Inside Chromecast

Inside the Chromecast it’s also a simple affair, I took a look at the FCC disclosure for the Chromecast which had internal images up right after the event, and noted inclusion of a Marvell 88DE3005 SoC and AzureWave NH–387 WiFi combo chip. On the backside is 512 MB of Micron DDR3L memory and 2 GB of flash. The antenna for the WiFi combo is printed on the PCB off to the side, there’s no diversity or anything special, just a single PCB antenna.

The Chromecast supports just 802.11b/g/n (2.4 GHz), sadly no 5 GHz is included. That’s somewhat alarming if you’re in an area where 2.4 GHz is congested to the point of being unusable (just about any major urban area), and even more so since streaming applications demand a good QoS for good experience. I have no doubt that 2.4 GHz-only was chosen for cost reasons here, but I would’ve gladly paid $5–10 more for 5 GHz and eliminating that as a potential problem.

Best I can tell, the Marvell 88DE3005 is a cut down, perhaps binned version of the 88DE3100 SoC that has shipped in Google TV for some time now with just a single CPU core enabled. Some hacking done by enthusiasts has confirmed from /proc/cpuinfo that only a single core is visible to the OS, and that the Chromecast also interestingly enough really runs Android, not Chrome, and includes a build.prop file like you’d expect an Android device to.

Google no doubt chose this Marvell SoC in part thanks to the presence of hardware VP8 decode, and I have no doubt YouTube on the device brings down VP8 versions of videos when available, and the Chrome tab to Chromecast streaming uses VP8 as well. Of course there’s hardware decode of H.264 High Profile onboard as well for Netflix and other YouTube videos without VP8 versions. Google lists the supported codecs on their Google Cast SDK page.


Under Load

Back when the power situation was unknown and still steeped in conflicting information about HDMI power delivery (again, it can't be powered by MHL-HDMI ports which can supply up to 500 mA at present spec, and HDMI doesn't supply enough current, just 50mA), I set about measuring power. I have a handy USB power meter which sits in line with devices and shows a small graph as well as data on its OLED display. I stuck the meter in line between the microUSB power supply provided with Chromecast, and the Chromecast, and measured around 420 mA at peak while decoding either a 1080p Netflix stream or Chrome tab streamed to it, and around 250 mA at idle. All of those are at 5 V, so at peak the Chromecast draws around 2 watts, at idle around 1 watt. Of course if the Chromecast is plugged into your TV’s USB port, chances are when the TV is off power is cut to USB, so idle really is completely off. It’s obvious to me that Chromecast definitely leverages that hardware decoder for both VP8 and H.264 processing to get these very low power numbers.

Introduction and Hardware The First Mode - Cast SDK
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  • matt30 - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    iMediaShare is just a DLNA server. And it doesn't stream in HD.
  • burger2227 - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    WTF does it do? If I did not know any better, I would have thought this was a bad review of the Nexus Q! How does it work? How well does it work? That's a review, not this crap.
  • Heartdisease - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Nexus as a hotspot & make it work on the hotel tv? I assumed so until you mentioned cloning on a laptop.
  • Heartdisease - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    Don't know what happened there. Can I use just my Galaxy should precede the former.
  • Marthisdil - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - link

    It's $35 worth of useless to me. I'd have spent the money on it if it included 3 months of netflix (then the true cost would have been $11).

    But it offers no extra functionality for me, or anyone I know, that doesn't already have a smart tv or a media pc connected to their tv
  • dev_d1 - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    This stick may not be of much value once the android community figures out how to receive chromecast signal on Rockchip quad core android mini PCs. Granted its cheaper, but the mini-PCs can do so much more than just receive and display whats being cast.
  • IdBuRnS - Thursday, August 1, 2013 - link

    I bought one yesterday. Casting chrome tabs is slow, trying to play video from those tabs is unwatchable.

    Sweet, it's just another Netflix/Youtube device in my house...
  • IdBuRnS - Monday, August 5, 2013 - link

    And I returned the Chromecast to BestBuy yesterday.
  • random2 - Saturday, August 3, 2013 - link

    There's a whole host of devices that do just this and more. They are called media players and they work great:)
  • epoon2 - Sunday, August 4, 2013 - link

    When would google sell ads on Chromecast ?

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