When will the Chromecast 4 be released?
The most logical time for Google to update its Chromecast line-up would have been at the company’s annual Google I/O conference held in May, when we were also expecting the Pixel 4a.
Google has yet to confirm that it intends to upgrade the existing Chromecast 3 though, so at the moment all of this remains purely speculative.
We now have some leaked images and details for the next device, but still no release date beyond XDA saying that Google plans to launch new hardware "this summer".
If it does arrive with the Pixel 4a, early July is the tip.
With that said, Google has confirmed that it'll be holding a developer-focused event dubbed the Hey Google Smart Home Summit on 8 July, complete with keynote speech. While there's no mention of new product announcements on the keynote's description on the Google website, the company has launched smart home products at previous developer-focused events. If you want to find out more, take a look at how to watch the Hey Google Smart Home keynote.
How much will the Chromecast 4 cost?
You can buy the current Chromecast 3 for £30/$35, which is the same price as the previous model. With this in mind it seems likely that Google will try to keep to this price point if a new version appears.
There are actually two models available in the range, with the Chromecast Ultra offering 4K streaming but upping the price to £69/$69.
Protocol says that unnamed “industry insiders” expect Google’s Android TV dongle to be priced around or below $80.
Of course, it’s not only Google that sells streaming devices and you can see what the rivals have to offer in our roundup of the best streaming boxes.
What features will appear in the Chromecast 4?
Remote control and Android TV
By its very nature a Chromecast is a simple device. There are no controls or other interface elements, instead everything is sent from your smartphone, tablet or laptop. This could change if the rumours on 9to5 Google are accurate.
These state that the next Chromecast could come with a physical remote control that frees users from having to use their personal devices. Obviously, for this to work, it would also require an on-screen interface, which is something else included in the report.
It suggests that Google will employ its Android TV software, giving the Chromecast a much closer feel to the likes of Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon’s hugely popular Fire TV.
The leaked details via XDA give us a good look at how the new Chromecast will work, starting with its oblong shape, moving on from the round design used previously. It looks like it will come in a choice of black, white and peach colours with a matt finish (see above).
It looks like the Chromecast 4 might use the Nest branding instead, although we don't know what it will be called apart from its 'Sabrina' codename.
Importantly, we now have a good look at the remote control which has a round dial at the top with at least six buttons below for things like back, home and the Google Assistant. It's reminiscent of the one supplied with the Google Daydream View VR headset.
Running on Android TV means that Sabrina will have an interface to interact with rather than simply casting content from devices like your smartphone.
It will show lists of TV and movies, results from the Google Assistant, integration with products such as Nest doorbells and YouTube TV complete with a Live tab to show what's on the likes of Fox and NBC (for US users).
These details come from a pre-release firmware build which included a marketing video for Sabrina. It's dated 10 October 2019 so it's worth noting that much of this could have changed by now.
We also have futher details from XDA including that the Android TV dongle will run on an Amlogic S905X2 chipset and 2GB of RAM. That processor is popular for Android TV devices and can handle 4K at 60fps over HDMI 2.1, HDR video playback with HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision support.
The leak also reveals that the star button on the remote (above) will be customisable, so users can likely set it to launch their favourite streaming services with one press. Google also seems to be working on a 'Auto Low Latency Mode' which TVs may label as a game mode and could mean it's pitched as a device for Google Stadia.
Wi-Fi 6 compatibility
Another obvious area where the Chromecast could be brought up to date is with Wi-Fi connectivity. The Chromecast 3 currently has 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) capabilities, so it shouldn’t be beyond the realms of fantasy to see this stepped up to the newer and more powerful 802.11ax or Wi-Fi 6.
The XDA details gained via the firmware doesn't confirm this. Only that it will use an Amlogic SoC and support Dolby Vision.
For more details on why this would be a good thing, read What is Wi-Fi 6?
Google Stadia compatibility
This is more something we’d like to see than any rumour that is currently doing the rounds. At the time of writing, only the Chromecast Ultra is compatible with Google’s game streaming service.
Presumably this is due to the company wanted everyone to have the best visuals available for the relatively new platform. Checking the Stadia FAQ page reveals the following statement:
"Currently, any Google Chromecast Ultra is compatible with Stadia. You will also need a Stadia Controller and access to Stadia in order to play with Chromecast Ultra. Stay tuned for future announcements regarding additional device compatibility."
Hopefully this last line opens the door for a new Chromecast 4 with Stadia capabilities. You won’t be able to play 4K HDR @ 60fps like on the Ultra, but the reduced 1080p or 720p settings available in Stadia could be an option.