The $49.95 Chromecast, which Google refreshed today with a 2.0 version for video and a new device solely for audio streaming, has sold 20 million units since 2013.
A hot seller at JB Hi Fi, Harvey Norman and Dick Smith the expanded Google product family is poised to continue sucking up key infrastructure in the home media system due to its low-cost and ever-expanding feature set, which now includes Spotify support and universal search, also the latest version completely alters the design and adds in improved wireless connectivity and a host of new features.
By providing a stripped-down tool instead of an all-in-one solution, Google is able to serve as the interface between apps and hardware. Plus, Google doesn’t have to worry about where the media comes from or what software controls it.
The Chromecast is a no-frills device – you just tap its icon in whatever app you’re looking at and the Chromecast moves, or “casts,” the image to your TV.
The dongle’s success can be measured by copycat products like Amazon’s Fire Stick and Roku’s Streaming Stick. While Amazon has never disclosed sales figures for its Fire Stick, Roku only last year hit 10 million devices sold, making the Chromecast a comparable runaway success.
Here’s the key new Chromecast features:
It looks a lot different
As you’ll notice from the pictures, the 2015 Chromecast looks a lot different to its older brother. Gone is the slightly bulbous dongle design from last year, replaced by something completely different. The new Chromecast is a circular device, with an attached HDMI cable. This will help it fit better into your crowded television ports, as it won’t need to directly plug in and stick out.
There’s also a few more colour options this year. You’ve still got black, but there’s now a yellow and red option too.
It’s faster, more powerful and has better Wi-Fi support
One of the main issues with the previous Chromecast was that it had limited Wi-Fi support, it didn’t work on 5GHz bands for example. Thankfully this has been remedied with the updated model.
The Wi Fi architecture has been completely rebuilt with a new adaptive antenna system, that should decrease buffering times and make everything load much faster.
Fast Play is another feature designed to speed things up, this will preload content as soon as you open up the new Chromecast app.
Games are coming to the Chromecast
There are loads of ways to play games on your television these days, and we’re not just talking about traditional consoles. Both Android TV, Amazon’s Fire TV and Apple’s new TV box all put mobile games right up on your television.
You can now add the Chromecast to that list.
During the announcement, Google showed Angry Birds GO beamed from an Android device to the TV, with the phone becoming a controller. It’s sort of like what can do with AirPlay and an iOS device, but hopefully a bit smoother.
Unlike devices like the latest Amazon Fire TV, Google has decided to keep the resolution of the new Chromecast at 1080p, rather than pushing it up to 4K.
This seems to make a lot of sense, especially as it’s such a low-price device. Adding in 4K support would need speedier hardware, thus raising the price.
To go along with the new Chromecast, Google has spruced up the companion app. It now acts as more of a content hub, so it’ll pull in stuff to watch from all the Cast enabled apps you’ve got installed on your Android or iOS device.
There’s also voice search, so you can just say the name of the movie you want to watch instead of typing it out. This is universal and not restricted to Google’s own apps, so with an update it should work with, say, Netflix.
Finally, the app now acts as more of an obvious remote with new playback controls meaning you won’t have to dive into separate apps all the time. Again, a really nice touch.