Google’s new Android TV dongle for developers supports 4K, HDR – and you can’t buy one

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Google announced a brand-new version of its Android TV developer hardware platform at I/O today. The ADT-2, sequel to the ADT-1, is being given out to attendees of the conference in Mountain View (they’ll ship at a later date). The ADT-2 takes on a Chromecast-like dongle form factor, and was first outed in an FCC certification listing around a month ago. The ADT-2 will not be sold to consumers.

Speaking to Googlers on the Android TV team in a briefing ahead of the show, we learned that the ADT-2 is intended to provide developers a “typical” Android TV experience in terms of hardware capability. It’s equipped with an AMLogic 905X chipset, the same one used in the 2017 Amazon Fire TV 4K dongle, so it’s one with a lot of developer support. It’s also the same chip in the Xiaomi Mi Box, which has often been derided for poor performance, but Google says it believes this hardware will provide a good experience on Android P. It does support 4K60 and HDR, so it’s a fairly capable – if cheap – piece of silicon. It comes equipped with 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage.

The ADT-2 was created specifically for use as an internal development platform by the Android TV team, and it will serve as their development reference device going forward, now that the Nexus Player has been sunsetted. We were told that a number of Android TV’s OEM partners have also been shown the ADT-2, and that there is significant interest in adopting it as a turnkey platform. Given we also learned that Google will begin maintaining a generic Android TV image for partners, this makes sense: anything to lower the barrier to entry, and reduce the cost of product support, has to be of interest to hardware vendors.

So, why won’t Google sell the ADT-2 to consumers, especially given they’re so confident it will offer a solid Android TV experience using low-cost components? In short, the Android TV team isn’t in the business of creating consumer hardware products. That responsibility falls on the newly-formed Google hardware team, and if they’re not interested in making an Android TV device, there’s nothing the Android TV team can do about that.

It’s hard not to see that there’s pent-up demand for a first-party Android TV product from Google, so it is a bit of head-scratcher that we’ve gone so long without one (and the Nexus Player barely even qualified as a consumer product, if you ask me). Maybe we’ll have some good news on this front come October, but it’s hard to say – Google seems happy to keep selling Chromecasts, and an Android TV dongle would almost certainly cut into that business in a big way. And the way the Android TV team seems to want to spin it, the device ecosystem will just be getting more diverse and capable as time goes on, so a Google-branded product could theoretically become unnecessary. That won’t stop people from asking for one, though, and even I find the idea that Android TV doesn’t need a product to go up against Amazon and Apple directly a little hard to swallow.

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