New Chromecast vs old Chromecast
The latest pint-sized streaming stick might not look wildly different from its predecessor, but there are a surprising amount of changes in store for the new Chromecast in 2015.
From an all-new Chromecast app that promises to deliver universal search functionality to the upgraded 2.4/5Ghz Wi-Fi antenna that supports 802.11ac, the differences are small in number but have the potential to completely reshape the streaming landscape (just like the first Chromecast did before it).
Here's an early look at all the differences between Google's latest living room gadget and its now two-year-old predecessor.
The new name
Let's start with the most confusing aspect of the latest iteration of Chromecast: its name. It's called the new Chromecast. Not Chromecast 2. Not Chromecast 2015. New Chromecast.
Confusing, I know, but hey, at least Google didn't take a page from Microsoft's book and call it the Chromecast One, confusing every person to ever talk about the device.
The new design
A new name? Of course it has one. A new processor and better antenna? Even a novice techie could see those coming from a mile away. The switch from a streaming stick to a circular piece of plastic attached to an HDMI adapter? Now that's outta left field.
No matter how strange it may seem at first, Google's decision to drop the rigid stick form factor for something more flexible is a practical one and should allow for people who before couldn't fit the streamer in back of their TVs to finally join in.
Here's the other exciting part: the new Chromecast will come in three colors - Black, Coral and Lemonade - instead of just one.
The new internals
If there's any reason to be disappointed in the new Chromecast, the internal components are it. The biggest change going on inside the disc is a new dual-channel 2.4/5Ghz WiFi antenna that supports 802.11ac wireless. It's not much, honestly, but Google has claimed it will make all the difference in the world to owners of the old Chromecast.
At its event, Google claimed to see two to four times the performance of the new antenna over the old one, resulting in faster streaming and less time buffering.
Thankfully, the antenna is just one part of the solution to slow-loading video. Google, a software company by trade, has one more trick up its sleeve.
The new app
The other half of the solution to slow-loading video is the all-new Chromecast app. Where the last generation app only had two purposes - setting up the Chromecast and finding new apps - the new app should be useful throughout the life of the product.
For example, using a feature called "fast play,"a prediction algorithm that determines what you might watch next based on your previous choices and starts to pre-buffer the video before you start it, videos start the instant you click on them.
And because Google built universal search - a way to search multiple sources for content simultaneously - you won't have to waste time individually scouring every streaming service for the show or movie you want to watch.
The new ... wait, old price
Google saved the best surprise for last: the price. Instead of marking up the price of the Chromecast to meet the competition - the Amazon Fire TV Stick, for example, will set you back $50 - Google is charging a mere $35/£28 for its latest living room ware.
If you do the math (er, Google Search) that's the same price as the current generation model. But, considering the holidays are right around the corner, it's not a bad move on Google's part to come in well under the cost of its closest rivals. Plus, it makes it that much easier to justify picking one up.
The new Chromecast launched today on the Google Store in the US, UK and Japan, and is expected to launch in a handful of other countries before the holiday season.