Chromecast review

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

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The new Chromecast isn't perfect. But it's as close as it might ever be.

Major improvements, like the new 802.11ac internal Wi-Fi antenna, and recent app additions, like HBO Now, Spotify, Tidal and Showtime Anytime, feel like they add a new level of depth to a deceivingly deep product.

It's still the best way to sharpen up "dumb" TVs and by far and away is the cheapest way to get Netflix in your living room. Which, speaking of, this is still one of the best tech deals in town.

The main offender here is that streaming still isn't 100% pristine, and, despite the new internal antenna, there's nothing this Chromecast can do that the previous generation could not. And while the design is more pragmatic for A/V enthusiasts with hard-to-access TV cabinets, some might find the colorful circle on a cable slightly polarizing.

We liked

I've said it once, and I'll say it 100 more, but the new wireless antenna is nothing short of astounding. It creates a near seamless streaming environment with less lag and less buffering time than almost anything – even full size set-top boxes – on the market.

And at an insanely low price point, it's tough to pass up. Google did a great job pricing and positioning the Chromecast as the easiest and cheapest way to get apps like Netflix, YouTube, Tidal, Spotify and Pandora into your living room without breaking the bank.

Finally, the new Chromecast app promises to add tons of new functionality, like universal search and fast play, improving the way you'll find content and cutting the time it takes to get the stream started.

We disliked

As a fellow editor pointed out in our early hands on review, we're still looking for a native way to stream Amazon Instant Video from a phone or tablet to a Chromecast, or mirror iOS devices to the TV with it. It's not wise to hold your breath for either, as Amazon and Apple obviously aren't fans of the ultra-cheap Chromecast.

The other obvious downside is that the Chromecast doesn't include a remote. It's a tough fix, especially at this price point. But the option to use a good ol' fashioned IR blaster would've been appreciated, even if it seems like overkill to the majority of tech-savvy streaming video fans. A few more apps, including more support for games, would be appreciated, too.

Final verdict

As much as I love the new Chromecast, it may not be worth replacing an existing old Chromecast if you already own one. That said, the new version is the most affordable choice for anyone who hasn't bought into Google's streaming platform yet.

Alternatively, you could also give yourself the excuse that you need to get a second one in the house, or have one in a bag for travel. After all, it packs up nicely in its new, smaller form factor. If you decide you can spare the small expense, you'll not be disappointed for paying under 40 bucks for a streaming device of this quality.