Google has launched a new updated Chromecast device with a remote control and a new Google TV interface.
The device is officially called Chromecast with Google TV, and serves as the range’s first major update in seven years.
The biggest update is the inclusion of a remote controller – a long-requested feature and one which has historically been omitted from the streaming device in the past. The remote itself is a simple affair with IR and Bluetooth and buttons for controlling the TV and any attached soundsystem.
The remote also features dedicated buttons for Google’s own video platform YouTube and Netflix. The latter, it has been suggested, is a curious addition given Google’s aspirations to grow its own video platforms. The company did not disclose any sort of details on negotiations with Netflix.
Under the hood, the new Chromecast has similar specs to the Chromecast Ultra, with support for 4K HDR and Dolby Vision,
But rather than being a pure casting device as Chromecast has been in the past, the new unit functions closer to competitors from Roku and Amazon with the addition of the Google TV skin on top of Android TV.
For all intents and purposes, Google TV has all the same features as Android TV, with a focus on home screen watchlist curation (i.e. content from apps like HBO Max, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video will be shown on and launchable from the home screen rather than having to go into individual apps).
Google TV’s main difference is a greater focus on YouTube TV, its cord-cutting OTT service which currently is available in the US. A new Live tab will show live feeds of channels from OTT providers, and Google said that other live TV providers will have equal access to this tab via the same API.
At launch, a key Google feature is missing however. Despite it being available on Chromecast Ultra, there is no support for Google Stadia – the game streaming service it launched in late 2019. The company said that Stadia support will be added in H1 2021.
A number of reports from people who were able to get hold of the device ahead of its official unveiling said that Stadia can run on the new Chromecast by sideloading the Android Stadia app, but this apparently presents poor performance.
Other reports have confirmed that Microsoft’s recently launched game streaming service xCloud also works on the device via a similar manner, but it is officially unsupported.
Elsewhere, Google also announced the launch of the US$99.99 Nest Audio smart speaker which replaces the 2016 Google Home device. It will launch on October 5 in 21 countries.
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