Which Chromecast Is Right for You?

30 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google introduces new Chromecast and Chromecast Audio; priced at $35 each.

Video and music tend to hog the headlines around the subject of casting technology, but with its new Chromecast, Google is making a play in another area: games. What started out as a simple streaming stick two years ago has now become a product that Google can boast about, with 20 million devices sold since launch. Both these devices will be priced at $35 (approx Rs 2,400) which was also the price of the original Chromecast (launched in 2013), and will start selling in around 17 countries soon. And today, we saw not one but two new versions of Chromecast, a video-streaming stick that supports modern Wi-Fi standards and another that now turns home speakers into Wi-Fi-connected, cast-enabled audio devices.

That device can download and run games, spurring talk of it competing with established games consoles such as Sony’s PlayStation 4, Microsoft’s Xbox One and Nintendo’s Wii U. Now Google’s making playing games on smartphones but viewing them on TV’s a feature of its Chromecast, using your phone both as a controller and for its processing power. “There’s a fundamental difference between the other models out there and what we’re doing. Sure, the use cases are different right now; one is a platform with its own interface, the other is interface-free (unless you count the Chromecast mobile app) and works with the apps that already exist on your phone or tablet. It may be one or two generations more computing power,” he told the Guardian. “By running the game on the smartphone, you’re taking advantage of much more powerful computing power than you are by downloading a game on to a streaming box and running it on that device,” he said. “Our model gives us a huge advantage in being able to run games and render much higher quality graphics.

But the most important innovations on the new Chromecast are on the inside with improved connectivity, improved antenna system and support for Wi-fi 802.11ac (5GHz band). Something we think will be very popular with the Cast model.” Google launched the first Chromecast in July 2013 as a thumb-sized device that plugged into a television. It is hoping to build on this with the second-generation Chromecast, as well as with the Chromecast Audio, which will connect to speakers and hi-fis to enable them to play music from partner services, from the company’s own Google Play Music to partners like Pandora and, a new addition, Spotify. It comes with a ‘Fast Play’ feature that lets the Chromecast pre-fetch a video from an app and video content which it thinks you are most likely to watch even before you hit play. It’s far from the first gadget to do this, from the connected hi-fis of Sonos and other manufacturers to cheaper devices like the Gramofon, which also has a close relationship with Spotify, and which looks like the most direct rival for Chromecast Audio.

Not much details were spoken about Fast Play, but it seems to be working based on your history of Chromecast use, loading videos faster than without the feature activated. Queiroz hopes that the latter device’s price at $35 will help connected audio in the home break out of being a technology for music and/or tech geeks, without requiring people to replace their hi-fis. “Fewer than 5% of US households have speakers that can connect to Wi-Fi,” he said.

We had the chance to sit down with Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management at Google, and ask him some of his thoughts on the future of these video-and-audio streaming devices. Queiroz says he sees the two different platforms as complementary, not competitive; but ultimately, he believes the way people are going to be consuming media is “starting from their smartphones.” That’s the most natural entry point to the internet of things,” he said. “This $35 device may be the thing that takes it from ‘I’m a fan of the internet of things’ – which unfortunately not a lot of people are – to ‘I want music in my home’ which is a real use case.

Amazon is experimenting with voice-only with its Echo, for example,” he said. “You see different companies taking different approaches.” The software and services running on these products are interesting because, in many cases, they will be interfacing with multiple people rather than a single owner. Google’s Queiroz said his company is looking to app developers to think about collaborative use cases. “For multiplayer games, your smartphone is your controller,” he said, before citing an API launched by Google this year that will enable developers to add “joint queues” for their cast-enabled apps. “It’s something we’ve had from the very first day we launched YouTube for Chromecast: you can create playlists that everybody can contribute to: they go into the YouTube app and add to a joint queue across multiple people,” he said. Spotify, too, is thinking about the communal experience, and how to best fit it into the company’s mobile app, which is becoming ever more personalised to the individual owner of the smartphone it’s installed on.

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