Key TakeawaysGoogle's new Chromecast offers remote control and a new interface for under $50.The new Chromecast offers a better experience than many of its rivals, one expert says.Gamers will have to wait for Stadia support until next year. Google
Google's new Chromecast offers new and improved ways to find just about any kind of entertainment to take your mind off the endless onslaught of doom that is 2020.
This revamped Chromecast is a far cry from the $35 streaming stick that first hit stores in 2013. The new refresh adds an updated user interface and throws in a remote control for good measure. Noticeably missing, though, is a way to access Apple TV content.
"The addition of Google TV and remote control to the latest Chromecast is a game-changer for cord-cutters," Brett Atwood, an associate professor at Washington State University who focuses on new consumer and entertainment technology trends, said in an email interview. "Prior to this release, there has not been a compelling enough reason for existing owners to upgrade."
What's New With Chromecast?
The Chromecast is a sleek, hockey puck-shaped device that shares the minimalist design of other Google products. It's powered by an accompanying 7.5-watt power brick instead of the USB cable offered with some other models. The $49.95 price tag matches rivals such as Roku's Streaming Stick Plus and Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K, but the new Chromecast beats some of its competitors on pure specs by offering 2GB of RAM instead of the single gigabyte on Amazon's device.Google
Also new to this year's model is an included remote control. It has a button that activates a voice search function that "is near flawless, which makes searching for actors, movies, or themes a cinch," Laura Fuentes, operator of Infinity Dish, said in an email interview.
Slick New Interface
Google's new TV interface runs on the Android platform and shows users all the content available from various providers side by side. The upgrade makes the Chromecast "a more serious competitor to Roku, Apple TV, and Fire TV," Atwood said. "There is also an opportunity for Chromecast to capture some market share away from Fire TV—which continues to omit some emerging streaming services (such as HBO Max and Peacock) as Amazon continues to strongarm on carriage negotiations."
The new Chromecast offers a slicker experience than many of its rivals, said Chans Weber, founder and CEO of Leap Clixx, in an email interview, adding that "every version has gotten smaller yet mightier, the processing power remains great, and the applications load quickly with almost no time delay."
And for those who want to stream their own media, the Chromecast might fit the bill, one observer says.
"The main advantage of the new Chromecast with Google TV is that you don't have to have an external source for streaming," Ross Rubin, a tech analyst at Reticle Research, said in an email interview. "You can just switch to the Chromecast and browse many video sources. If you already have a Chromecast, but don't have another streaming device such as a Roku player or Amazon FireTV, it makes more sense."
The Chromecast is also cheaper than an Apple TV, which retails for $179, Rubin pointed out, adding "Roku has products that are competitively priced with the Chromecast, but some people may prefer the industrial design and the voice-driven Google Assistant control that the new Chromecast offers. There's also tight integration with YouTube TV."
No Stadia Support, Yet
Gamers might want to look elsewhere, however, as the Chromecast won't support Google's own Stadia service until sometime in 2021.
"The lackluster game offerings on the Apps tab won't win over many gaming enthusiasts and the latest Chromecast also lacks support for NVIDIA GeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass," Atwood said.
But for those who can't wait for Stadia support, Rubin explains you can still access Google Play games on the Chromecast.
"You'll have to use a Bluetooth game controller," said Rubin. "The new Chromecast doesn't officially support Google's Stadia service yet, but it's a fair bet that it will be supported before we see it on other platforms, and it may never appear on Apple TV."
Consumers looking for ways to stream content onto their TVs are spoiled for choice with a plethora of devices on the market. The new Chromecast is likely to have many people saying, "Hey Google, pass the popcorn."