TIME Gadgets

One of Google’s Best Devices Is Getting a Big Upgrade

Google Unveils Updated Nexus 7 in Push Against Apple, Microsoft
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images The new Google Chromecast is connected to the the back of a television during an event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

Your TV remote can now control your Chromecast

Google’s Chromecast is a quick and cheap way to stream video on your TV from an Internet-connected device. You plug in the Chromecast dongle, and you can watch almost anything on your television that you could watch on your smartphone or laptop.

But controlling Chromecast video on the TV usually means hunting back through your laptop or smartphone to press pause, play or pick some new content.

No more: Google has released a firmware update that lets Chromecast users control their streaming with a TV remote. Apps including YouTube, Netflix, ESPN, Play Music, HBO Go, BBC iPlayer and TuneIn Radio are all supported, the Verge reports. The downside is that you can only use the play and pause buttons — also, some TVs may not be supported.

Happy watching.

TIME Media

Google’s Ambitious Foray into Your Living Room Is Dead

A Google logo is seen at the garage where the company was founded on Google's 15th anniversary in Menlo Park, California
Stephen Lam—Reuters A Google logo is seen at the garage where the company was founded in Menlo Park, Calif., on Sept. 26, 2013

At least the search giant's first effort, Google TV, is. Android TV and Chromecast have replaced its first living room device

Google TV, the search giant’s first big foray into the living room, is finally dead. Google announced via Google+ Tuesday that it would no longer be providing updates for the Google TV platform and that it was removing Google TV’s development tools from the Web.

Back in 2010, Google launched Google TV as a kind of modern take on Microsoft’s WebTV, which was once thought to be the future of television entertainment. On compatible television sets, users could boot up Chrome and surf the web for articles, videos and other content at the same time they were watching live TV, even using a mouse and keyboard if they chose. The concept didn’t catch on in the ‘90s when Microsoft tried, and it didn’t really work for Google either.

Since then, the search titan has pivoted to more streamlined and elegant TV options. The Chromecast dongle lets people stream content from their phones onto the big screen, the new Nexus TV set-top-box focuses on surfacing premium video content from a variety of sources and a new line of Android-powered television sets will attempt to make switching between live TV and online streaming services completely painless.

Google TV products will still work though they’re not being supported, and Google says a “small subset” of Google TV devices will be updated to run Android TV. But for all intents and purposes, one of the earliest high-tech competitors in the battle for the living room is no more.

TIME ces 2015

Your Favorite Google Feature Is About to Get Way Better

GAO Report Data Usage
Bloomberg via Getty Images An iPhone 5 streaming video from Netflix during a demonstration of the new Google ChromeCast at an event in July 2013.

Listening to music is about to get a lot easier

Google seemingly struck gold with Chromecast, the simple streaming dongle that lets users fling video content from their phones to TV screens. Now the company is adapting the same technology to audio with Google Cast, a new initiative announced Monday at the Consumer Electronics Show.

With Google Cast, users will be able to control the audio of compatible speakers using their smartphones, tablets or via the Web. This is not quite the same as simply hooking your phone up to regular wireless speakers via Bluetooth, though. The Google Cast speakers will stream music from the cloud—the phone, computer or tablet acts more like a remote control through which users can pick songs or playlists. Even if you turn your phone off or boot up a different app, tunes will keep playing.

The Google Cast speakers will work with music services such as Google Play Music, Deezer and Pandora. Speaker manufacturers Sony, LG and HEOS by Denon will launch the initial compatible devices in the spring.

Music isn’t the only entertainment sector where Google is expanding. The company also announced that Sony, Sharp and Phillips will launch new smart TVs powered by Android this spring. Video game company Razer is also launching a new gaming console powered by Android that will let users stream PC games onto their television sets.

TIME Media

Google’s Chromecast Overtakes Apple TV in Battle for the Living Room

Google Unveils Updated Nexus 7 in Push Against Apple, Microsoft
Bloomberg via Getty Images Google's Chromecast

But Roku is still the king of streaming devices

As tech companies vie for control of the television screen, a relatively new entrant is already making big gains.

Google’s Chromecast streaming stick managed to outsell the Apple TV in the first three quarters of 2014, according to research firm Parks Associates. Chromecast comprised 20% of the total sales for streaming devices in the U.S., while Apple TV netted just 17%.

Longtime market leader Roku continues to dominate with 29% of sales, but that’s down from around 45% in 2013. Amazon, another new competitor, has made solid progress with its Fire TV devices, gaining 10% marketshare in 2014.

Google’s quick ascent shows that the simplicity of the Chromecast, which allows users to stream content from their phones or tablets, may be a long-term winning strategy — its price, $35 to the Apple TV’s $99, probably hasn’t hurt either. Roku and Amazon, which started out with set-top boxes, both released cheaper Chromecast-like streaming sticks earlier this year.

TIME Gadgets

You Can Now Watch South Park on Your Chromecast

South Park
Getty Images—Getty Images Characters from the cartoon TV show "South Park", including Elton John (rear) with (from L to R) Kenny, Stan, Kyle and Cartman are featured in a 1998 episode.

Also Epix, Encore and Seasame Street Go

Google’s streaming stick Chromecast is getting some popular new content for the Thanksgiving holiday. The device will now support apps for Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street Go and TuneIn. Chromecast will also add more movies with the addition of Epix and Encore and more international content with the addition of the Indian television service YuppTV.

Chromecast seems to have been the most successful of Google’s many attempts to invade the living room. The device’s simple design and low price have been imitated by competitors like Roku and Amazon, which have either launched new streaming sticks or redesigned older models since the Chromecast’s release.

TIME Gadgets

Amazon Fire TV Stick vs Google Chromecast vs Roku Streaming Stick

TV Sticks
Amazon : Google : Roku Clockwise left to right: Amazon's Fire TV Stick, Google's Chromecast, Roku's Streaming Stick

Amazon has jumped headfirst into the streaming stick game, squaring off against Google’s Chromecast and Roku’s Streaming Stick with its new Fire TV Stick. Here’s how the devices stack up against one another. Spoiler: They’re all good.

Price

Chromecast costs $35, Amazon Fire TV Stick costs $39 and Roku Streaming Stick costs $49.99. If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick costs $20 until 6am Pacific on October 29, though.

Winner: Chromecast

Remote Control

Chromecast has no remote, so it sits out this round. You’ll need to run everything from your phone, tablet or PC, which is great if you’re the type of person who loses remotes all the time. If you’re hungover on the couch or watching stuff in bed, it’s marginally less relaxing than using a trusty remote, though.

Both Amazon and Roku include remotes, and both remotes work well. I’ll give Roku the slight edge here, as its remote has four quick-launch buttons — two of which are for Netflix and Amazon. The other two are for the far less-popular M-Go and Blockbuster On Demand.

Winner: Roku

Available Content

If you’re going for quality over quantity, all three sticks support just about every major streaming service. Notable omissions: Amazon’s stick doesn’t support HBO Go and Google’s stick doesn’t support Amazon content. Roku, on the other hand, has been around forever relative to its competitors and supports just about everything. And if there’s not an officially supported channel on Roku, chances are good that there’s an unofficial version that you can manually connect to the device.

Winner: Roku

Games

Amazon takes the cake here. Since the launch of the Fire TV box earlier this year, the company has done a good job porting games over, with the current tally sitting somewhere north of 200. The Fire TV’s $40 game controller works with the Fire TV stick, too.

Winner: Amazon

Performance

On paper, the Fire TV Stick handily bests its competitors, with double the processing cores, double the RAM and eight gigabytes of storage. The Chromecast has two gigabytes of storage; the Roku has 256 megabytes. Amazon needs more storage because of its emphasis on games and apps that can be loaded onto the Fire TV Stick, though: Storage isn’t really an issue on the other two sticks. Amazon also packs a better Wi-Fi chip than the Chromecast, though it’s on par with the Roku.

Winner: Amazon

Interface

I’m going to throw a curve ball here and say that the Chromecast’s utter lack of an interface makes it the best interface. You use the same apps you always use and, provided they have a Chromecast button, simply tap it to start playback on your TV. There’s no need to learn a new interface. Not that Amazon’s and Roku’s interfaces are overly complicated in any way — there’s really no bad interface for this category — there’s just something elegant about the Chromecast’s simplicity.

Winner: Chromecast

Device Compatibility

Chromecast works with certain iOS and Android devices and Google’s Chrome web browser on various computers. Roku works with certain iOS apps and Android devices and has beta computer and mobile screen mirroring features that are just getting off the ground for Windows 8.1, Windows Phone and Android. The Fire TV Stick works with certain iOS apps and Android devices, as well as with Amazon’s line of tablets. This one’s really close to a tie: Slinging your current browser tab to your TV is a great Chromecast feature; being able to use Amazon’s tablets with the Fire TV line is a great addition, and Roku has some interesting stuff in the works, too. In the end, however, the broader range of computers that can mirror Chrome to your TV means Chromecast takes a slight edge.

Winner: Chromecast

Which One Is Best?

Luckily, you have three dynamite options for under $50. You really can’t go wrong with any of these. If you have a lot of Amazon content and own an Amazon tablet or two, the Fire TV stick is a no-brainer. Same deal if you want to play games. If you don’t want to futz around with menus and you don’t want to spend a ton of money, go with the Chromecast. If you want a great remote and a nearly unlimited selection of content — both mainstream and off-the-beaten-path — head straight for the Roku.

Winner: Consumers

Here are some more in-depth specs from our friends at FindTheBest:

 

Read next: It’s Time to Seriously Start Expecting an Apple TV Again

TIME video

VIDEO: Here’s What’s Next for Google (in Two Minutes)

Wherein we smoosh Google's 2014 developer conference keynote from 2.5+ hours down to just under two minutes.

TIME Gadgets

Aereo Arrives for Chromecast As Supreme Court Decision Looms

Google Chromecast
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Delayed by a week, Aereo's TV-streaming service is finally available for Google Chromecast players.

Aereo, the Internet television streaming upstart currently embroiled in a historic Supreme Court showdown with broadcast companies, is finally available for Google Chromecast. Its arrival on Google’s streaming media dongle Thursday comes one week after its intended debut.

Aereo wrote on Twitter last week that it was delaying Chromecast support until June 4 “to work out a few kinks.” Make that June 5 then: the Aereo app is live now on the Google Play store. The move adds another significant Aereo player to a lineup that includes browsers for Windows PCs, Linux PCs and Macs, iOS devices, Apple TV and Roku set-top boxes.

If you have a Chromecast dongle, you live in an Aereo coverage area and you’re willing to pay the company’s monthly subscription fee ($8 for 20 hours of DVR space, $12 for 60 hours and the option to record two shows at once), you can connect online to Aereo’s local antenna bank to receive and record live broadcast TV. There’s no additional subscription fee — Aereo handles all storage of recordings on its end and you don’t need to have an existing cable subscription to view the antennae-captured shows.

The catch — and this is why signing up today isn’t risk-free — is that Aereo is smack in the midst of a momentous Supreme Court battle, squaring off with indignant broadcast companies for its right to exist. Since Aereo streams over-the-air content it intercepts via antennas — each the size of a dime and leased to one user — it claims it’s doing nothing you couldn’t yourself, and thus it owes broadcast companies nothing.

The broadcast companies (naturally) disagree. They claim Aereo is in violation of federal copyright law. At issue is whether Aereo’s service qualifies as a public or private performance: if SCOTUS deems it public, Aereo’s in trouble, whereas if it’s deemed a series of private transmissions, the company may be able to continue unperturbed.

A ruling is expected any day now.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com