A report by Protocol today claimed that Google is working on a new ‘Chromecast HD’ with a remote and the Google TV platform. It’s expected to be the first model to support the AV1 codec. Yes, the company just launched a new Chromecast in late 2020, but this rumored one has a trick up its sleeve: it’s almost certainly going to be dirt cheap — likely around the $30 price range, and perhaps even less.
It’s also going to be just 1080p, which might seem weird in 2022. But from where I’m standing, a super cheap Chromecast makes a whole lot of sense.
Google’s original Chromecast was one of the most influential pieces of hardware of the streaming age. It launched at just 35 bucks, and the Chromecast protocol changed the way we used our phones to interact with our TVs. In one fell swoop, the Chromecast made streaming content to a TV accessible to almost anyone with an HDMI input.
It was precisely the low price that made the Chromecast work. Streaming devices used to be pricey add-ons — a Roku or Apple TV cost two or three times at much at the time — while the Chromecast was practically an impulse buy. But the streaming market is different now. The current $30 Chromecast doesn’t have quite the same appeal when the Amazon Fire Stick and Roku Express, both of which have a remote and a proper user interface, can be bought new for just $20 and $25 respectively.
Meanwhile, the 2020 Chromecast with Google TV isn’t exactly expensive at $50, and the difference between a $50 dongle and a $30-ish one might not seem huge, but it’s enough to turn people toward other options (and Google’s doesn’t have quite the fanatical clout that Apple does to compel people to buy the $179 Apple TV 4K). Tech nerds can argue about which interface and hardware are the best, but for the casual buyer, what matters is how much content you get for your dollar. Considering all of these devices will get you largely the same shows and movies, price then becomes the deciding factor.
As for the lack of 4K, as far as I know, human eyesight hasn’t improved much over the past few years. Most casual TV viewers, who probably have don’t have a giant screen or an optimal seating distance, aren’t going to be able to tell the difference between 1080p and 4K for most content anyway. And the people who are video quality nerds aren’t going to be buying a 1080p device as their primary device in the first place.
It’s also very well possible that Google’s cheaper Chromecast could be coming to emerging markets where 4K TVs are less common, and where price is an even more important factor. The fact that Google is seemingly making a cheaper Chromecast at all suggests the company identified a market for it.
That said, even for a video quality nerd like me, a cheap Chromecast with a remote would still be highly appreciated.
Over the years, I’ve bought several Chromecasts on a whim. Sometimes, it was to show friends and family a new favorite TV show. Other times it was when I didn’t want to be subjected to whatever sucky selection of channels the hotel TV had. It also made for a neat little stocking stuffer. And despite the wealth of streaming sticks these days, I still love the versatility of Google Cast, especially with the added functionality and excellent search capabilities of Google TV.
Basically, I can’t wait until this cheap new Chromecast, even if it’ll just be a secondary streaming device for me. Unfortunately, we don’t have a launch date quite yet, but it’s possible it could make an appearance at Google I/O this year.
Now if Google would just bring back the Chromecast Audio…