Google announced a new version of its Chromecast streaming adapter, the third generation of the company’s streaming device, which supports playback video at higher frame rates and can also stream multiroom audio.
The new device goes on sale Tuesday in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Sweden. Stateside, the new Chromecast once again costs $35 — the same as its predecessor. It will sell in two versions, white and black (or “chalk” and “charcoal,” as Google calls the new colors).
Aside from those color choices, the device looks very similar to the second-gen Chromecast, complete with its round, cookie-sized housing. Google did introduce some subtle design changes that include removing the Chrome logo and replacing it with a more subtle “G” icon, similar to the way the company has been branding its Pixel phone ever since the unveiling of that device line in 2016.
The bigger changes are on the inside: The new Chromecast is 15% faster than the previous model, which allows it to stream 1080p HD video with a rate of up to 60 frames per second (fps). “Everything becomes much smoother,” said Google Home product manager Chris Chan during a recent interview with Variety. He specifically cited the growth of 60fps content on YouTube as one of the reasons Google added the new feature.
The second big feature update for Chromecast doesn’t have anything to do with video at all: Consumers who buy the third-generation device will soon be able to stream audio from music services like Spotify, YouTube Music and Pandora to their TV as well as any Chromecast-equipped speaker simultaneously, effectively turning their TV into a multiroom audio device.
Previously, Google only supported multiroom audio for its Chromecast audio adapter, Google Home speakers and any speaker with Chromecast audio built-in. Chan said that the company is rolling out multiroom audio for third-generation Chromecasts later this year, and that it is looking to bring multiroom audio support to second-generation Chromecasts as well.
The company is also in conversations with manufacturers of other devices, including Android TVs and TVs with Chromecast built-in about the possibility to extend multiroom audio to their products, but a spokesperson said that it had nothing to announce on that front at this time.
Along with multiroom audio support for the new Chromecast, Google is also going to introduce a new feature for Chromecast audio playback. Soon, users of Chromecast-compatible audio devices will be able to have their music follow them to whatever room they are in by asking Google Assistant via their phone or any microphone-equipped speaker to “move” their audio stream to a playback device of their choice.
The launch of the third-generation Chromecast wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone following the string of leaks around Google’s fall hardware lineup in recent weeks. Not only did the company tip its hand in some recent FCC filings, retailers actually started to accidentally sell the new Chromecast last week.
However, there’s still a bit of mystery around some of the hardware upgrades for the new device. The aforementioned FCC filings indicated that Google equipped the device with Bluetooth capabilities as well as better Wi-Fi connectivity — neither of which Google highlighted during Tuesday’s announcement. Chan didn’t want to comment on any Bluetooth or Wi-Fi changes either.
This could suggest that the company may announce further hardware capabilities at a later point. Then again, Google has also in the past at times launched hardware with capabilities that the company ultimately never used. One example: The company’s OnHub router, which it produced in partnership with TP Link, was capable of interacting with smart-home devices via the Zigbee wireless networking technology, but the company never turned on the radios to actually enable this feature.