(CNET) -- Google's taking yet another stab at the living room.
On Wednesday Google introduced Chromecast, a stick-like device that connects to one
of your TV's HDMI inputs and accepts video pushed from smartphones,
tablets and the Chrome browser. It's available for just $35 starting
today from the Google Play store in the US, with availability in other countries to follow.
The compact 2-inch device will work with Netflix, YouTube, Google
Play Movies and TV, and Google Play Music at launch, with support for
future services, including Pandora, coming soon. It's a cross-platform
device, with support for both Android and iOS devices, as well as the
Chrome browser on both Windows and Mac computers. More details are
currently available on the Google's Chrome blog.
approach is different than most devices on the market: it's
half-remote, half-streaming media box. The idea is instead of designing a
TV-optimized user interface, you'll be able to select and control
content from your smartphone or tablet. Browse the Netflix app, find
your content, then tell it to play in your living room. Chromecast even
goes one step further, by automatically switching your TV to the correct
input and giving you the ability to adjust the volume using your mobile
devices built-in volume controls. It's a slick implementation.
sleek as the Chromecast device looks, Google's initial presentation
skimmed over some of the rougher edges. The specs in the Google Play
store list both a USB power cable and a power adapter, which indicate
that the Chromecast will have some wires hanging off it -- it's not
truly "just a stick". It's the same method PLAiR used to power its similar HDMI-based streaming stick.
The hardware itself supports 2.4 GHz WiFi 802.11, which isn't quite
as nice as the dual-band Wi-Fi offered on Roku's Streaming Stick. The
internal processor is capable of playing back full 1080p video with 5.1
CNET hasn't had any hands-on time with the Chromecast yet, but from the
initial announcement, the biggest limitation appears to be app support.
Supporting only four services out-of-the-gate puts Chromecast well
behind established players like Roku and Apple TV, and limited
functionality was also one of the major knocks against the ill-fated
However, the big difference with Chromecast ultralow $35
price. It's a lot easier to accept those limitations when you haven't
paid much upfront and the low price should also help spread adoption,
which should encourage services to include Chromecast at a faster rate.