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Google has used today's media event to launch two new Chromecast devices, to go alongside the original. The second-generation Chromecast upgrades the connectivity and physical design of the first version, while the Chromecast Audio allows users to stream music over Wi-Fi to their existing home audio setup, letting it play audio through the speakers instead of through a television or a mobile device's speaker system.
The new Chromecast has changed its form to a brightly-colored thin round disc on the end of a flexible HDMI arm, making it easier to install into difficult TV setups and reducing interference. The internals have received an upgrade to make it work with 5GHz Wi-Fi networks, with it also increasing the Wi-Fi antenna count from one to three.
In terms of software, the new Chromecast's Fast Play allows it to pre-fetch a video streaming app and video content before the user decides to start playing it, in theory lowering the amount of time it takes for users to start watching shows and movies. The Chromecast app for Android and iOS has been updated to allow users to find content across multiple apps installed on a device, and play it from the selected service without having to access the relevant app.
Chromecast is also being more useful for gaming applications. Certain apps with Chromecast support will now show the main game via the Chromecast itself, leaving the iOS or Android app to display controls or other relevant information to the player. Games shown at the event include WTG Golf, Monopoly, and a multiplayer mode of Angry Birds Go.
The Chromecast Audio is a circular puck with a cable to connect the unit to an input for an audio system. When connected to the same network, users can select an option within their music streaming app to cast to the device, with a guest mode also available to allow visitors to stream without connecting to the local network. Users can control music playback from their smartphone's app, including lock screen and Android Wear control, with optional multi-room synchronization between multiple Chromecast Audio units coming soon.
Both the Chromecast Audio and the new Chromecast are priced at $35 in the United States, with them both now shipping in 17 countries.
Hey! That's fun. I was just looking into audio-only options the other day. For a while I was thinking about running speaker wire all over my house from my multi-zone receiver, but that just seemed silly. I've already got smaller systems in a lot of other rooms of the house. I'd like something to sync music from my main system in the living room to the ones in the dining room, garage, basement...
Of course, you know that Airport Express has done this for years, right? And it does optical audio, plus it acts as a wireless repeater, which increases your WiFi coverage. I know it's a bit more money, but I think Airport Express is a more robust system.