Everything at ‘s hardware event: xel phones, 4K Chromecast, more

BY GreenBot Staff

Published 4 Oct 2016

Hardware heaven
google wifi chromecast ultra home pixel phones daydream vr

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If you missed the livestream for ’s big hardware blowout, well, you didn’t miss any surprises. Between the previews of new devices at I/O in May the onslaught of leaks over the past few weeks, Tuesday’s announcements felt somewhat anti-climactic, especially since the rumored merging of Android Chrome OS never surfaced.

But don’t let the lack of drama fool you: unveiled a wealth of slick-looking devices in San Francisco, seemingly retired the beloved Nexus line. There was also an underlying element of tension, as quietly but effectively stepped on the toes of its staunch hardware partners.

t’s dig in.

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ile ’s event was ostensibly all about new hardware, the true story was the intersection of hardware software, as device head Osterloh strived to point out. The new devices leaned heavily on ’s nascent Assistant, which is basically a supercharged, context-aware, conversational version of Now that’s “key to our vision for building an individual for speaking to you,” according to CEO Sundar chai.

Assistant can do everything from answering basic questions to helping you identify which restaurants you might like near a movie you have tickets for, then help you book reservations let your buddies know what’s up. It’ll even remember which services you like to use most open music other media in those, sidestepping rival apps.

Because Assistant’s tied to your account, it’ll follow you around from device to device, helping organize your life. Check out our Assistant coverage from I/O if you want to brush up on the broad strokes.

xel phones

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For most people, their phone is their most personal computing device, Assistant aims to stay near dear to you on ’s new xel xel Xa pair of unabashedly premium phones that toss the Nexus ethos out the windows take direct aim at the likes of Apple Samsung.

The 5-inch xel 5.5-inch xel Xkeep some of the Nexus perks, such as first dibs on Android updates a fingerprint reader. But where Nexus devices were designed to showcase Android features often sported affordable price tags, the xel deploys a bevy of premium features to st out from the smartphone crowd. boasts that the xel’s camera received the highest-ever rating from DXO, outshooting even Apple’s vaunted ione 7 (though the ione 7 us its dual lenses were a glaring omission from ’s slides). To drive the point home, ’s offering unlimited cloud storage for every photo video taken on your xel, up to full 4K resolution. Oh, xel owners receive 24/7 access to customer support straight from .

Hot damn. For a full list of the xel’s speeds, feeds, amusingly named color options, check out ’s xel phone coverage. It’s available for preorder now, will hit Verizon stores on October 20.

Daydream VR headset
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The xels are also the first phones certified for ’s new Daydream VR platform, a supercharged version of mobile virtual reality baked into Android 7.0. Now they have a headset to put those capabilities to good use, as unveiled its own Daydream View headset.

Other companies will be able to make Daydream headsets phones, but ’s version sts out from the crowd thanks to its fabric-clad design—inspired by “what people actually wear,” not gadgets, according to VR head Clay Bavor— relentless focus on simplicity. Slotting the xel (or any future Daydream phones) into the Daydream View is easy-peasy, the two devices communicate wirelessly to transport you to digital worlds. More than 50 Daydream VR apps are expected by the end of the year, including an experience based around K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts ere to Find Them,” with hundreds more coming down the pipeline.

The Daydream View will cost $80 come with a bundled made-for-VR controller when it launches in November, or you can pick one up for free if you preorder a xel between now October 19. oks like ’s taking aim at Samsung’s $100 Gear VR, too. For full details, hit up our Daydream VR report.

Chromecast Ultra
chromecast ultra

’s Chromecast won over the masses thanks to its intoxicating blend of simplicity, affordability, near-ubiquitous support from streaming media services. Now there’s a pricier $70 version dubbed Chromecast Ultra that supports the 4K resolutions Dolby’s version of high-dynamic range video on swankier modern TVs.

Be aware that many streaming services are only just rolling out 4K content, however, HDR is off to an even slower start. Read ’s Chromecast Ultra write-up for the lowdown on exactly which services will play nice out of the gate with ’s 4K streaming disc, when it launches in November.

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Move over, Echo. ’s ready to battle Amazon for control of your smart home.

’s smart speaker largely mirrors its rival, but swaps out Amazon’s exa for—you guessed it— Assistant. The Echo’s two-year lead open door approach to third-party hardware integration may appeal more to smart home buffs, but Home’s virtual assistant ties more closely into services that people already use in their everyday lives, it sports some nifty, deep ties into the Chromecast ecosystem as well. This looks to be a fierce battle indeed, ’s  Home coverage breaks down the battle lines advantages of each.

The $129 Home is accepting preorders now, with a ship date of November 4.

google wifi

’s dabbling more deeply into routers, too. After revealing its radical router/smart hub OnHub mash-up last year, the company’s back with fi, a tiny Echo Dot-like router designed to work as part of a team of devices, blanketing your house in -Fi much like the Eero ma mesh routers.

ke OnHub, fi focuses on simplicity. Dead spots in your house? Add another unit to seamlessly extend your network. “Network Assist” software wrangles data to keep rolling as smoothly as possible, management’s hled via a dedicated phone app, comes with family controls baked right in. Hy. Under the hood, fi supports AC1200 wireless speeds, 2.4GHz 5GHz  networks, beamforming, Bluetooth Smart technology, more.

’s fi will ship singly or in multi-packs, just like Eero. A single router will cost you $129; a three pack, which says can cover 3,000 to 4,500 ft., will set you back $299. That’s significantly cheaper than a $400 Eero three pack. Expect preorders to open in November fi to ship in December.

Spread your wings
google assistant actions

But devices won’t be the only ones to house Assistant. The company also announced a program dubbed Actions by that will allow software developers to hook Assistant support into their services, an Embedded Assistant SDK coming in 2017 that will let hardware makers bake the conversational companion right into their devices. Catch up on all the Assistant ascending details here.