Google announced a quartet of new products at its virtual “Launch Night In” event, and one of the underlying themes was that they weren’t obscenely expensive.
It likely won’t shock you that Google presented much of what was rumoured going into this event. The new Pixel 5, Pixel 4a 5G, Next Audio and Chromecast with Google TV are iterations on existing product lines, but they’ve clearly been made to be accessible.
It’s a bit surprising, considering the Pixel 3 and Pixel 4 devices were north of $1,000. The Pixel 5, which only comes in one size, will be $799 outright. And it’s also just one configuration, with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. If you want more storage, you’ll need to use the cloud. The 6-inch OLED display is only slightly larger than the Pixel 4a’s, and instead of a telephoto lens, Google swapped it out for a 16-megapixel ultrawide lens instead.
Pixel phones shoot well, and it’s reasonable to expect performance to only get better with these new features It will be interesting to see how adding Night Sight to the Portrait mode will make people look in dimmer lighting. Portrait Light will let you adjust the lighting on a face or skin tones after you shot it, and without affecting the rest of the photo. I’ll be very curious to test that out.
Video, which wasn’t Google’s strongest suit with the Pixels, may have received a boost. Three new modes it’s calling Locked, Active and Cinematic Pan will apparently make shooting clips easier and more dynamic. Google showed how Cinematic Pan slows down panning and the framerate to make footage look like it was shot on a movie set. Again, without the obviously staged examples Google shot, it’s hard to know how well this works without testing it, but it does look promising.
Yeah, I know. Google just launched the Pixel 4a in Canada on September 10, and now it’s coming with a 5G-enabled version in November for $679. From what I can tell, there is no other difference with this variant and the non-5G one, physical, software or otherwise.
It will even come in the same black colour. Since 5G networks are still very much in their infancy in Canada, this would be a future-proof purchase, not something you’re likely to benefit from. Well, at least not till 2021, to be honest.
Google adds to its smart speaker and audio lineup with the Nest Audio, a $130 speaker that Google says is 50% more powerful in bass and 75% louder than the original Google Home. That speaker was hardly a roof-shaker, so the bar wasn’t especially high. But, either way, it should be a noticeable step up from every Nest speaker, except the Home Max.
Mark Ronson, the British-American musician and producer, showed up for the event to extoll the speaker’s abilities, but it was hard to gauge anything related to performance without being in the room. Google makes the outer shell from 70% recycled material, which is pretty cool, but it’s a pretty basic design otherwise. To spruce things up, Google is making it in five colours: chalk, charcoal, sage, sand and sky.
Being a smart speaker, the onboard mics should pick up your voice and hear your commands really well. We’ll have to see how good the whole audio experience is before requesting music from it.
By now, the Chromecast is a recognizable device. You plug it into your TV’s HDMI port, and you can cast content over through it. Easy peasy. But it was also devoid of much of a software platform outside of those pretty photos it showed while idle.
That’s all changed now with the new Chromecast with Google TV. This thing not only comes in three colours (snow, sunrise and sky), but also its own dedicated remote. That remote has dedicated buttons for YouTube and Netflix, too.
More importantly, it has its own TV interface — and it’s not Android TV, like what you would see in the Nvidia Shield or certain TVs. This is altogether different, and it displays all the apps and streaming services you use, so it’s effectively a streaming device unto itself. You can still use it to cast content over from a phone, tablet or computer, as well as use your phone as a remote.
The new dongle supports 4K resolution with HDR at up to 60fps, including Dolby Vision and HDMI pass-through for Dolby audio content. It does have Google Assistant built into the remote, so you can request content that way. A new screensaver can tap into your Google Photos to display images you’ve shot. You can also stream your security cameras to the dongle to show up on the TV as well.
At $69, it’s a pretty good deal, especially considering the Chromecast Ultra was more expensive when it first came out a couple of years ago. It’s available in stores as of October 15.