Pros

Chromecast (2015):

Though somewhat odd, the design makes it easier to tuck back behind the television
Faster performance, though marginally compared to original
New application is a hub for all compatible media applications
Still really easy to use - just hit the button for Chromecast
Enhanced backdrop includes Newsstand

Chromecast Audio:

Breathes new life into old speakers (that you may or may not have)
As easy to plug and play as the original Chromecast
Support for nearly all audio apps, including podcasting
Convertible to RCA and optical inputs, with cords sold separately
Eliminates interruptions from smartphones (like when using bluetooth)

Cons

Chromecast (2015):

A few missing applications for media - mainly, Amazon Prime
Games library is still bare, needs to prove itself for gaming

Chromecast Audio:

Niche product - not an essential unless its functionality is specifically searched for
Audio quality is pretty standard, not really above average

Rating
Our Rating
Performance
8.7
Design
8.7
Bottom Line

Though a great update, anyone with an original Chromecast has little need to upgrade. Chromecast Audio is a wonderful idea that requires specific use cases. But at $35, new users still have one of the easiest ways of making their televisions (or speakers) smarter.

8.7
Our Rating
You have rated this

Along with the new flagship Nexus smartphones, the Nexus 6P and the Nexus 5X, Google also unveiled an updated version of the Chromecast HDMI dongle, boasting a new look, multiple color options, and of course, faster hardware and enhancements on the software side of things. That wasn’t the only media streaming device Google launched either, with the company also taking the wraps off Chromecast Audio, which lets you make use of almost any set of speakers out there to cover your audio needs.

Do these new media products remain as compelling an option as the original Chromecast was? We find out, in this Chromecast 2015 and Chromecast Audio review!

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Like the original Chromecast, the latest edition can also directly be plugged into your television or other display via the HDMI port, and requires only a quick initial setup before you are good to go. The Chromecast 2015 does look very different when compared to its predecessor, and at first, there were some concerns with regards to space, but those are all gone now thanks to the revamped design.

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Although it may look a bit odd when compared to its predecessor, the new Chromecast does wonders for saving space behind the television. The new design now keeps the dongle away from any walls that could be right behind your TV, which the original Chromecast might have otherwise pressed up against. Additionally, if you have multiple cords plugged into the back of your TV and happen to be short on space, the new Chromecast was designed to fix this problem. The dongle portion of the Chromecast is pretty slim, so if things are at all cluttered, you’ll still be able to plug in your Chromecast without a hitch.

If you’re not short on space, though, the new Chromecast is also magnetic, so you can attach it to itself to stop if from dangling.

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Chromecast Audio essentially features the same concept behind the Chromecast, but is an audio-only device. This is the kind of device that you can plug into almost any set of speakers that are lying around, which can then be used as a full-fledged audio streaming service, giving new purpose to any old, regular speakers that you may have. As mentioned, the Chromecast Audio has the same puck design as the Chromecast 2015, and doesn’t have anything sticking out of it, because the cable that you use for audio, can be adapted to other formats. What is included is a regular 3.5 mm audio cable, and of course, it has to be externally powered as well, via a wall plug, or any device with an USB port, like a laptop.

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Setting up the Chromecast 2015 and Chromecast Audio requires only one thing, an Android or iOS smartphone. You will have to install the Chromecast application, which has also received its own update that introduces an updated design, and quite a few new features. Not only does this app serve as an aggregation system for all of the different applications that are compatible for use with the Chromecast, but it also comes with a robust recommendation feature, pointing you towards any content that you may be interested in.

New Chromecast app AARelated: Latest Chromecast app update brings content discovery, search functionality and more4
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There is a little bit more to it as well, with you now having the ability to change the backdrop on the Chromecast this time around, with options that only include pictures that you could get from websites like 500px, but also compatibility with Google Newsstand, to allow for a ticker across the screen to keep you up to date with the latest headlines from around the world. The background image feature is a very pleasant addition, and if you are someone who has their television on all the time, it makes for a nice look when you aren’t using the TV with the Chromecast.

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There have been improvements on the performance side of things as well, which is expected, given the updated internals that the Chromecast 2015 packs under the hood. Mainly, the wireless signal has been updated from the 2.4 GHz variety to 5 GHz, which does happen to be a little more opened up, and should make things faster when it comes to buffering the content that you are streaming. In our testing, it does seem to do the trick, but while at the presentation during the launch event, it was mentioned that the content would be pre-loaded in the background as you are selecting it, allowing for almost instantaneous streaming, it’s not really something that we have observed.

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When testing performance with HBO Now, as far as the original Chromecast was concerned, you’d notice that it had to try buffering again multiple times, and the content tended to get a little bit fuzzy when going to lower resolutions, to keep up with the speed. With the new Chromecast 2015 however, there have been absolutely no issues with HBO Now, with regards to speed or clarity. It is true that 1080p is the upper limit as far as streaming resolution is concerned, but that isn’t much of a big deal, with the majority of televisions other there are still not of the 2K variety at the moment.

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Moving on to Chromecast Audio, it is a device that is a little bit more specialized in its usage, and may be something that will not pique the interest of every user. If there was something similar that you were on the lookout for, Chromecast Audio may just be the perfect device for you. If you do have a set of speakers at your disposal that aren’t being used all that much, this audio-centric media streamer is what will help make these speakers viable once again.

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Chromecast Audio allows you to have a singular source for streaming music which won’t get interrupted by all of things that your phone would do on the side. You could still do things on your actual device, while the music is playing on the speaker that Chromecast Audio is connected to. The streaming capabilities with the Chromecast Audio also happen to be pretty instantaneous, especially if you are using a music streaming service. If it was only when playing podcasts, when using something like Pocket Casts, that there was some buffering involved, especially if your starting point was later in the podcast.

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Amazon LogoSee also: Amazon to stop selling Google’s Chromecast, Apple TV and others come October 2931

When using something like Bluetooth speakers, any notifications you receive will interrupt the audio that you are streaming through the speaker, but that is no longer a concern with Chromecast Audio. Audio quality from this device is otherwise standard, possibly a little bit above average. Considering the fact that you will be paying $35 for an audio peripheral device, you can’t really expect it to provide the same quality that a high-quality DAC will provide. It is however, a great option for anyone that has a good set of speakers, and needs them to be as smart as our televisions are, with Chromecast.

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Probably the best part about the Chromecast 2015 is that it supports both Android and iOS, which means that most smartphone owners will be able to use it, and with an Android device, you can stream the entire screen to your television.  If you don’t have either for any reason, you still have the ability to stream content from your computer using the Google Chrome browser, from which you can stream media from not only all of the different streaming services, but also just a Chrome tab, or even the whole desktop. As far as gaming is concerned, the library is still quite bare, but we still look forward to seeing how this second screen experience on Chromecast might be able to benefit the daily user.

So there you have it for this closer look at the Chromecast 2015 and Chromecast Audio! When compared to the other peripherals out there like Roku TV, Amazon Fire TV, and more, the Chromecast remains one of the cheapest devices available for this kind of content streaming, priced at just $35. Another big plus is the fact that it is pretty easy to use, needing minimal setup, and requiring you to just hit a button in the corner of the application to get going.

Buy Chromecast from the Google Store
Buy Chromecast Audio from the Google Store

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  • Tony T.

    Amazon has made it abundantly clear that they never had and never will have intentions of supporting a Google product like Chromecast. It’s more of a negative of Prime, if you ask me, than it is for Chromecast. Prime Video has more negatives than other streaming services, so the burden of improvement should be on them.

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    • Ezzy

      It’s sort of funny, as Chromebooks have been top-selling laptops on Amazon for years…

      • Kody

        Idk, there’s no reason to not sell it. Chromebook isn’t in direct competition with any amazon products.

  • Tom

    I have to disagree with your conclusions about Chromecast audio. Even your pictures show it being used with a single (mono?) low-end speaker. The beauty of the device is the ability to connect it to a high-end home stereo (typically via optical, or at least RCA connections). To plug it into a mono portable (“for the beach?”) speaker seems a waste. On my Denon/JBL system, it sounds shockingly good (considering MP3 will never sound great).

    • nzswedespeed

      That’s great to hear – i plan on picking one up soon (currently using a gen 1 airport express on one of thr stereos)

    • Kasper Gårdsdal

      I agree. I have an Chromecast audio myself and have being using the old model for audio playback on my HI-FI surround (via HDMI). At the time I was pleasantly surprised about the quality the old one delivered. But haven’t been playing other than 320 kb mp3 (via Google music). I don’t know how detailed a quality the old one supports. But the new one supports 24/96! The chip is actually supporting 192/24!!! CD is 16/44,1. Not mutch to none music is made with a detail above 20/96 – so It will give us plenty of headroom!
      Anyways! The new one is must more responsive and for now more reliable. Which I consider a problem for the old one.
      Be sure to check the setting HDR in the Chromecast setup menu for best quality when playing via the analog output! I use BubbleUPnP (Android App) for 24/96 playback via my NAS.

      • LeoShoSilva

        Do you think the sound quality of CCA is better than CC ..haven’t compared properly but in tilly leaning toward CC ..seems more engaging if a bit rougher

  • M0987

    They should have rolled the chromecast and chromecast audio into one device. A singe device with both a hdmi and audio output.
    This looks more like money grabbing by google.

    • doesnt make sense, people that want to use only audio would be paying for a useless hdmi port, people who want to cast video through hdmi wouldnt have any use for the audio jack or the DAC. people that would want to use both would probably not be using it in the same place so theyd have to buy two anyway. on top of that the whole thing would have been bigger if fit everything in one and probably would have been more expensive

      • Ezzy

        I would’ve bought it not matter what. Just make it $50 and all-in-one and it’ll be fine and sell like hotcakes.

  • vyperbc

    Sooo what happens if you plug in thebchrpmecast audio into your car? Do you need WiFi to make it work? Also didn’t Google say they were working in a way to pypass thebusagebof WiFi to stream content?

    • TheIcemanCometh

      If you look at this URL (https://support.google.com/chromecast/answer/6279416?hl=en), you’ll see they specifically state it won’t work in a car because WiFi is required. Which is a bummer for me, since Bluetooth capability would have been awesome for me. My excitement lasted about a minute. :-(

      • if you can make a wifi hotspot with your phone maybe it might work?

      • Ezzy

        A wifi hotspot will be fine, but you can’t use the phone that is the hotspot to cast media at the same time, you’ll need another device like a tablet.

    • Ezzy

      Just make a hotspot from your phone and use a tablet on the same hotspot to cast. IIRC you can’t use the phone that is the hotspot to cast media at the same time…I tried it once. I’m buying a Chromecast Audio for my car too though. I’ll just make an NFC tag that activates all necessary things on the phone and tablet.

  • Just being picky here and off topic:
    When removing connectors out of any device (ex; the TV in the video or your smartphone), DO NOT wiggle the connector out, simply pull it, unless you want to say goodbye to that port.

    Newer devices have more pads to prevent loosening connectors, but the pins themselves still receive a good bit of stress and can cause a pin lift, then you’ll have a connector that looks perfectly fine, but its pins only make contact when you apply just the right pressure to the connector.

    Other than that, carry on, I love reading your reviews~

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  • Jasmine

    For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix, Hulu and similar media stations on your Chromecast by using UnoTelly or similar tools.

  • New Chromecast is beautiful, but I have no reason to upgrade my OG Chromecast. Google’s products are generally built too well and ahead of the curve.