Chromecast review

Chromecast is a colorful, reliable streaming dongle even after all these years

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Our Verdict

The second Chromecast has ousted the original as one of our favorite streaming devices of all time thanks to a better Wi-Fi antenna and far better performance. It's not capable of 4K, but for those interested in UHD there's always the Chromecast Ultra.

For

  • Marginally faster streaming
  • Nifty, versatile new design
  • Same low price

Against

  • No native Amazon Instant Video
  • No remote control
  • Not many games

Update: With Google gearing up for a number of new announcements at its launch event on October 9, we're keeping our eyes peeled for official word on the next Chromecast model. There have been a number of leaks pointing to the 3rd gen model, and an apparent 'Smart TV' Chromecast bundle with the Google Home Mini bundled in...

The Google Chromecast is one of the best and best-value devices out there for getting video from the popular apps up on a non-smart telly or monitor. It's no wonder the Chromecast has proved a hit with users.

This 2nd-generation Chromecast came out all the way back in 2015 – an age in tech terms – but it still performs. Since then, the the competition has got fiercer, and it looks like a 3rd-gen Chromecast is in the works.

This compact Chromecast puck slots straight into an HDMI port on the back of your TV, with power via a microUSB connection. Everything is controlled by the apps on your phone, which need to be Chromecast-compatible – and a lot of them now are.

Chromecast review

Chromecast

That means that instead of struggling to navigate a keyboard on your TV screen, you can quickly and easily find content using your phone's keyboard, thanks to the magic of the Chromecast streamer.

This particular second-gen Chromecast model is limited to 1080p resolution, but if you want a Chromecast that can handle 4K, check out our review of the Chromecast Ultra – it might be worth the upgrade for you.

The other difference is price: this model is cheaper at $35 (£30, AU$59), and can even be frequently found for less if you check out our guide to the best Chromecast deals

Read on to find out more about the small puck that packs a punch. A third-gen Chromecast is rumored to be on the way, but it's not here yet.

Chromecast review

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

Chromecast: what is it?

The Chromecast's purpose in life is to bring smart functionality to the "dumb" TVs that hit the market before smart TVs were everywhere (remember those times?).

Like the original dongle from 2013, the 2nd-gen 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, and you control it from another device. Google's little streamer will sit there like an electronic canine waiting for your other gadgets to tell it what to do.

The Chromecast is different in that way from its main competitors – 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 up onto your TV.

The newest version of the Chromecast costs $35 (£30, AU$59), around £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 review

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Chromecast vs. Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick: Chromecast is by far the cheaper streaming stick and can outperform Amazon's streaming devices, 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.

More recently we've seen the Amazon Fire TV Cube appear: it's 4K-capable, and you can control it with your voice, but it costs three times what the Chromecast does.

Chromecast review

Roku Streaming Stick

Chromecast vs. Roku streaming devices: Here's a story of David and the Goliath. The circular Chromecast does much of what the Roku streaming sticks do, 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 review

Apple TV 4K

Chromecast vs. the Apple TV 4K: the newest Apple TV 4K, like Amazon's streamer, favors its own ecosystem, at least in terms of hardware. On the software side of things, Apple has now opened up its TV app store to third-party developers, making it a bit more well-rounded than the Chromecast. It also includes a new remote 4K capabilities, though it will set you back at least $179 / £179 / AU$249.