Update: Who says an old dog can't learn new tricks? At its IO press conference Google announced that the Chromecast will soon be able to display information from a Google Home device. (This might include video or weather information, for example.)
Google also said that it will increase the amount of streaming services that use voice commands as well. Want to watch Game of Thrones from HBO Now on your Chromecast? All you'll need to do is ask.
Original review continues below...
Broadcast television is great, but streaming is the future, and Google's Chromecast is one of the easiest ways of getting video streams onto your existing non-smart TV.
The puck plugs into an HDMI port on the rear of your TV, is powered by micro-USB, and is controlled by your existing smart device.
Simply open up a compatible app, and tap the 'Cast' button to immediately see content streamed to the big screen.
The way Google's Chromecast manages this is that rather than controlling the device directly with an included remote, you instead select content on a smart phone or tablet before 'casting' it to your television.
This means that rather than struggling to navigate a keyboard on your television's screen you can instead quickly and easily find content using your phone's keyboard.
This model is limited to 1080p resolution, but if you want a Chromecast that will be able to handle 4K, then check out our review of the newly-released Chromecast Ultra.
The advantage this model has is that it's amazingly cheap at its recommended price of $35 (£30, AU$49), and can even be frequently found for less if you check out our guide to the best Chromecast deals.
Intrigued? Read on to find out more.
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.
- Read: 1080p not doing it for you? Read up on the rumored Chromecast 4K
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.
But more impressive than any individual external detail or snippet of code is its price. The new Chromecast only costs $35 (£30, AU$49), around $10 or £5 less than its closest competitor. At roughly the cost of two Blu-rays, it's tough to turn down.
Chromecast vs. the competition
The Chromecast's calling card is the ability to sync with your mobile phone, tablet and PC. Few devices work as seamlessly with your electronics as Chromecast does, and any that do require you to be bought into a particular family of products.
Chromecast vs. Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick: Chromecast is by far the cheaper streaming stick and can outperform Amazon's streaming device, thanks to its new-and-improved 802.11ac Wi-Fi antenna. Both Amazon products – $99 (£79, about AU$140) for the box and $39 (£35, about AU$56) for the stick – come with a remote, but also rely heavily on a subscription to Amazon Prime to function at their fullest potential.
That said, if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber you won't be able to watch the service on Google's streaming stick – Amazon's mobile app doesn't support Google Cast functionality.
Chromecast vs. Roku 3 and Roku Streaming Stick: Here's a story of David and the Goliath. The circular Chromecast does much of what the $99 (£79, about AU$140) Roku 3 does, though it depends more on your phone, tablet and PC to keep pace. Roku is known for having thousands of channels of content and universal search functionality that allows you to search multiple sources at once.
Google has adopted the latter into the latest version of its Chromecast app, but doesn't have near the amount of channels Roku has. If you're looking for full-size streaming device with access to any and every streaming service, Roku can't be beat. If you're looking for a simplistic solution to putting audio and video on your TV, however, Chromecast is the way to go.
Chromecast vs. the new Apple TV: Apple TV, like Amazon's streamer, favors its own ecosystem, at least in terms of hardware. On the software side of things, Apple opened up its app store to every developer for the first time in the history of its home entertainment device, making it a bit more well-rounded than the Chromecast. It also includes a new remote and an 802.11ac antenna, identical to the one found in the new Chromecast. That said, Apple TV costs a whopping $149 (about £96, AU$200).