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Lenovo Cast Challenges Chromecast, Mirrors Phone on TV

Lenovo is getting into the streaming business, with a disc-shaped hub designed to get all the photos, movies and games you have stashed on your mobile device onto a larger screen.

The Lenovo Cast, unveiled today (May 27) at the company's Lenovo Tech World in Beijing, plugs into an HDMI port on a television set or display. After you link your smartphone or tablet to the corresponding TV signal, you're able to play any media off your mobile device using the Lenovo Cast's Wi-Fi connectivity. Lenovo says its wireless hub is designed to work with devices using Android 4.3 and later; Lenovo Cast also supports selected Miracast or DLNA-enabled Windows 8.1 and iOS devices, according to the company.

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Lenovo clearly has portability in mind with the Lenovo Cast, which measures 2.76 inches in diameter and is a little more than half-an-inch thick. The 1.76-ounce hub is designed to fit into your pocket or a backpack. It's also capable of beaming content to a screen up to 65 feet away, and Lenovo says its signal can penetrate up to two walls.

Lenovo touts the device as ideal for sharing content in group settings. Think of parties where people have to crowd around you and your phone to watch a video or look at photos. Because the Lenovo Cast also mirrors what's on your smartphone, it could also be of use for tasks such as presentations.

But the $49 Lenovo Cast enters a crowded market for streaming devices. Google already offers its own portable streaming stick, the Chromecast, which also displays photos, videos and other content on a TV screen and features a host of Chromecast-friendly apps. At $35, the Chromecast also sports a compact price tag. And while its less portable than either the Lenovo Cast or Chromecast, Apple's Apple TV set-top box lets you stream or mirror movies, music, photos and other content from your iOS device via its AirPlay feature.

Lenovo Cast's unveiling comes just hours before Google is expected to announce a new version of Chromecast at its Google I/O developers' conference.

It will be a few months before we see how Lenovo Cast measures up to Chromecast and other streaming devices. It's slated to start shipping in August.

Follow Philip Michaels @PhilipMichaels. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.