The Techtober train is still running, with a current stop at the Google Launch Night In Event. That means new Pixel phones, a Chromecast and a Nest speaker.
And Google packed all of this into a quick 30-minute event. The Pixel 4a 5G, as expected, is an upgraded version of the Pixel 4a. Back in August, we called it the best affordable Android phone. The 4a 5G adds in support for 5G networks (Sub6 and mmWave standards), features a slightly bigger display and is $499. The Pixel 5 continues the 5G party with the same dual camera setup on the back, a slightly smaller display and more color options. It also features IP68 resistance and reverse wireless charging. It’s up for preorder now at $699.
The new Chromecast finally has a dedicated remote and feels like a full-fledged streaming box. It’s running Google TV, which delivers a whole new layout with a focus on the Google Assistant. Lastly, there’s the $99.99 Nest Audio smart speaker. And you guessed it, the focus is on music with a tweeter and midwoofer inside. Google was pretty pumped and brought out Mark Ronson and Selena Gomez to demo it.
Get comfy, get cozy and get ready, as we’re breaking down everything announced at Google’s Launch Night In Event, along with how to preorder and order the new goodies. And, yes, we’re just as confused as to why “Night In” is a daytime event.
Nest Audio: A $99 music-focused smart speaker
Google’s latest smart speaker is now official — and it’s only $99.99.
Nest Audio puts the focus on high-end audio and expanding your Nest ecosystem. That means it works with Nest Mini, the Google Home, Google Home Max and Nest Hub screens.
This is the successor to the original Google Home, and the company claims it delivers 50% more bass and 75% more volume compared to that device. Powering the audio ecosystem is a 19mm tweeter for higher-frequency sound and a 75mm midwoofer to bring the bass. We’ve only seen a demonstration via this streamed event, so we will report back on sound quality once we go hands-on.
Nest Audio is made from recycled material and features a cloth finish all around. On the front side, you’ll find four LED dots that comprise the screen, which is used to measure volume and let you know when the Assistant is listening. It appears to be a tall, rounded speaker and is larger than a Nest Mini and the Google Home. It will also come in five shades: Sage, Chalk, Sand, Sky and Charcoal.
Chromecast: A remote and an operating system for $49.99
Google is finally giving the Chromecast the update we’ve been waiting for. The new Chromecast with Google TV keeps the dongle-like design and finally has a remote.
It’s up for order right now for $49.99 in three fun colors: Snow, Sunrise and Sky.
The design with this updated Chromecast keeps the product’s heritage. It’s a circular piece of soft plastic with an HDMI cable sticking out. The Sunrise variant, which truthfully is a grapefruit shade of pink, is a flattened oval (small enough to fit in the palm of our hand) with the HDMI cord sticking out. Google includes the cable and a wall plug in the box, and the company doesn’t recommend giving the Chromecast power from your TV, so it seems it needs more power.
Arguably the big story is in the second half of the name: Google TV. It’s not a relaunch of Google’s legacy service but rather a rebranding of Android TV. It’s launching first on this Chromecast, and there’s a chance it will arrive on other devices running Android TV. (We’re very keen on finding out if our luxury TV pick, Sony’s A8H, will receive an update from Android TV to Google TV.)
The interface is set up with different tabs and aims to give you easy access to content. Along with deep integration with Google’s services, the Google Assistant is front and center with a search tab — you can type searches in or use your voice with the remote. Yes, the Chromecast finally comes with a remote. It has a circular D-pad up top with a microphone built in for easy Google Assistant support. There’s a dedicated Assistant button that you need to press to ask for content. You can, of course, ask non-TV-related questions and queries as well. There are dedicated buttons for YouTube and Netflix, along with classic control buttons. You also get dedicated volume keys on the right side.
And you guessed it: YouTube TV is integrated here as well. There’s an entire Live TV section that acts as a live guide. It’s shaping up to be a really nice interface for cord-cutters. You can even browse by movies, TV shows, apps and a full library of content — all from one device. The Chromecast supports Stadia — Google’s cloud gaming service — directly on this device (you’ll just need a gaming controller).
The expected apps are here as well: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Peacock, AT&T TV, Sling, YouTube TV, YouTube and countless others.
Pixel 5: Return of the fingerprint and the addition of 5G
Google’s flagship Pixel is official. The Pixel 5 lands on October 15 for $699 and brings with it some new features. Notably, it’s just one size: a 6-inch FHH+ OLED display with a 90 Hz refresh rate. The Face Unlock feature is gone, and that means the notch is as well. Instead, like the 4a and 4a 5G, there’s a pinhole notch in the top-left corner. It contains an 8-megapixel lens.
On the flip side, Google will be making a lot of people happy (us included) with an ultrawide sensor. Yes, the Pixel 5 has a 12-megapixel main lens and a 16-megapixel ultrawide lens. The latter will be perfect for capturing a wider field of view without having to move. Think skylines, larger groups and many other scenarios. It supports Night Sight, which is a mode that uses artificial intelligence, or AI, to boost low-light photos. The results are pretty impressive and enable astrophotography, essentially the ability to photograph stars. Lieve HDR+, Portrait Light and Cinematic Pan round out the photography experience.
Powering Android 11 on the Pixel 5 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor with 8GB of RAM. This should be plenty for a zippy experience, thanks to Google’s hard work fine-tuning the software for this device. There’s also a pretty sizable 4,080mAh battery inside, which is larger than the cells found in the 4a 5G and 4a.
For the first time, alongside Qi-enabled wireless charging, the Pixel 5 supports reverse wireless charging, aka the magical tech that allows you to charge other devices (Pixel Buds, AirPods or even another Pixel) on the back of your Pixel. Pretty cool. The design is a bit more rugged as well, with an IP68 rating for water resistance.
The Pixel 5 will be available in Just Black and Sorta Sage, and both of these cost $699 and feature 128GB of storage. You can preorder the Pixel 5 right now and it will ship on October 15.
Pixel 4a 5G: Adding in 5G and some upgrades over the 4a
We really enjoyed our time with the Pixel 4a, and the Pixel 4a 5G seems to be an improvement in many ways. It will be launching soon for $499, with 128GB of storage.
The 4a 5G features a larger 6.2-inch FHD+ OLED screen with a 90 Hz refresh rate. That’s up from a 5.8-inch screen on the 4a. There’s also an upgraded camera in a pinhole notch in the top-left corner. It’s an 8-megapixel lens that should be handy for selfies and Google Duo calls.
It’s running Android 11 out of the box and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor with 6GB of RAM. We expect that between Google’s software customizations and this processor, the experience on the 4a 5G should be zippy. It should be plenty to power a two-camera experience on the backside as well.
Yes, the 4a features a 12-megapixel main lens (same as on the 4a) and a 16-megapixel ultrawide. The latter is the lens we wish was on the original 4 and 4XL from the start, but Google decided to double down on telephoto. With the ultrawide lens, you’ll be able to capture a much wider field of view, like a skyline, tall tree or suburban street. The classic Google camera features are here as well: Night Sight and Live HDR+. With the latter, the view from the viewfinder of the camera app will be exactly what your photo will look like.
Rounding out the Pixel 4a 5G is a 3,885mAh battery, the Titan M Security chip, a fingerprint reader on the back, a headphone jack and a USB-C port. The 4a 5G will launch in November with preorders closer to that time frame. It will come in black and cost $499.