While I was pretty excited for the new Chromecast to arrive based on its feature set, price and new take on the existing formula for Google’s behind-the-TV dongles, I don’t think I was quite ready for the domination this little device would command in my mind. After all, I’ve had a few Android TV devices like the Nvidia Shield and Nexus Player at my disposal for years at this point, so I didn’t expect yet another Android TV device (yes, Android TV is really what powers Google TV) to spark my imagination the way the new Chromecast has. So what gives?
Honestly, I think it all comes down to two factors: mass appeal and a low asking price. Sure, Android TV has been pretty capable for years now, but the best devices that run it aren’t exactly cheap. The Nexus Player and Shield TV were both north of $100 at at launch and when compared to the very-affordable new Chromecast, they always felt a bit expensive for the average household streaming device.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed both devices quite a bit and still have my Shield TV here in the office: there’s just been little reason to get it out and tinker around with it. Why? If I already have one available to me, what makes the new Chromecast so much more enticing than my more-capable Shield TV when it comes to trying out features? It can’t be based on price, right? I mean, I already have the thing.
I’d have to say that’s where the new Chromecast’s mass appeal comes into play. Instead of feeling like a niche device for some users, the new Chromecast instead feels like a great streaming dongle for basically any user out there. At only $49, it’s price point is attainable and it’s abilities are substantial enough that many, many users are going to find worth in it. I’d go out on a limb and predict it will become on of Google’s top-selling pieces of hardware over the next few months as long as inventory stays up.
So, when you combine a rock-bottom price with what looks to become a very popular device, you end up creating a piece of hardware that begs to be tinkered with. If I could pull off some fun tricks with a $199 Android TV box, some people would think that was cool, but most users wouldn’t care too much because they were never going to buy on in the first place.
With the new Chromecast, the opposite becomes true. Tons of users will likely have one and for some reason that makes people like me more interested in seeing what we can make out of it. There’s something pretty fun about trying to extend the versatility and usability of a device that feels so attainable for so many people. It’s what makes using a Chromebook so much fun. When you can get wildly productive on a $300 laptop, it feels like you are beating the system somehow and that you’ve pulled even more value out of a device than was even intended.
That’s why I’m so enamored with this new Chromecast and why I find myself pushing it in multiple ways to do things many users wouldn’t even consider. From gaming to content consumption to external accessories to little hacks and workarounds, we really want to stretch this new Chromecast to its limit. Not because it was made for it, but because it is an affordable, mass-appeal device that we know so many of you will likely soon have in your possession. So with that in mind, we’re testing games (both streaming and local), wireless accessories (earbuds, mouse, keyboard), side-loaded content, general navigation tricks, and more. We have a lot planned for this little media streamer, so stay tuned.