The original Chromecast was one of the major players in smaller format media streaming boxes. With its simple operation and insanely low price, it's still competitive.
But it has been a few years since its release and Google felt like it was time to update its streaming behemoth. Will this new version live up to the hype of the original? Is it worth updating if you’ve still got your trusty Chromecast stick kicking about? Let’s see what reviews are saying!
While reviews were polarized on the new appearance, with Stuff calling it a “neon biscuit”, no one had any issue with build quality. Most appreciated the included 4-inch HDMI cable to help them plug in their Chromecast without having to squeeze it into place.
If you plan to travel with your Chromecast, the cord uses some magnetic magic to stick to the back of the puck as well for easy stowing in your bags.
One of the biggest reasons for the design change was the addition of dual-band Wireless AC support. Google touted their new adaptive antennas extensively and reviews seem to agree that coverage is excellent and speeds are blazing fast. TechRadar stated, “In terms of both content and performance, the new Chromecast is better than its predecessor ever was.” Stuff elaborated further, stating, “After loading 20 or 30 programmes we'd say the waiting time has halved, but it's halved from about eight seconds - so you'd have be an incredibly impatient person for this to matter.”
One thing to keep in mind is that the Chromecast works very differently from most streaming boxes. You don’t store a library of content on the device or run apps on it. You use your computer, tablet or phone to stream things to it for display.
This is both the strongest feature and biggest weakness of the Chromecast in most reviews. If you can load it into a tab on Google’s Chrome Browser, you can sling it at your TV. You’ll also find support for streaming in virtually every app you use to consume media. But that also means your phone, computer or tablet is also your only remote.
One new feature of the 2nd Gen Chromecast is a Guest Mode. This hopes to help with the lack of remote by allowing friends and family to quickly connect to the Chromecast with their devices and send basic playback controls or stream content.
The Chromecast App has also received an update that allows you to search between services and dig a little deeper into apps that support the Chromecast. But if you’re accustomed to using a dedicated remote, adjusting to the Chromecast might take some time.
Another major shortcoming mentioned in most reviews is a lack of games. TechRadar sums up the issue well, stating, TechRadar “Games are few and far between, and generally feel like shovelware put out by third-party developers.” While this isn’t neccessarily a problem with the Chromecast specifically, it is something you should be aware of if you’re planning to play games like your friends do on their Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV.
Speaking of the Fire TV, if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, there is still no native way to stream Amazon Prime Instant Video to the Chromecast. Again, this isn’t anything that Google can control, but given the popularity of the service, lack of access is a major consideration.
Overall, reviews on the Chromecast 2nd Gen are outstanding. Google appears to have taken the original and improved it in a number of ways to provide a smoother, more stable streaming experience. That being said, most reviews questioned if the new changes were worth upgrading from the original at all.
In the end, most agreed with Daily Express when they said, “There has never been a better time to buy a Chromecast”. Stuff called it “a seriously brilliant and highly affordable device.” What Hi-Fi even joined in, declaring, “rarely are media streamers quite this appealing.”
If you’re not an owner of the original and don’t mind the lack of remote, it appears that the new Chromecast offers a compelling combination of value and performance that will keep it in the top of the rankings for the foreseeable future.