its Chromecast streaming stick at a press event in San Francisco Tuesday. The new Chromecast, which will be available in 17 countries starting Tuesday, doesn’t just look different, it also comes with new technology to improve playback in the home.

Part of that can actually be attributed to the design: The original Chromecast was a stick-shaped streaming adapter, similar to a USB drive with a bulbous end, and plugged directly into a TV’s HDMI port. Turns out that’s not actually all that good for connectivity, which is why the new device instead looks like a round disc that comes with an integrated HDMI cable.

Chromecast also got support for 5 Ghz Wifi, which is being used by many modern routers and generally offers better coverage over larger areas of a home. But the new Chromecast is also smarter in how it is using Wifi.

“Wifi actually changes all the time,” said Google’s VP of product management Rish Chandra during a recent interview. Someone may turn on their microwave, neighbors may add a new access point, or a bunch of devices within the own home may suddenly crowd the network. Chromecast now accounts for this with an adaptive antenna system that chooses the optimal connection based on current network conditions, Chandra explained.

Google’s new Chromecast also introduces a new technology called Fastplay, which pre-fetches content in the background to make playback seem more instantaneous. For example, Netflix may already preload its Chromecast app and even the beginning of the show you binge-watched last night as soon as you open the Netflix app on your phone, and playback will automatically start without any buffering when you press play.

Another interesting feature of the new Chromecast is something Google doesn’t talk about as much yet: The new streaming dongle includes Bluetooth LE support, which is currently being used to bring some features to iPhones that in the past only worked on Android phones.

But in the long run, Google may also use Bluetooth to add proximity and presence detection to Chromecast. Chandra didn’t want to commit to any concrete features just yet, but said that proximity could for example make it possible to automatically suggest the Chromecast closest to you in houses with multiple streaming dongles.

Google also made a few improvements to the Chromecast experience on the software side. The latest version 46 of Google’s Chrome browser, which is scheduled to be released later this week, will include better mirroring to Chromecast, which means that users will be able to beam anything they’re seeing on their computer screen to the TV. This feature, while available, has so far been in beta, and Chandra said that playback quality is greatly improved with the new update.

Finally, Google is making a new version of the Chromecast app available for Android and iOS. In the past, that app was primarily available for setup and configuration. With the update, it actually includes content recommendations and universal search for movies and TV shows. Select apps from partners like Netflix, Hulu, Fox, CBS and Crackle are able to surface content recommendations in right within the app. Upon selecting one of the recommended titles, a user is then taken into the right app, one click away from casting the show to the TV.

SEE MORE: Universal Search: TV’s Most Aggravating Problem Demands a Total Solution

Universal search similarly indexes content from participating partners, making it possible to find an episode of a TV show on Hulu, Netflix or elsewhere. Right now, Google is limiting search to select partners, but Chandra said that this may change in the future. “We do want to eventually open it up,” he said.

Chromecast has been a very successful product for Google, with executives announcing Tuesday that the company has sold more than 20 million units worldwide since introducing it a little over two years ago. Chandra said that the company wants to continue to support those first-generation devices, and for example eventually add some aspects of Fastplay to them as well. Some users who have experienced connectivity woes in the past may benefit from upgrading to a second-generation Chromecast, he said, but added that the new device was really about bringing streaming services to the many of millions of TVs that still aren’t connected.

More Digital

  • Ryan Chanantry - Topic SVOD

    First Look Media's Topic Plans to Launch Subscription VOD Service (EXCLUSIVE)

    Can Topic execute a solid pivot into premium video? The digital storytelling outlet of Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media thinks it can put together a niche Netflix-style subscription-video service curated to appeal to young “culture cravers.” Topic plans to launch the subscription VOD service in the fourth quarter of 2019, stocked with hundreds of hours [...]

  • Dan Ahdoot

    This New Podcast Lets You Take a Peek Into Celebrities' Fridges (EXCLUSIVE)

    Comedian Dan Ahdoot wants to show you a side of celebrities you haven’t seen before — which is why he is having them open up their fridges. Anyone appearing on Ahdoot’s new podcast “Green Eggs & Dan,” which was launched by the podcast network Podglomerate Wednesday, has to bring along a photo of the inside [...]

  • Spotify-Disney

    Spotify Pacts With Disney to Launch Hub With Music From Movies, TV Shows

    Fans of Disney movies and TV shows can now dive into a dedicated music hub on Spotify, featuring seven playlist sections with top hits from Disney animated favorites and music from Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars films. Disney’s No. 1 most-streamed song on Spotify is “Let It Go” from the “Frozen” soundtrack, followed by “Moana”’s [...]

  • La Linea Invisible

    Mariano Barroso Shoots Basque Conflict Origins Story ‘La Linea Invisible’

    IRUN, Spain  — When- and why – do people begin to kill for a cause? Having created “What the Future Holds,” maybe the best reviewed to date of any Movistar + Original Series, Spain’s Mariano Barroso (“The Wolves of Washington”) tackles this question head on in “La Línea Invisible,” a six-part series, again from Movistar [...]

  • The Lion King

    ‘The Lion King’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Walt Disney Pictures claims the top spot in spending with “The Lion King.” Ads placed for the remake had an estimated media value of $5.64 million through Sunday for 1,290 national ad airings on [...]

  • Apple Plans to Fund Podcast Exclusives:

    Apple Reportedly Plans to Fund Original Podcasts

    Apple has plans to open its checkbooks for podcasts that would be exclusive to its podcasting apps, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. The investments would help the company defend its market leadership in an increasingly crowded field, and fend off competitors like Spotify, Pandora and Luminary. News of the plans sent Spotify’s stock down more than 3%; [...]

  • LiveXLive Names AOL and MTV Vet

    LiveXLive Names AOL and MTV Vet Dermot McCormack President

    Live entertainment digital media company LiveXLive Media today announced that AOL and MTV veteran Dermot McCormack has been named president of the company. According to the announcement, McCormack will lead the business and creative operations of LiveXLive, effective immediately. McCormack previously served as AOL’s Global President of Video and Studios, where he oversaw the video [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content