The initial release of Google Chromecast was the cheapest & easiest way to give your television set a smarter boom. Costing £30 it was an enticing device that made getting content to your big screen a boom. Google has now continued it up with a new Chromecast that comes in a varied form factor with advanced networking performance. While the internal n/wing upgrades are welcome, there are now other rivals with diminutive streaming sticks that work in a similar way & offer additional functionality.
As the small dongle doesn't require lots of messy cables & it's all controlled via Wi-Fi from your personal computer, smartphone or tablet, the Chromecast can be tucked neatly out of sight. Setting the Chromecast up couldn't be easier. To start with you just plug the device's HDMI connector straight into a spare port of your television set & this has been made easier with the new Chromecast thanks to its new flexible HDMI cable.
The original’s pretty bulbous design meant it could be tricky if your HDMI ports were close together so Google had to include a short HDMI extension cable. The new design is far more elegant & the HDMI cable clips to the back through a magnet making the whole assembly resemble a key fob.
Power is provided through a Micro USB port & this can be done through your television set’s USB ports if available for a more elegant installation. Any USB port that's powerful enough will do the trick, so look out for another one on an AV amp or set-top box if you want to keep the cabling neat & don't want yet another power adapter round the back of your television set. A USB power adapter is otherwise also included.
Initially setting up the Chromecast is a matter of downloading the Chromecast application (iOS & android) & then joining your smartphone or tablet to the Chromecast's local Wi-Fi network. Once connected, you use the application to join the Chromecast to your proper Wi-Fi network.
The new Chromecast supports 802.11ac dual-band networks & has an adaptive antenna for vastly improved networking performance compared to the original. Where the original could struggle when streaming local content from a NAS through Plex, this isn’t an issue with the newer Chromecast. The new Chromecast supports "Fast Play", which essentially means it can establish a connection faster when you're casting content. With supported providers this means it starts buffering content before you even hit play, say while you're browsing the menu, or even searching for content, it's looking for what you're likely to want to watch & pulling down the first few seconds ahead of time. Amazon is already doing this on Prime Instant Video & Fire television set & it's an amazing little feature.
The Chromecast application has also been improved as well. Where previously it was just used to connect the Chromecast to your wireless network & for screen mirroring, the new version is now more of a hub to find & access applications that supports the Chromecast protocol for getting content to your big screen.