When Chromecast arrived in the UK a couple of years ago, it was a big hit. Instead of going to the expense of buying a new TV or games console, we could simply use Chromecast to make our existing TV smarter.
And now a new and improved version of Chromecast is available.
We’ll tell you about this new version in just a second, but first of all, let’s take a quick Chromecast crash course to remind ourselves why it’s such a desirable dongle.
What is Chromecast?
Chromecast is a neat little dongle that plugs into the HDMI slot on the back of your TV, connects to your home Wi-Fi, and lets you watch whatever you’ve got on your smartphone.
It’s perfect for viewing the likes of Netflix, Now TV, BBC iPlayer and YouTube, but it’s more than just a smart TV device. You can also use it to play games, browse through family photos, blast out some tunes on Spotify… and basically use any app that’s on your phone. It’s compatible with iOS and Android devices, and also Windows laptops and Chromebooks.
Meet the new Chromecast
The new Chromecast is a lot better looking than the last version, and the design’s a bit smarter too. The old version’s rigid HDMI connection meant that it didn’t fit too well into some TVs, but the new version has a flexible HDMI cable, making it much more adaptable.
It’s not just about looks though. The new Chromecast comes with dual–band 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi support. In plain English, this makes it quicker than the original version, and reduces lag and buffering times.
How do I set up Chromecast?
Chromecast is a doddle to set up, and it takes just a couple of minutes. Once you’ve downloaded and installed the Chromecast app on your device, there’s only three more steps to get through:
1. Plug Chromecast into the back of your TV
2. Connect it to your Wi-Fi network using the app
3. Start casting from your phone, tablet or laptop
How does Chromecast work?
When you’re set up, you’ll notice that all the Chromecast-enabled apps and services will appear in the Chromecast app. Tap an app, select the Chromecast device you want to use, and your chosen content will be beamed to your TV.
If you’re worried about all this being a massive drain on your hard-working smartphone battery, don’t be. The thing to remember is that you’re not actually streaming content from your smartphone to Chromecast. Instead, your phone is simply telling the Chromecast dongle where the content can be accessed from. Chromecast then takes control of the playback, and frees your phone to do other things.
So even if you’re indulging in a 6-hour Breaking Bad session, you won’t miss any important phone calls or texts. And don’t worry - you’ll still be able to pause, fast-forward and control playback from your phone.
What we liked
Here’s a clever feature we liked a lot. If you search for a particular piece of content - ‘Daredevil’, for example - you’ll be given the option of selecting the awesome TV show, or the less than awesome movie version. Then when you make your choice, you’ll be given all the available viewing options. So if the movie is free on Netflix, Chromecast will let you know this money-saving fact, rather than directing you to the Google Play store. You’ll even be told if the content is available on an app that you haven’t installed yet.
What we didn’t like
There’s not much wrong with Chromecast, so we’re struggling to think about things we didn’t like. Maybe the fact that it doesn’t come with its own remote control will be an issue for some, but this was actually a big plus for us – we’d much rather be using our smartphone keyboard to quickly type a search term, than using a clunky old remote to scroll through the alphabet.
Where can I get the new Chromecast?
The new version of Chromecast is available online at Currys. And there’s a great Q&A video on their webpage if you’re looking for more information.
If you’ve got the old Chromecast, is it worth upgrading? That all depends on how happy you are with buffering times, and whether you’re having any issues with lagging. If you’re not 100% satisfied with its speed or performance, then you might appreciate the faster new version.