The internet giant today officially took the wraps off its redesigned Chromecast streaming dongle. Like its progenitors, the lightweight $50 4K-enabled device plugs into the back of an HDTV via an HDMI port. But that’s really where the similarities end.
The two biggest changes with the new Chromecast are that it includes a separate, voice-enabled remote control — one of the most-requested features from customers — and runs Google TV: a brand-new entertainment interface that aggregates streaming services, live TV (starting with YouTube TV), movies, shows and other content and provides personalization and recommendation features.
Google announced Chromecast with Google TV during its holiday-season virtual product reveal Wednesday, where it also unveiled the $99 Nest Audio smart speaker and the 5G-enabled Pixel 5 ($699 and up) and Pixel 4a 5G ($499 and up) Android smartphones.
Whereas the Chromecast originally simply “cast” content from a smartphone (and you can still do that), the new dongle natively hosts apps including those for Netflix, YouTube, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Peacock and more. In fact, the Chromecast with Google TV, because it’s powered by the Android TV operating system, can run over 6,500 apps compatible with the OS including for gaming, fitness, education and music.
The Chromecast’s new voice remote has dedicated buttons to launch YouTube and Netflix. And there’s a Google Assistant button to let you kick off content searches and ask for any kind of info (e.g., weather or sports scores), play YouTube Music, Spotify or Pandora, or check Nest cameras. In addition to navigating the Google TV guide, it features programmable controls for your TV or soundbar to adjust volume, switch inputs and more.
With Google TV, you can use Chromecast’s voice search to tell it to do things like “find action movies” or “show me sci-fi adventure TV shows” from across services you subscribe to. Google TV also will deliver personal recommendations based on what you’ve watched and your interests, from across your subscriptions and the content available to you.
Users also can ask the Google Assistant, “What should I watch?” to get a list of popular movies and shows. And Google TV’s Watchlist lets you bookmark movies and shows you want to save for later.
Details of Google’s big new push to take on Amazon, Roku and Apple in the streaming-device category have been leaking out for several months. In the last few days, the new Chromecast already went on sale at Home Depot and other retailers ahead of the official launch.
Here’s more on the new products:
Chromecast with Google TV
- Available starting Sept. 30 in the U.S. for $49.99 in three colors: snow (white), sunrise (rose) and sky (light blue). It will ship by the end of 2020 in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the U.K. and is available to pre-order now.
- Supports video formats up to 4K at 60 frames per second, and HDR (including HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision) and audio formats including Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos (passthrough)
- Full support for Google Stadia gaming service scheduled for first half of 2021
- In 2021, in addition to Chromecast, Google TV is slated to be available on TVs from Sony and other Android TV OS partners
- A new Google TV app will begin rolling out this week to Android mobile devices in the U.S., as an update replacing the Google Play Movies & TV app
- The For You tab provides personalized suggestions from across subscriptions organized based on viewing preferences
- The Watchlist lets you bookmark movies and shows you want to save for later; you can add titles to your Watchlist from your phone or laptop
- Recommendations for both on-demand and live TV are consolidated; you can also see titles trending on Google Search
- The Live tab shows you what’s airing now and what’s playing next. Live TV integration initially available with YouTube TV in the U.S.; Google plans to add more live TV providers in the future
- An ambient screensaver mode can connect to Google Photos to display a slideshow when you’re not watching TV
Watch the Google TV launch sizzle reel: