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Google Chromecast (2015) review

When the Google Chromecast was first released, it was the cheapest and easiest way to give your TV a smart boost. At 30 it was an enticing device that made getting content to your big screen a breeze. Google has now followed it up with a new Chromecast that comes in a slightly different form factor with improved networking performance. While the internal networking upgrades are welcome, there are now other rivals with diminutive streaming sticks that work in a similar way and offer additional functionality.

Looking for the best Chromecast apps? 16 best Chromecast apps you need to download1

Chromecast setup

As the small dongle doesn’t require lots of messy cables and it’s all controlled via Wi-Fi from your computer, smartphone or tablet, the Chromecast can be tucked neatly out of view. Setting the Chromecast up couldn’t be easier. To start with you just plug the device’s HDMI connector straight into a spare port on the back of your TV and this has been made easier with the new Chromecast thanks to its new flexible HDMI cable.

Google Chromecast (2015) Review

The original s slightly 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 and the HDMI cable clips to the back through a magnet making the whole assembly resemble a key fob. Power is still delivered through a Micro USB port and this can be done through your television 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 and don’t want yet another power adaptor round the back of your telly. A USB power adaptor is otherwise also included.

Google Chromecast (2015) Review

Initially setting up the Chromecast is a matter of downloading the Chromecast app (iOS and Android) and then joining your tablet or smartphone to the Chromecast’s local Wi-Fi network. Once connected, you use the app to join the Chromecast to your proper Wi-Fi network. The new Chromecast supports 802.11ac dual-band networks and 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 and pulling down the first few seconds ahead of time. Amazon is already doing this on Prime Instant Video and Fire TV and it’s a great little feature.

The Chromecast app has also been improved as well. Where previously it was just used to connect the Chromecast to your wireless network and for screen mirroring, the new version is now more of a hub to find and access apps that support the Chromecast protocol for getting content to your big screen.

Google Chromecast (2015) Review

You may also have a problem if you’re using a BT Home Hub2, as the latest models have a Smart Setup feature. Every time a new device connects, the Home Hub redirects its first web browsing session to a page advertising BT Broadband features, such as free cloud storage. As well as being annoying, it often breaks devices that don’t have a web browser built-in. If you’ve got a Home Hub 4 or 5, you should disable Smart Setup3 before you connect the Chromecast to your network. Finally, you’re also prompted to download any updates. Don’t panic if your Chromecast app suddenly reports that it can’t find your device while it’s updating: our update procedure took quite a while and confused the configuration app for a bit.

Chromecast casting

With everything set-up you’ll notice that the Chromecast merely displays some wallpaper on your TV along with the local time. There’s absolutely no user interface, as the Chromecast is a device that you send content to and control via a computer, smartphone or tablet, rather than having any of its own native apps. It is compatible with Android phones and Android tablets running Android 2.3 and higher, iPads and iPhones running iOS 6.0 and higher, the Chrome browser on Windows 7 and 8, and Mac OS 10.7 and above, and Chromebooks4 running Chrome 28 or higher. It works in a similar way to the Apple TV and AirPlay. From a supported app, you tap the Chromecast button, select the Chromecast device you want to use and the content is beamed from your smartphone or tablet to play on your TV. For most content, it’s important to remember that you’re not actually streaming from the control device to the Chromecast. Instead, as with AirPlay, your controlling device talks to the Chromecast and tells it where it can access the stream from; the Chromecast then takes over playback duties, letting you use your PC, smartphone or tablet for any other job. However, a connection is still made between the two devices, so that you can control playback. Start a Netflix film or TV show from your smartphone, for example, and you can pause, fast-forward and rewind using the touchscreen or on-screen controls.

Google Chromecast (2015) Review

Chromecast isn’t just about video, although that’s clearly a primary purpose. In fact, any supported app can be cast to your TV, letting you send photos, audio and even the full on-screen app, interface and all. This is very similar to Apple AirPlay, which lets you stream photos, video, music and mirror your iPad, iPhone or Mac to an Apple TV, or to send music and other audio to AirPlay-compatible speakers. Essentially, with this kind of technology, the sky’s the limit, but it’s a matter of developers adding in Chromecast support, which should be fairly straightforward. It’s starting to happen, and more and more apps are being developed all of the time – we’ve rounded up our best Chromecast apps5 for you.

References

  1. ^ Looking for the best Chromecast apps? 16 best Chromecast apps you need to download (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
  2. ^ BT Home Hub 5 review (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
  3. ^ Disable Smart Setup (bt.custhelp.com)
  4. ^ Chromebooks (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
  5. ^ best Chromecast apps (www.expertreviews.co.uk)

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