At Google’s “Breakfast with Sundar Pichai” event earlier today, Google unveiled its latest Nexus 7 2 tablet. That was just as many media outlets had predicted. But the web search behemoth had something hiding behind the curtain that took the tech world by surprise: Chromecast. The tiny, $35 dongle allows cross-platform streaming from just about any mobile device. Move over, Apple TV and Roku – there’s a new kid on the block.
Chromecast is a mere 2-inches long and remains hidden from most users’ eyes due to the fact that it is plugged directly into an HDMI port. Unlike traditional set-top boxes, there is no remote bundled with the device. Instead, after connecting to Wi-Fi, your device becomes the remote.
“[Chromecast] plugs into your HDTV and allows users to send videos from iPhones, Androids or laptops to almost any TV with an HDMI port, giving users powers similar to Apple’s AirPlay — except it plays nice with strangers,” said Cult of Android. “With Chromecast, Google is going after TV the same way it dominated search, maps and smartphones — by making something powerful and easy to use, then giving it away.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
While not exactly free, the $35 price tag for Chromecast undercuts the current set-top box market by a relatively wide margin. The next closest competitor, the entry-level Roku LT, is about $50 – but only streams content at 720p. To match Chromecast’s 1080p full HD streaming, you need a Roku 2 or 3, which cost $80 and $100 respectively. The always-popular Apple TV retails for $99 – but isn’t compatible with increasingly-popular Android devices.
Additionally, the Chromecast is bundled with three months of Netflix streaming video service – a $24 value that even current Netflix subscribers can take advantage of. If you take Netflix into consideration, Chromecast ends up costing just $11.
Apple TV and Roku come with wired Ethernet connections on top of Wi-Fi, giving a faster and more reliable connection than the Chromecast. Both of the more expensive set-top box options also come with much more content than Google’s new dongle. But Chromecast is also a brand new device, and content beyond the included YouTube, Netflix, and Google Play is sure to trickle down.
“‘The Chromecast is an impulse buy at $35. A couple spends that much just to go see a movie and have some popcorn and a soda,” said Forbes contributor Tony Bradley. “I won’t be surprised to see a price cut from Apple for Apple TV very soon.”
Excited about Google’s new living-room control center? Unfortunately, here comes the bad news: Chromecast sold out almost the moment it went live on the Google Play store. Amazon is currently out of stock, as well.
Most aspiring owners of Google’s new streaming TV stick will have to wait a little bit longer to see how it stacks up against the likes of Apple TV and Roku.