The now newly-normal trend of online announcements taking the place of live product showcases in these pandemic times continued this week with Google's latest hardware launch — the "Launch Night In" Pixel 5 event.
Coming a week after Amazon's fall 2020 hardware event, Google finally released several of its most highly-anticipated devices of the year, including new Pixel phones, a new Chromecast dongle that runs Google TV, and new Nest Audio speakers.
Google took a slightly different approach with its virtual announcements, opting to introduce the products in a more informal way in what it called its 'Launch Night In' event. The launch night is a bit of a misnomer, as the event took place during the middle of the day, but just go with us on this one. It was a fun, intimate presentation on the couch with millions of our closest friends.
Google's Launch Night In Event: Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5
Following this summer's release of the Pixel 4a, the wait for the top of the line Google Pixel phones is over, with the official announcement of the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G smartphones.
The Google Pixel 5 comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 chipset, 8GB of Ram and 128GB storage. The battery comes in at 4,080 mAh to power its 6-inch OLED display with Full HD+ resolution and 90Hz refresh rate. What is unique about this version is that it has an aluminum casing but is still capable of Qi wireless charging, and it can also support reverse wireless charging. It has two rear cameras, a 12.2 primary camera with f/1.7 aperture and OIS, and a 16MP ultra-wide camera with f/2.2 aperture. The Pixel 5 is available in two colors — Just Black and Sorta Sage, and it is available for pre-order now, and will ship in late October.
The Pixel 4a 5G is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G and comes with 6GB of RAM, 128GB storage, and a 3,800 mAh battery with support for 18W wired charging. And like its smaller Pixel 4a sibling, it also comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack. The phone will have a similar plastic casing to the 4a, and like that smaller phone, it won't be able to support wireless charging. The 4a 5G will not be available until mid-November, but you can sign up on a waitlist from the Google Store website.
In addition to the new hardware, Google announced several software updates worth noting, including:
New camera features
The Pixel 5 now supports 4K video recording at 60 frames per second, along with several new video modes including Locked, Active, and Cinematic. Both phones will continue to support Google's amazing Night Sight, astrophotography, and HDR+ modes.
Hold for me and enhanced call screening
The Pixel line already had leading call screening support, but the new Pixels bring something called Hold for Me, which allows the Google Assistant to wait on hold in your place, and then alerts you when someone on the other end picks up the phone.
Google's Launch Night In Event: New Chromecast with Google TV
The new Chromecast with Google TV is an update to the company's existing Chromecast dongle devices, with a few significant improvements.
First off, the new device has a softer, more refined look and is available in three beautiful colors: Snow, Sunrise, and Sky. The new Chromecast with Google TV also comes with a remote that is comfortable and easy to use. It features large, prominent buttons, the foremost of which is a quick access button to the Google Assistant, much like the Alexa Voice Remotes that come with Amazon's Fire TV Sticks and other Fire TV devices. There are also quick access buttons for popular streaming services like YouTube and Netflix. The device is capable of streaming video up to 4K HDR at 60 FPS and supports Dolby Vision and Dolby Audio via HDMI pass-through.
With the new Chromecast, users will also be able to pull up their Nest cam feeds on their TV and control their smart homes via Google Assistant. Google also said that the new Chromecast would support Stadia sometime in early 2021.
Now available in the US, you can read our Chromecast with Google TV review, in which we said, "Google just won the living room."
New Google TV UI
Perhaps the most significant announcement for this new device is the fact that it comes enabled with an all-new Google TV entertainment experience. Important new user interface features include a For You tab with personalized recommendations based on your previous viewing habits, a Watchlist to let you save items for later, and access to more than 6,500 apps. There is an ambient mode that can turn your TV into the world's largest digital picture frame.
The new Google TV interface will begin rolling out to televisions from other Android TV OS partners starting in 2021.
Google's Launch Night In Event: Nest Audio speaker
The Nest Audio speaker is a dedicated smart speaker in the Google/Nest lineup that replaces the original Google Home and fits nicely between the Nest Mini and Google Home Max. The new speaker is 75% louder and has 50% more base than the original Google Home smart speaker. It can be paired with a second Nest Audio for stereo sound and comes with a built-in 19mm tweeter and 75mm woofer.
It comes in five festive colors, including sand, chalk, sky, charcoal, and sage. You can also read our Nest Audio review, which we gave four-stars and really like.
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