Google's new Chromecast media-streaming dongle beams pictures, videos and music from the Internet and your devices to the TV.
Unlike other media-streaming dongles, the Chromecast lacks a remote. Instead, you control it in two ways - by using the Chromecast app in your mobile device, or with the Chrome browser in your computer.
The new, puck-shaped Chromecast looks more classy than the original, which resembled an oversized flash drive. It now comes in three colours. The dongle draws power from the TV set's USB port or the included USB power adapter.
The new Chromecast supports the Wi-Fi 802.11ac standard used by the latest routers. This upgrade, along with a new antenna design, should improve its streaming performance.
I did not notice any lag during testing (I had no issues with the first Chromecast either). It is easier to connect the new Chromecast to a TV set because its attached HDMI cable can be twisted to fit into tight spots. With the older model, the HDMI connector is built directly into one end of its chassis.
Like its predecessor, the Chromecast costs a wallet-friendly US$35 (S$50). Google's brand new audio- streaming Chromecast Audio is priced the same, too, making both perfect impulse buys.
THE NEW CHROMECAST AUDIO
PRICE: US$35 (S$50) each
WI-FI STANDARDS: Dual-band (2.4GHz/5GHz) 802.11ac support
Supported operating systems: Android 4.1 and higher, iOS 7 and higher, Windows 7 and higher, Mac OS 10.7 and higher, Chrome OS (Chrome 28 and higher)
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
While the Chromecast streams to your TV set, the Chromecast Audio is hooked up to your speaker and streams songs from online music services and your devices.
Thin grooves around the Chrome logo, like a vinyl record, distinguish the Chromecast Audio from the Chromecast. The Chromecast Audio has an audio jack for both analogue and digital output. Connect an audio cable from this jack to your speaker using the bundled 3.5mm stereo cable. Google does not include 3.5mm to RCA or optical cables, but these work, too.
The dongle works with active speakers with built-in amplifiers, such as soundbars. It also works with passive speakers, provided an amplifier, such as a stereo receiver, is in between the dongle and the speaker.
Multiroom support will be enabled for the Chromecast Audio in an update later this year. This feature lets you stream your songs to multiple speakers, each with an attached Chromecast Audio, at different locations in your home. If you already have the speakers, this setup is much cheaper than the multiroom systems offered by Sonos.
THE CHROMECAST APP
To configure and use the Chromecast, you need the Chromecast app (Android and iOS) in your mobile device. You can also stream content from a Chrome browser tab in your computer.
The app interface has been redesigned with a Get Apps tab that sorts Chromecast-compatible apps by genres and themes. It is great for discovering new apps. You can launch compatible apps from within the Chromecast app, too.
One thing you should know: You have to be a paid subscriber of music-streaming services, such as Spotify and Deezer, to stream music to the Chromecast Audio. A workaround to stream music from Spotify for ad-supported users is to stream from a Chrome browser tab running the Spotify Web Player.
While Google has yet to launch the Chromecast and Chromecast Audio in Singapore (it took almost two years for the first Chromecast to be officially available here), you can find them for sale at websites such as Qoo10. But be prepared to pay more from these importers and there is probably no local warranty.
- The updated Chromecast is a basic media streaming device that just works. The all-new Chromecast Audio is a cheap way to revitalise your speakers, especially those that lack wireless connectivity.