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Google Chromecast Review: A bit finer, a little better



Photo: Adam Clark Estes (Gizmodo)

Google released a new Chromecast device on its big event this week. And with quiet I mean that the company did not mention it at all. It was only in the bottom of the bag that someone gave me when I left the room. But hey, it's new and it's nice. It's just a bummer. Google has still not made the Chromecast more useful.

The new third generation Chromecast is just like the old second generation Chromecast, apart from a design upgrade and a few new software features. It is also still $ 35.

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What is it?

A dongle supporting videos for your TV

The machine itself maintains the same puck-plus HDMI cable as before, except instead of glossy plastic shell with the Chromecast logo cut into it, it is now a mellow case with a small Google "G" on the front page. The HDMI connector no longer holds the puck magnetically for easier storage, with something you've probably never noticed, anyway. The new Chromecast device also comes in white and charcoal.

On the software side of things, Chromecast now supports 1

080p video at 60fps. This is remarkable for a few reasons. The first is the reminder that older Chromecasts can only support 720p, a fact that's a bit amazing since 4K video is standard on set-top boxes these days. Google has sold a 4K compatible device called Chromecast Ultra in a couple of years, but the little dongle will cost you $ 70.

The other remarkable thing is that the 60fps add-on will not do anything with the vast majority of people because casting videos at 60fps is mostly only useful if you want to watch YouTube videos of games on your TV. You can also find 60fps stuff on websites like Netflix, but it's usually limited to 4K HDR videos, so you can as well go ahead and get a Chromecast Ultra for full experience.

Photo: Adam Clark Estes (Gizmodo)

There are some other little things. The new Chromecast device offers audio support for multiple rooms, but only on Google Home speakers and speakers equipped with Chromecast Audio support, which seems extremely restrictive. With the new Chromecast, you can turn your TV into a photo frame with Google's new Live Photos feature, which seems to be a proper addition to the regular screen saver image. Google also says it's "a 15 percent improvement in hardware speed", which I did not notice when I used it.

What all this adds is not much. The Chromecast device still needs to do what a full-featured set-top box or streaming stick could do. You still need to extract content on a computer or phone and throw it to your TV. You can still not turn on the case and access programs directly on your TV. In other words, you can initially only do the things that the very first Chromecast could do, only in 1080p. Casting seemed very cool in 2013, when Google released the first generation of the device. The new Chromecast works fine, but I feel bothered that Google did not do anymore.

It's not like the company has not considered it. Earlier this year, Google made an Android TV dongle as terrible as a Chromecast, but turned any TV into an Android TV, complete with 4K 60fps support, as well as 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. It's basically what the latest Roku Streaming Stick and Amazon Four TV dongle can do. It's not far away from a Google version of Apple TV, a more expensive streaming device that allows you to reliably add video to your TV using AirPlay. The only problem is that the Android TV dongle is only available to developers.

Photo: Adam Clark Estes (Gizmodo)

Chromecast's big selling point was always that it was cheap. For $ 35, you do not need to buy a full set-top box, since a Chromecast would let your phone make heavy lift and just throw your videos to a larger screen. But during the last month or so, it has less for less money the idea has gone out of the window. Roku released Roku Express, a full-featured streaming device that supports 4K video and only costs $ 30. Amazon now sells a 4K-ready Fire TV plug for $ 50, while the non-4K version is only $ 40. You can also spend a little more coins and get a Nvidia Shield, which comes with game and return skills, as well as Google Assistant, for $ 180.

I'm not trying to say that the new Chromecast sucks. Of objective standards, it's better than the old Chromecast. It seems that Google missed an opportunity to make more useful, especially now that it leans into the smart home market with the new home market. But for all I know, Google is making a lot of money by selling $ 35 Chromecasts that are not as useful as they could be.

  • New design looks good
  • Offers 1080p as a reminder that it only did crappy 720p before
  • Still cheap at $ 35
  • Still unusable for anything but casting

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