Google has restored Chromecast ambient mode to its former high-res glory

Blue Chromecast with Google TV plugged into the back of a TV with the remote next to it.
(Image credit: Google)

Google has finally lifted bandwidth restrictions on the ambient display mode for Chromecast and Nest Hub devices, boosting photo resolution and improving functions such as image rotation speeds back to their original, intended state.

The announcement was made on an official Google Nest Community blog post, which reminds Chromecast and Nest Hub display owners that the original reason for putting the restrictions in place was to ease the load on bandwidth globally as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The lifting of these restrictions mean that the photos you've chosen to cycle through for the ambient mode will now display at their full resolution. Additionally, users can now adjust the speed at which ambient mode will cycle through their selected photos.

A significant improvement, or business as usual?

It's worth noting that Google lifting its ambient mode bandwidth restrictions on Chromecast and Nest Hub displays hasn't really offered any tangible improvement over the default. Or at least, the default as it was before the Covid-19 pandemic, which resulting in many of us being forced to stay at home. All Google has done is revert features such as image resolution and photo cycling settings back to their intended state.

If you've only ever used the ambient display mode on a small Nest Hub screen, you may not have ever noticed a difference in image resolution. However, said difference was more noticeable when blown up on a TV via Google Chromecast – those larger screens making a dip in overall resolution a bit more apparent.

Google also wasn't the only tech giant to enforce bandwidth restrictions over the course of the pandemic, either. Streaming services like Netflix lowered the video quality of content to counterbalance the vast increase in viewers. That's understandable, as the servers these companies make use of can only handle so much stress before performance takes a direct, noticeable impact.

Though now that the bandwidth restrictions have been lifted for the ambient display mode, we'd like to see Google make some real improvements to it going forward. For example, it's a little odd that the Chromecast Ultra – the brand's 4K HDR streamer – still only displays photos at a lower 1080p resolution. Photos can still appear less detailed there than they actually are as a result.

Still, with the worst of the pandemic behind us, Google may now be in a better position to improve ambient display mode, which does look fantastic on those smaller Nest Hub screens. It just needs a little more work when it comes to Chromecast devices.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.