For over a year now, we’ve seen many Android HDMI TV Sticks (which I often call mini PCs), a few Linux ones, but Google has just announced its own stick based on a strip down version of Chrome OS. It’s not as versatile as others as it only streams video and music, but it make sharing media easy, and is controlled via your Android or iOS mobile device, or your Windows PC or Mac via Chrome web browser.
The connection is just the same as other HDMI dongles. Connect it to the HDMI port of your TV, power it via USB, and setup Wi-Fi. When I first saw the demonstration, I was disappointed as it just seemed like you could do the same thing with a DLNA dongle, but it’s actually quite different. First, Chromekey only works with online services such as YouTube, Netflix, Google Play Movie & TV and Pandora, and it does not rely on your device to send data, but just gets it directly from the original source, potentially providing smoother playback, and avoiding draining your batteries. A “Cast Button” has been added to supported Apps and Chrome, and you can just press the button, select one of the configured TV (which Chromecast can turn on if needed), and start to stream the video. You can also”mirror Chrome web pages by installing Google Cast extension [Update July 2019: The function is now built into Chrome, so the extension does not exist anymore]
Google did not provide much technical specifications, but we do know the following [Update: Full specs are now available thanks to PCB pictures in comments]:
- Processor – Marvell 88DE3005 (TBC. I can’t find any reference anywhere, but the marking on the SoC reads DE3005-A1)
- System Memory – 512MB RAM
- Storage – 2GB Flash
- Video Output – HDMI, CEC compatible, 1080p max. output resolution
- Connectivity – 2.4 GHz WiFi 802.11 b/g/n (AzureWave AW-NH387)
- Dimensions – 72 x 35 x 12mm
- Weight – 34g
- Power – Via USB
- Supported Operating Systems – Android 2.3+, iOS 6+, Windows 7+, Mac OS 10.7+, and Chrome OS (Chromebook Pixel only for now)
The device comes with an HDMI extender, a USB power cable, a Power adapter, and requires an 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi router to work.
You can watch the announcement and demo in the video below.
Developer can already use Google Cast API to develop applications both for the receiver (Chromecast) and the Sender (Android/iOs/Chrome).
Chromecast can be purchased now from Google Play, Amazon, or Best Buy for $35. If you’ll also get 3-month Netflix service upon purchase of the device ($24), which means if you planned to use Netflix anyway, Chromecast will actually cost you a mere $11.