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So there are two new Chromecast devices, but what's different this time?

Google has given its cheap streaming device a fresh look and created an audio version, but is there more to it than that?
Nov 14th 2015, 8:00 PM 25,535 23

Score: 7.5/10

Verdict: Cheap and cheerful, both Chromecasts make streaming video and audio easy but if you have the original, there isn’t much here to convince you to upgrade.

AS FAR AS streaming devices go, Google’s offering is one of the more convenient options out there. Easy to set up, and only needing your smartphone, tablet or computer, it was an easy way to bring the likes of Netflix and YouTube to your TV without breaking the bank.

Now the range has been updated and offers two different versions: the upgraded Chromecast and Chromecast Audio, the latter bringing wireless streaming to your speakers. They have somewhat different aims, but if you already have one, is it worth upgrading or getting the audio version?

Setting up shop

While the original Chromecast was more like a dongle, Google has made the new range look like a puck. The TV version has a flat HDMI cable so you can connect it even if your TVs placement or setup is more awkward.

If you need to make it more compact, a built-in magnet allows you to clip the cable and puck together. It’s a small addition but it’s easier to store if you have to put it away or bring it with you somewhere.

original + new The original Chromecast and the 2015 edition side-by-side.

Chromecast Audio has the same design but comes with a headphone jack for connecting it to your speakers. If your speakers don’t have one, it comes with a two-way headphone cable so you can plug it in.

No matter who you are, it’s pretty difficult to see anyone having problems setting either Chromecast device up. Once you have the app downloaded and it plugged in, it’s just a matter of connecting it to your phone and WiFi.

There are few steps required and you will have it set up within a minute or two.

Chromecast gif 1

Same as it ever was

The major advantage is it now supports 5GHz WiFi networks, which are generally more reliable than 2.4GHz connections. That means there’s less interference and the streaming connection is more reliable.

In comparison to the original, streaming speeds are better although there isn’t a massive difference. When comparing it to the original Chromecast, things are faster and having a 5GHz connection helps but they’re not great enough for you to notice a major difference.

The bigger change is the software running it. At the very least, the revamped Chromecast app makes it easier to find compatible apps and lists those already on your phone.

One nice feature is the ability to cast a tab from Google Chrome onto your TV. Granted this feature is on the original version, but it’s always handy when you want to display a web page on the big screen.

If you’re thinking of streaming video through this method, then the results are pretty good. The picture won’t be sharp unless you have a high-quality livestream, but it’s good enough to manage.

Chromecasts + Audio Both Chromecasts are the same size, but with different cables for connecting.

The audio version is a somewhat different beast, and any app based around music or podcasts will work with it.

Thankfully there is a vast collection of apps out there that suit it so most of the work is done. However, certain apps like Spotify, which was recently added, only allows premium users to stream through Chromecast Audio (on the new Chromecast, both free and premium versions are supported).

The one thing that works against it, and the same with the original Chromecast, is how you need a second device to use it. It’s not as convenient to use your smartphone or laptop to watch shows than it would be if you had a set-top box or games console.

If you already use one or the other for streaming Netflix, then it’s harder to argue on its behalf. It’s great for bringing around with you, but if it’s up against another device, it may spend more time in the drawer than connected.

Chromecast back

Should you buy one?

The answer should be pretty clear on this front. If you already own a Chromecast, then all you’re getting is slightly improved speeds and a fancier look.

If you don’t, and you’re not using any other device for streaming, then you’re getting a cheap device that’s easy to set up.

Chromecast Audio is arguably the more useful of the two, provided you have the apps to back it up. Only allowing Spotify’s premium users to stream is a blow, but there are many other apps that benefit from its inclusion, making it a useful device to have.

Pros

- Easy to setup.
- Numerous compatible apps out there.
- Incredibly cheap.

Cons

- Need a smartphone, tablet or computer to operate it which might annoy some.
- Not enough to convince current owners to upgrade.
- Spotify only allows premium users to stream through Chromecast Audio.

Chromecast and Chromecast Audio cost €39 and can be found on Google Store and Currys/PC World.

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Quinton O'Reilly

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