Google is working on a new streaming device that caters to people with older TV sets: The next Chromecast streaming dongle will run its Google TV interface and ship with a remote control, but it won’t support 4K streaming. The device will instead max out at a resolution of 1080p, Protocol has learned from a source with close knowledge of the company’s plans.
A Google spokesperson declined to comment.
Internally known as “Boreal,” the new streaming adapter could be marketed as “Chromecast HD with Google TV,” but those plans could change ahead of its release. 9to5Google first reported last week about the existence of a Boreal streaming device, but didn’t offer any details about its specs.
The new low-end Chromecast is said to be based on an Amlogic S805X2 CPU with a Mali-G31 GPU. This would allow it to support decoding of the AV1 video codec — something Google has been pushing other hardware makers to adopt. The dongle will have 2GB of RAM at most, and support 1080p streaming with a maximum frame rate of 60fps.
Google’s most recent streaming dongle, called Chromecast with Google TV, sports a more powerful chipset capable of 4K streaming, but doesn’t currently support AV1 hardware decoding. The device retails for $50, making it likely that the new HD-only Chromecast will sell for $40 or less.
Competitors Roku and Amazon both sell 1080p-only streaming dongles, priced between $30 and $40. Google made a splash when it introduced the original Chromecast streaming dongle with a $35 price tag back in 2013. The company still sells a successor to that device, which doesn’t ship with a remote and doesn’t feature any native apps, for $30. However, this third-generation Chromecast is now more than three years old, and ripe for a refresh.
Updating the legacy Chromecast dongle with a new 1080p streaming device with Google TV could help Google compete more effectively with Amazon and Roku for the lower end of the market, and possibly also give it a leg up in developing markets like India, where Android TV has already been popular with smart TV makers and carriers. The company appears to have plans to launch the streaming adapter in North America; if past product launches are any indication, it may become available in other markets over time as well.
Using less powerful and more affordable hardware might also help the company mitigate some of the effects of the current chip crisis. Most major streaming device-makers didn’t raise the prices of their devices when component costs went up last year, opting to instead run fewer promotions and sell their products below cost.
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. On Monday, reports surfaced that Google may launch its first branded smartwatch on May 26.