What you need to know
- The Android TV dongle we'd hoped would debut at Google I/O is shaping up to be quite the compelling device.
- XDA Developers obtained what appear to be official renders of the new Android TV dongle, its remote, and an updated Android TV UI.
- The dongle doesn't appear to be much bigger than the Chromecast Ultra, and the included remote appears to have a Favorites button to quickly access your favorite apps.
With the Chromecast Ultra being almost two years old now — wow, has it really been that long? — we're now about due for a new version from Google, and this generation's dongle has long been rumored to run Android TV and come with a dedicated remote so that it could better compete with the Amazon Fire TV and Roku. We were hoping — at least, I was hoping — to see this finally break cover at Google I/O alongside the Pixel 4a, but Google I/O was canceled and tomorrow's Android 11 has been postponed as well. We may not know when we'll actually be able to buy this device, but the renders XDA developers has pulled from promotional videos hidden in a pre-release build are making me more impatient for the new device.
The device, codenamed Sabrina, looks like it will be available in white, black, or in a "Not Pink" that matches the Pixelbook Go. It's unclear if the remote will match the color of each model, but the top half of the remote shown in the promotional video is a stark white, with buttons for Google Assistant, Play/Pause and a dedicated Favorites button, which will be very useful indeed if the UI shown in the promotional stills is to be believed. I'm bummed there's no fast-forward/rewind buttons, but given the remote's compact size, it's not surprising.
This UI came from a promotional video that dates back to October of last year, so things could have changed since then — and I really hove they have. This new home screen UI shows far less at a time, focusing on a carousel of popular content with your apps in a dock underneath. It's cleaner than the current home screen, but as anyone who's used Android TV regularly knows, the Reccomendations carousel is usually pretty worthless. So long as it's easy to access all my apps and especially my favorited apps, it'll probably be okay, but the new UI seems like a downgrade.
We'll have to wait for a future event to see how this dongle — and the next stage of Android TV developement — shakes out, but at a rumored price of $80, it will certainly be appetizing, especially next to the $150 NVIDIA Shield Android TV. The Shield TV still has the edge for power and a better track record for updates than Google's Android TV products, but the Google name will hopefully lead to wider adoption.
Best Android TV today
PC-class gaming comes to the best Android TV box
The Nvidia Shield TV is the best Android TV you can buy today, regardless of whether actually want to game on your TV or just binge your heart out (like me). NVIDIA is still cranking out updates to the original 2015 Shield TV, which means you can expect the 2019 version to be updated for years and years to come.
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Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.