A Quick Look at the New Chromecast and Chromecast Audio

Posted on October 5, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Android, iOS, Music + Videos with 0 Comments

A Quick Look at the New Chromecast and Chromecast Audio

Google’s newly-announced Chromecast and Chromecast Audio arrived at Chez Thurrott this afternoon, so I set them up and gave them a quick run. Assuming they hold up to the standard set by the first Chromecast, these devices will be a must-have for anyone with Android devices in particular.

In case you missed the announcement, Google last week announced its second-generation Chromecast, which now comes in two different devices: A Chromecast that can do both audio and video casting, and a Chromecast Audio that is—wait for it—audio only. As with the first generation Chromecast, the new Chromecast devices are very low-cost ($35 each), are very small, and use USB for power.

But this year, a few things have changed.

First up, of course, is that there are two devices. With the new Chromecast, Google is continuing the mission of the original device: You connect it to the HDMI port on your HDTV and use it to “cast” audio or video content from compatible apps on your Android or iOS device to the screen. With Chromecast Audio, you connect the device to speakers (either standalone powered speakers or via a stereo system) and cast audio content only.

Chromecast Audio

Chromecast Audio

Then there is the form factor, which in both cases is a very small circular design, compared to the chunky (but still small) original version. They’re cute, but almost needlessly so since you will put them behind a TV or speaker and then never see them again for the most part.

Chromecast (2015)

Chromecast (2015)

Both devices are nicely designed. The new Chromecast has a bendy HDMI plug that magnetically clips to the device when not in use, and this eliminates the need for an HDMI adapter in tight spaces, something that was required (and included) with the original unit.

cc-cable-magnet

On Chromecast Audio, Google includes a short 3.5 mm audio cable, but you can buy RCA and optical adapters if you need such a thing.

audio-w-cables

Both units come with a lengthy (and nicely-bound) USB cable and power plug, which is a nice touch in such an inexpensive device.

cc-w-cables

Setup couldn’t be easier and involves a Chromecast app for Android or iOS, though it varies a bit from device to device. With Chromecast, you just ensure that the onscreen code displayed by the device matches what you see in the app and away you go. With Chromecast Audio, you need to temporarily connect your phone or tablet to the device’s Wi-Fi network because there is no screen to look at, and then configure it. Both were up and running in just a few minutes, if you discount the need to install software updates. Which maybe I shouldn’t.

In use, both devices work as expected, and in the case of the new Chromecast, identically to before. That is, using a Chromecast-compatible app—I checked out Google Play Music, Google Play Video, and YouTube on the iPhone 6S Plus—you cast, or redirect, playback from the phone to the Chromecast. So the music or video plays via the HDTV—or, with Chromecast Audio, via the connected speaker(s)—and you control playback from the phone.

Google offers a Chromecast-compatible app finder in the Chromecast app, but I don’t see it on iOS. (It’s there on Android, where I’m guessing there are far more Chromecast-compatible apps, including third-party choices like Spotify that won’t work via these devices on iOS.) Worse, your only option on Windows is the Chrome web browser, where a Chromecast-compatible Google Cast extension is available. (Why it’s not called Chromecast is unclear.) Obviously, you can’t use Chromecast with Windows phones natively.

(Speaking of which, Windows users need a “Windowscast” device that offers intelligence in the dongle. Miracast is not what I’m describing: That is a dumb wireless cable only.)

I was a bit disappointed to discover that Chromecast Audio only works with one set of connected speakers at a time, too: You can’t connect an app to multiple Chromecast Audio devices, so you can’t replicate a house-wide Sonos-type system on the cheap, as I had hoped.

But Chromecast and Chromecast Audio are tremendous values. If you’re using Android—where there is so much third party app support—or using iOS with Google’s media apps, these are must-have and affordable solutions. I haven’t spent a ton of time with them yet, but I had started using the original Chromecast again to refamiliarize myself with the system, and the new units appear to work similarly. Google says they will offer even better performance and better wireless connectivity too, but I’ve not tested that.

 

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