Google is giving the popular Chromecast HDMI dongle a long due facelift.
Announced alongside the Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P at Google’s media event in San Francisco, the new Chromecast features a refreshed design in three colors, faster hardware, and improved software features.
The original Chromecast launched in 2013 and became a surprise sales hit, thanks to its low $35 price tag and compatibility with many popular apps. More than 20,000 apps can currently cast content to the device, which has sold in over 20 million units in dozens of countries, making it Google’s most successful hardware product yet.
The new Chromecast keeps the same general recipe that made the first generation popular, with faster internals that include support for the fast WiFi 802.11ac standard, dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz support and three antennas that switch on automatically for the best reception. This should ensure a superior experience with less buffering and faster playback.
The new design of the device is circular and features an integrated HDMI cable.
The Chromecast app has been redesigned to offer playback controls as well as a smarter content discovery system and better app discovery.
Another big new feature is Fast Play, which is a way to prefetch apps and content, so when you click play, the content opens up instantly.
New feeds are coming to the Chromecast homescreen, including photos from Facebook and Google Photos.
The new Chromecast will become available in the Google Store from today, at the same price of $35. The device will launch in 17 countries, though we can expect it to hit many other markets in the following months.
Google also introduced Chromecast Audio, a circular dongle that connects to just about any set of speakers allowing them to work with the Cast for Audio protocol. So far, only audio products with built-in support for the protocol worked with Cast for Audio, but Google’s new dongle will make it possible to enable it for every speaker, at a low cost.
Many apps, including Play Music, Pandora, iHeart Radio and Rdio support Cast for Audio, and Spotify is coming very soon. Just like the Chromecast, the Chromecast Audio will be available in 17 countries starting today for $35.