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Chromecast

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Urbanears introduces Chromecast speakers with Bluetooth and Airplay, starting at $350

Scandinavian brand Urbanears is branching out of the headphones market to launch its first speakers: the Baggen and the Stammen. These are almost the same speaker made in two different sizes, wrapped in 360-deg fabric, and available in neutral colors like black, grey, and navy, but also interesting shades like light pink, dark green, and bold orange.

The reason we're talking about them is that they're connected speakers and come with plenty of integrations out of the box: Chromecast Built-in, Apple Airplay, and Spotify Connect. Beside WiFi, they also have Bluetooth and Auxiliary input. The speakers have easy controls to switch between input modes and 7 favorite Spotify playlists or internet radio station presets.

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[Update: Firmware released] LG responds to user complaints, will add Google Home and multi-room support to Music Flow speakers

LG released its Music Flow speakers back in 2015 as one of the first third-party systems to take advantage of Google's Cast framework. However, LG has been slow to implement new features, and buyers were beginning to fear LG had abandoned the products. Now, it looks like all your complaining has worked! LG is adding multi-room audio and Google Home support to the Music Flow speakers.

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[Deal Alert] Chromecast Ultra now $59 ($10 off) at Google Store, Target, B&H, Best Buy, and possibly more

The Chromecast Ultra was announced at Google's October 4th event last year, as an enhanced Chromecast capable of 4K HDR output (with compatible TVs). However, even with greater functionality and speed than the existing 2nd-gen Chromecast, many considered the $69 starting point a little too pricey. Now the CC Ultra appears to be $59 at many participating stores.

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Weekend poll: What smart TV system do you use?

The war for your television's operating system (or, the operating system / platform you use to display content on it) is heating up. CES saw a refresh of the loved SHIELD Android TV console, and a new such box from Dish. We also saw Alexa on TVs, as well as continued attempts by the likes of Samsung and LG to push their own smart TV solutions.

So, I wanted to get a snapshot of what kind of smart TV system you're using here at the beginning of 2017. I'm allowing multiple answers on this poll, because I think people definitely may use a variety of platforms depending on both the TV and the content they're consuming, as not all platforms offer all services or features.

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Polaroid shows off 4K TVs with built-in Chromecast at CES

Believe it or not, Polaroid does still exist. The company is no longer the entity it once was, living on now as a shell to license the brand and forge hardware partnerships. Still, Polaroid has something new at CES you might find interesting; a new line of 4K TVs with Google Chromecast built-in. They start at just $499.

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LG's new SJ soundbar series brings Chromecast, high-resolution audio, and Dolby Atmos

LG has been one of the first companies to adopt Chromecast, then Google Cast, in its speakers and soundbars with the LG Music Flow series, to let users stream music wirelessly and without the need for a separate Chromecast Audio dongle. Support for its line-up has been less than stellar though, with the speakers being seemingly abandoned without firmware updates, no sign of multi-room or grouping to make them compatible with other Chromecast devices and Google Home, and leaving users without any hope for the future (check these threads as two small examples of customer frustration). With that grim asterisk in mind, I can tell you about these new soundbars that LG is showing off at CES.

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Google, please kill the horrible ongoing casting notification for all devices on the network

If there's one Google complaint we've received regularly recently, it's in regard to the new casting control notification which started appearing on devices as part of a Play Services update in early November. Namely, the problem is that the notification goes to every Android device on your network. It's a well-intentioned feature, but one which results in a horrible user experience for a number of reasons. Specifically:

  1. People are naturally inclined to dismiss notifications they don't recognize or want (something I'm sure Google agrees with!)
  2. People tend to accidentally hit buttons
  3. People are jerks

Number one: Listen, just because you gave Uncle Steve the Wi-Fi password so he doesn't use up all of his gee-bees during his holiday visit this year doesn't mean you were also interested in giving him authority over your casting controls that he does not understand.

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Chromecast Ultra owners can get Ghostbusters (2016) for free from Google Play Movies

Google is known for periodically offering free goodies to Chromecast owners. Most recently, Google gave three free months of HBO Now with purchase of a Chromecast. In the Chromecast Ultra's first promotion, you can grab a free copy of the Ghostbusters remake in 4K from Google Play Movies. It may not be the best-performing movie this year, but you can't beat free.

The offer is available to anyone who has purchased and activated a Chromecast Ultra before December 31st, and you can redeem the offer until April 30. As you might expect, this is only valid in the United States and Canada.

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Google makes 4K video official in Google Play, but only for the US and Canada right now

We started getting reports of 4K videos rolling out in Google Play several weeks ago, but not everyone could see the 4K option and Google didn't list a separate price for it. Google has now made it official—4K video is available for rental or purchase in the Play Store. However, there isn't very much of it right now, and you can't even get 4K everywhere.

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[Deal Alert] Get a 2nd-gen Google Chromecast or Chromecast Audio for just $25 ($10 off) at a ton of stores

 

The Chromecast is well-loved, and for good reason - it's so cheap, yet so useful. At its MSRP of $35, it was already great bang for the buck, but for Black Friday, multiple retailers are knocking $10 off the prices of both the standard Chromecast (the newer second-generation model from 2015) and Chromecast Audio to $25.

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