Google is reportedly working on a new streaming device in the same family as the Chromecast with Google TV. Rather than aiming for the high-end market with support for 4K streaming and HDR, Google is instead turning its attention to the entry-level market, with the focus being emerging markets such as India and countries in Africa.
The new streaming device will reportedly only support a maximum resolution of 1080p, making a viable option for countries where 4K TVs are still out of many people’s reach, at least at the moment and for the next few years. The new device will still run Chromecast’s Google TV interface and also ship with a remote control.
The device is internally being referred to as “Boreal” but 9to5Google believes it will be marketed as “Chromecast HD with Google TV” although this could always change before release.
On the hardware side, the Chromecast streaming stick is believed to be based on an Amlogic S805X2 CPU with a Mali-G31 GPU, making it easy to support decoding of the AV1 video codec that Google has been championing for.
The AV1 video codec has a few advantages over other video formats, like HEVC and VP9, which Google has also been using for quite some time now. For instance, AV1 has 30 and 50 percent better compression efficiency than HEVC and VP9 respectively, meaning it can serve the same picture quality as the other two codecs while using lower bandwidth.
The dongle’s RAM allocation is only 2 GB and video support is capped at 1080p streaming with a maximum frame rate of 60 fps.
In comparison to the Chromecast with Google TV, Google’s most recent streaming dongle, the older dongle has a more powerful chipset capable of streaming in 4K, but does not have support for AV1 hardware decoding. With an official price of $50 (Kshs 5,677, at the time of publication), it is likely that the newer less powerful option will be priced at around $30 (Kshs 3,400, at the time of publication) or less.
This will directly lock its horns with Roku and Amazon, who also have streaming devices at around that same price. Both streaming devices from Roku and Amazon also top out at 1080p. This might have been Google’s plan all along, to have a streaming device that will compete at the entry-level market against Roku and Amazon.
Another factor to consider is that using less powerful and more affordable hardware might help Google mitigate some of the effects of the chip crisis that has hit the industry since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s unclear when Google plans to unveil the new Chromecast HD device. The company does have an annual hardware event in October but has in the past also used its Google I/O developer conference in May to launch select devices.
If it indeed sees the light of day, I expect the device to sell like hotcakes in all emerging markets, Kenya included. First, because it will be cheap and most people still do not have 4K TVs, anyway. Second, those who have 4K TVs still have to contend with paying an arm and a leg to get high bandwidth capable of 4K streaming to take advantage of the more powerful Chromecast with Google TV.