When Google debuted Chromecast in 2013, the streaming dongle was a hit. While it’s been juiced up with new features over the past few years, we’ve been waiting for a true upgrade. The wait is over: At today’s Google Nexus event, Google debuted two new Chromecasts for television and audio.
Here’s what we know about the long-overdue revamp of Google’s streaming hardware.
The new Chromecast is available today in seventeen countries. The price is still right at $35.
The big differences between this version of Chromecast and its predecessor? The new Chromecast is faster—Google’s Mario Queiroz emphasized the new device’s improved connectivity, with an upgraded antenna system and a Wifi chip that chooses the best connection. It’s also easier to plug in, thanks to an integrated HDMI cable.
But old Chromecast owners shouldn’t despair—the Chromecast app also got a makeover, which means a lot of the software improvements are for all Chromecast users. The revamped app has features that make it easier to find stuff to watch, like its new “What’s On” function that shows you curated content from the apps you have installed on your phone. You’ll be able to browse the Chromecast dashboard on your phone without having it show up on the TV, so it’ll function more like a remote.
Chromecast will work with Google’s photos feature. Unlike mirroring, this gives people control over which photos they share, so it’s a better choice if you want to show something to a group without just broadcasting what’s on your phone. If you want to show your family a few pictures from your trip to Madrid, you can tap on it and send it to your TV without worrying you forgot to delete a picture of your butt.
As for new app partners: Showtime is also bringing its content to Chomecast, and it’ll now support Sling TV and apps from the NBA, NHL, and other partners. Spotify will be available on the new Chromecast, and will work with older Chromecast devices after a firmware update expected in the next few weeks.
The new Chromecast comes in black, coral, and lemonade.
Google took the good things about pairing your Chromecast with a TV and adjusted the experience for people who want to stream audio.
There’s no big design change—it looks identical to the new Chromecast, except it swaps an HDMI connector for a 3.5 mm audio port. (It supports RCA and optical inputs as well.) It has the same speedy connectivity system as the new Chromecast.
Chromecast Audio works with apps like Spotify, Pandora, and iHeartRadio—any audio app that can support casting. Multi-room sync is expected later this year. (You’d need to buy multiple Chromecast Audio devices to make it work though, obviously.)
To control it, you can use any phones, tablets, and laptops connected to your network. The “guest mode” lets friends send music to your speakers even if they don’t have your Wifi password, which is pretty sweet. You’ll also be able to mirror audio from any Chrome device, including YouTube videos.
Like Chromecasts new and old, Chromecast Audio is also available today for $35. If it’s as good as it sounds, Sonos should be afraid.
Screenshots by Michael Hession