Google joined Roku and Amazon Wednesday in announcing a full lineup of new smart devices and features including a new “Google TV” feature supported on the latest iteration of the Chromecast Dongle.

Other offerings include new and improved Nest-branded smart speakers and the latest top-of-the-line Pixel phones supporting some new still and video camera capabilities.

The products were all formally announced at Google’s Launch Night streamed event Wednesday. We include a brief update of the key items below:

Chromecast and Google TV

The updated version of Google’s $50 Chromecast dongle is available in the U.S. now in a choice of white (Snow), blue (Sky) or coral (Sunrise) pastel color shades. The HDMI-connected device now includes a full user interface and remote control like the streaming media player competition.

It supports video-streaming in up to 4K HDR/60fps and supports Dolby Vision, HDR10+ as well as baseline HDR10 high dynamic range (HDR). The Dolby Atmos metadata is can be passed through in DD+ streams to be decoded by supported TVs, soundbars or external Atmos audio components.

Most importantly, Chromecast now offers an Android TV-like graphical user interface called Google TV (the old name of Google’s WebTV competitor a million years ago) supporting all of the same apps as Android TV devices, but with a different look and feel.

In its announcement, Google said the new Google TV will also be coming to Sony TVs and some other brands of Android TVs in 2021.

The new Chromecast’s included voice remote features an Assistant button, along with dedicated buttons for popular streaming services (YouTube and Netflix), again like many competitors’ streaming media adapters. But the 2020 Chromecast was announced as “a more helpful TV,” moving beyond its role as merely a mobile device casting enabler.

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The system features a more robust recommendation engine with titles from across subscribed app services presented right on the home screen for quick access and delivers better search results from content across services that can be leveraged via voice commands. The guide includes aggregated selections for live TV as well.

New Pixel Phones

Google unveiled its new flagship phone, the Pixel 5, and the similar Pixel 4A 5G which will both be available starting Oct. 15th. Both models now include the Snapdragon 765G processor and offer the same 12MP IMX363 main camera from prior years The while the secondary camera has be revamped to dispense with the Pixel 4 line’s 16MP telephoto camera in favor of a 16MP ultra-wide lens.

The Pixel 5 adds 5G and starts at $699, while the Pixel 4A 5G is offered at $499.

HDR+ is also being upgraded, Google said, with the introduction of exposure bracketing for clearer photos with the new wide-angle lens.

Night Sight, Google’s low-light camera mode, is added to portrait mode, along with Portrait Light. The effect can be added to portrait photos that are too dark after the image has been shot.

The Pixel 5 provides a few other step-up features to the 4A 5G including mmWave 5G connectivity, a 90Hz display, bigger battery, IP68 water resistance, Qi wireless charging, and more RAM.

Meanwhile, Google has added an assortment of services called Google One to the proposition.

It even offers a Hold for Me phone feature that lets Google Assistant takeover when a user is placed on prolong hold.

Nest Smart Speakers.

Google’s next generation of Nest Speakers were designed to output more bass, loudness and value. The main speaker, Nest Audio (available Oct. 5th), carries a $100 asking price and is said to be 75% louder with a 50% stronger bass than the original Google Home smart speaker (since rebranded as Nest after Amazon bought the smart device company). It comes in a choice of five pastel color shades and is outfitted with a 19mm tweeter and a 75mm mid-woofer.

A smaller Nest Mini model ($49) is positioned against Amazon’s Echo Dot. The small, round drop-shaped speaker is offered in a choice of four pastel shades of fabric skin. It includes four LED lights on top to indicate when its listening.

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By Greg Tarr

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