Last week, we wrote that Google had no timeline for the second edition of the Chomecast. Turns out that it does: this week.
That’s the news coming from Google which this week has decided to bring both editions of its follow-up to the tiny Chromecast media streamer to Australia several months after the US first saw them.
“Both editions?” you say with a puzzled face. “Is there more than one?”
For Google in 2016, the answer is yes, with one skewed for people keen to watch media, while the other is made for anyone interested in being a listener.
First there’s Chromecast 2.0, which isn’t being recognised with a “2.0” moniker or model number, but rather just the new Chromecast.
Making this a “new” Chromecast is a different design that brings the wireless connecting media streamer into a smaller form factor that is now smaller, sitting in a flat circle with a bendy HDMI cable protruding from the body that can be magnetically attached to the body when not in use.
You still need a USB port to send power to the Chromecast, so a USB cable and wall plug are included in the box, but the change is in the internals and the way the Chromecast connects to your television.
To evolve this, Google has improved the HDMI connector, shrinking it and making it a little smaller than it was last time in the Chromecast key-configuration, and that’s intentional in this version, because if you have too many HDMI ports that are occupied, this new version will fit better, Google says.
It’s more than that, though, with the wireless streaming improved, too.
“We dramatically improved the WiFi functionality,” said Mickey Kim, Head of Asia Pacific Partnerships for Google Chromecast and TV, telling GadgetGut that Google “created a brand new adaptive WiFi system” for the new Chromecast.
“It has three antennas inside, [and the] WiFi chip selects the best antenna based on the changing home environment,” said Kim, who went on to say that this results in “better quality audio, better quality video, and less buffering”.
To use a Chromecast, you’re still going to need a phone, tablet, or home computer of some kind, and of course there’s the obligatory need of a wireless network at home for the streamer to latch onto.
When the setup is complete using the app — and it doesn’t take long — you merely need to find an app that supports Chomecast and press the icon in the top right corner to send the video feed to the Chromecast, which will take over and start grabbing the information from the cloud.
In essence, your phone is telling the Chromecast what to talk to online, freeing it up and allowing you to do other things.
And the major change worth knowing about in the new Chromecast is that it does all of this WiFi goodness at 802.11ac, so if you have an 802.11ac modem router, you’ll be cheering.
Chromecast and its video streaming abilities is only one part of the Chromecast family this year, because the second product Google is launching this week is Chromecast Audio.
This one resembles the new Chromecast, except without the HDMI cable and with a more record-like (think grooves) design adorning the plastic body.
The tech inside is similar, but not exactly the same with an emphasis here on sound. You’ll find that same adaptive WiFi technology, but a change in the app and casting technology that turns any speaker into a wireless speaker capable of receiving audio from Pandora, Spotify, Google Play Music, Deezer, or TuneIn Radio.
Like the standard video-friendly Chromecast, you need to plug this one into a USB port or the wall to supply power, but the other end gets plugged into a pair of speakers.
You might have an amplifier system, a small PC speaker, or something else, and all are perfect, with the speakers being made into a wireless sound system able to latch on to any WiFi network and receive a delivery of wireless sound.
Better, if you have more than one Chromecast Audio setup in the home with another speaker, you can group both Chromecast Audio devices together and create your own multiroom sound system.
For anyone keen to see what the fuss is about with multiroom audio — that is sound in every room — Chromecast Audio could well represent the least expensive way to try the idea out, arriving in stores this week for $59.
Locally, JB HiFi and Harvey Norman will be selling the Chromecast Audio, though Google’s online store will also sell them.
As for the standard video friendly Chromecast, that too will see retail availability this week for $59 also, with JB, Harvey Norman, Bing Lee, and The Good Guys getting it in black, while Google will also ship out “coral” (red) and “lemonade” (yellow) versions of the Chromecast.