Review: Updated: Chromecast

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Update: The Chromecast app is getting a name change, Google announced earlier this week. In order to better align the name of the app with its functionality, it can now be found on both the iOS App Store and Google Play Store under the name “Google Cast.” According to a blog post, the name was changed to better represent the openness of the platform. Vizio announced Tuesday that it would offer a new series of TVs with Chromecast technology built directly into them, ditching a smart apps platform completely.

Original review below…

There wasn’t much the original Chromecast could improve upon – it was versatile, reliable, easy to setup and dirt cheap. Despite not having much room for improvement, somehow, Google found a way.

Had you asked me two months ago what the original was missing, I would’ve said that it needed a few more compatible apps to round out the catalog and maybe a better app. But, considering its highly affordable sticker price, there wasn’t much to complain about.

But the first Chromecast’s successful design and sales meant two very important points for the new Chromecast.

First, because the original already worked so wonderfully, there’s little in the way of truly new features on Google’s latest streaming disc; by and large the biggest change is a cosmetic one. Chromecast has traded its stick format for something a little more pragmatic: a circular disc attached to an HDMI cable.

Secondly, expanding on the first point, because the original was so expertly crafted and priced below the competition, that means the market, at this point, is relatively well-saturated with these little gizmos.

Chromecast
Evolution works in weird ways. (New Chromecast is on the bottom.)

It all raises the question: “why then, if the change is mostly cosmetic, should you buy a Chromecast 2?” The short and potentially not-so-sweet answer is that maybe you shouldn’t, unless you really don’t have anything better to spend $35 (£30, AU$49) on.

Now, that said, for anyone who doesn’t already own one of these near-flawless, original streaming devices or can’t stand the buffering issues of the previous generation, I’m glad to report that the new Chromecast is easily the best streaming device at its price point.

But before we get into the nitty gritty details, let’s rehash the story of how the original stole our hearts.

Chromecast

Chromecast: what is it?

The idea behind the Chromecast was to bring smart functionality to the series of “dumb” TVs that hit the market before smart TVs rose to popularity near the end of the last decade.

Like the original, the new Chromecast plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI port (make sure it has one of those before you buy it) and streams video from your mobile phone, tablet or PC.

Here’s the odd part: it doesn’t have a remote or a user-interface per se. Google’s little streamer will sit there like an electronic canine waiting for your other devices to tell it what to do.

It’s different in that way from its main competition – the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Roku Streaming Stick – the two devices that only came about after Chromecast’s debut. All of these devices can take streaming content from apps like Netflix, Sling TV, HBO Now and, in Amazon Fire TV’s case, Amazon Prime Video, and toss it onto your TV.