Google I/O is taking on the 10th May, and although it's usually an event focused on software and Google services, we usually get a first look at some hardware releases.
Last year it was the Pixel 6A, Pixel Watch and Pixel Buds Pro, and we even got a very early look at the Pixel 7. But what about this year? I certainly know what I want - and it's something other than the Pixel devices.
The Google Chromecast with Google TV is a brilliant streaming puck that's almost three years into its life cycle now, and if you ask me, it's high time we saw a replacement or, preferably, a step-up model. I want a more substantial streamer from Google, something akin to the Apple TV 4K or the Amazon Fire TV Cube.
The search engine turned software and hardware developer has a solid foundation with its existing Chromecast streamer, which is evidenced by the fact that it's been a regular on our Awards lists for the past two years. However, it just missed out on the Product of the Year title both times. Why? The Apple TV 4K costs double that of the Chromecast, is it really twice as good?
The short answer? Yes. The Apple TV 4K has more features, better sound and an excellent picture, making a real case not only for its existence but for you to cough up the extra cash if you're serious about streaming and/or your digital media library.
It features a much nicer remote, and an Ethernet port (if you opt for the more expensive model) and it has a processor that you can find in the current iPhone 14. However, if you're #TeamAndroid and won't touch an Apple device with a barge pole, then you're pretty much out of luck.
As our recent review highlighted, the Fire TV Cube 3rd Generation is a bit of a letdown, and despite there being niche Google TV streamers like the Nvidia Shield, there's not much in the way of powerful Android-friendly TV streamers. This is where Google could step in with a bigger and better Chromecast - perhaps a Chromecast Pro?
It's simple, take the existing Chromecast with Google TV with its wonderfully authentic image and sound, and simply add a better processor and more extensive feature set. Google has the Tensor chips that it developed for the latest Pixel smartphones, so it could even take the Apple route here by utilising existing components.
Pair that with an Ethernet connection, maybe an HDMI passthrough and keep the fun pastel aesthetic of the Chromecast with Google TV and Google could have a winner on its hands. But why stop there?
If there's one aspect of the Fire Cube we really did like, it would be the built-in microphones in the main body of the streaming cube, which made the Fire TV device into a pseudo-Amazon Echo speaker. Google could do the exact same with Google Assistant, creating a hybrid Chromecast/Nest-style device. Dash in some healthy Android mobile synergy and maybe some Pixel-centric features and Google could have a competitor to the Apple TV 4K and iPhone dream team combo.
Will we see a beefier Chromecast next week at I/O? We haven't heard much in the way of rumours, but I do have my fingers crossed.
Read our full Google Chromecast with Google TV review
As well as our Apple TV 4K (2022) review
Check out our list of the best media streamers
I admit that I have mine connected to an 8 year old midrange TV that doesn't have a surround sound system, so it's fair to say I haven't pushed it hard, but there's very little that needs to change on the Google TV stick. They don't need to make a clone of the Apple TV, nor does it need to become a smart speaker -- Google has many affordable options, all of which can cast to your Google TV stick.
If I were to ask for a change, I would like dedicated media control buttons on the remove, backlighting, and on the software side, an ambient screen mode that one can use to display a webpage that has my calendar and TODO lists.
I don't feel the device is sluggish, so I won't ask for a faster chipset just for kicks. Anyone who jas Wifi 5 or better with a 5ghz access point really doesn't need ethernet. Google's analytics actually probably indicate this. Almost nobody other than hardcore enthusiasts bother to use ethernet, and it makes even less sense on a streaming stick that tops out 25mbps of bandwidth to work flawlessly.
Upgrade your home wifi if you're struggling. You can find several very good Wifi 5 routers on ebay for £50 or less, including mesh systems.