Releasing at the end of this week, the PLAiR 2 HDMI dongle is attempting to expand beyond the Google Chromecast by offering users the ability to connect to the entire Google Play app marketplace. After plugging the device into a high definition television and connecting to a home’s wireless network, users can access the Google Play Store and Amazon App store to download Android applications. Some of the more popular applications come pre-installed on the device. For instance, users can immediately launch applications such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Spotify, Crackle, HBO GO, NHL GameCenter and YouTube. In addition, Comcast users can utilize the Xfinity application.
In order to control Android apps being displayed on the television, users have to download an application to their mobile device and use it as a remote control. The remote control application interface includes a way to swipe to the left and right when cycling through content as well as adjust the volume and utilize an on-screen keyboard for typing in usernames, passwords and search terms. Similar to the Chromecast, users can also stream media to the PLAiR 2 from an iOS or Android mobile device as well as a laptop using Google Chrome.
Regarding hardware, the PLAiR 2 HDMI dongle operates on a 1GHz ARM processor as well as 1 GB DDR3 RAM and a GPU/VPU that’s capable of 1080p streaming. It also uses a 802.11 wireless-N connection when connecting to your home’s wireless network. Similar to the Google Chromecast yet again, the dongle requires a power connection using an AC adapter and a mini-USB plug.
When it comes to price, the PLAiR 2 ($49) is 40 percent more expensive than the Google Chromecast ($35). The creators are hoping access to the app marketplace will increase the value of the device to consumers. As a gesture of good will to early adopters that purchased the original PLAiR device at a $99 price point, the company is offering to upgrade the hardware just for the cost of shipping.
Unfortunately for the creators of the PLAiR 2, developers have been working to make the Chromecast even more attractive in the past several weeks. Last week, the most recent version of the Pandora application added support for direct streaming to Chromecast devices. In addition, the Hulu development team added support for Chromecast streaming on Android smartphones and tablets as well as Apple iPads and iPhones in the past several weeks.
Google has also finally caught up with supplying units to fill the demand for the Chromecast. During the first few weeks after the device was launched, it was backordered at larger retailers like Amazon and Best Buy. However, Google has restocked these stores and appears to be ready to push out more units during the holiday season. Due to the low price point and small size, the device could potentially become a stocking stuffer during the holiday rush this year.
The PLAiR 2 is also competing directly against the Roku LT, a device at the exact same price point. While the Roku LT is only capable of 720p playback, the physical remote is likely a selling point for a traditional home theater setup and the Roku application marketplace offers over 1000 channels of content as well as access to the most popular streaming video applications.