Google Chromecast (2016): Australian Review

As of today, the new Google Chromecast is on sale in Australia. It's a significant improvement in several small but notable ways from the original model — which is an impressive feat, considering how useful it was and still is.

AU Editor's Note: This review was originally published on January 21 — at that time, Google still hadn't announced that the new Chromecast was coming to Australia. You might find a few references to the new dongle's US price throughout this review. — Cam

Yes, it's 2016, and we still haven't seen the new and improved Google Chromecast — announced and launched internationally in late September last year — appear in Aussie stores. Bored of waiting, I actually picked up a US$35 Chromecast on my trip to CES 2016, and I think it's a real pity that Google hasn't brought it down under, because it's fantastic.

What's The Cheapest Way To Buy Google's New Chromecast In Australia?

What Is It?

The new Google Chromecast 2, or Chromecast 2015, or whatever you want to call it, is a US$35 video and audio streaming dongle that connects to your Wi-Fi and accepts commands from your smartphone or tablet, whether it be an Android or iOS (or even a Windows Phone) device. The idea is pretty straightforward — on any app built with Google Cast capability, like YouTube or Netflix or Stan or Spotify or a host of other video- or audio-driven services, tap the little Cast button, select the Chromecast on your network, and in a few seconds, your content will be on the big screen. Oh, and it comes in yellow and red colours now too.

Specifications
  • CPU: Marvell Armada 1500 Mini Plus 88DE3006
  • RAM: 512 MB DDR3L
  • Storage: 256MB
  • Inputs: microUSB, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz
  • Outputs: HDMI 1920x1080p, 60Hz
  • Dimensions: 51.9×51.9×13.49mm, 39g

The Chromecast 2 is most different to the original in its design. Gone is the streamlined single-stick dongle, with a microUSB power input at the rear and a HDMI A/V output at the front; the Chromecast 2 has an integrated HDMI cable, but that connector is now three or four inches away from the circular hockey puck — which makes for more flexible placement of the device on a TV with rear-facing HDMI ports, for example, especially if you're wall mounting. The microUSB input is in the same place, and Google includes the same AC power adapter and microUSB to USB cable — you can power it off your TV's USB ports if it has them.

Under the hood, the new Chromecast 2 now finds and connects to 802.11ac networks, including the 5GHz frequency band (also on 802.11n). If you've shelled out on a $300-plus router in the last couple of years, then you'll appreciate this — the new dongle has much better range and connection speeds, which should translate into faster buffering and smoother playback especially for high-resolution content. For the ultimate in connectivity, if you have a router nearby, you can get a wired Ethernet adapter that uses the same microUSB port as the power input.

There's still no remote control — damnit, why — but the Chromecast 2 remains the streaming stick of choice for us, setting the benchmark in its ease of use and design. Part of that is its excellent build quality — for a US$35 plastic hockey puck, it's surprisingly well put together, and the thick rubberised HDMI connector and two-metre USB to microUSB cable are just right for connecting the dongle to either your TV's HDMI and power, or for connecting an external device like Oppo's BDP-103 Blu-ray player, whether it has USB power to supply or not.

What's It Good At?

The setup procedure on the new Chromecast 2 remains as simple as it was on the original. It's actually even faster, purely because the device itself is quicker to load new pages and to download the necessary day-one updates that any Chromecast is going to require. It takes less than five minutes to plug it in, find it with your smartphone or tablet — there's a complementary Chromecast app to get you started — and for the device itself to restart a couple of times and get up and running.

And when it is running, you do genuinely notice the difference if you've used a Chromecast before. It's not that the old version is unbearably slow, just that it's slower — it's the difference of a couple of seconds versus five seconds to launch the YouTube app, a couple of seconds versus 10 seconds to launch the Netflix app. When you get to actually launching videos in these apps, your Internet streaming speed makes the gap a little narrower, but you can be reasonably confident of getting your Netflix stream up and running within 10 seconds on the Chromecast 2 versus 20 or more on the old version.

The fact that the Chromecast 2 is the same price, too, is a point worth applauding. That circa-$50 price point in Australia makes the Chromecast a stocking stuffer — I know I've bought more than a couple at Christmas times for friends and family, and they genuinely do make for fun and practical gifts for anyone with a smartphone. It's a great point in the Chromecast 2's favour, but it's starting to become a sour point that the original Chromecast is still being sold for $49 in Australia. Hurry up, Google. Seriously.

I'm in two minds about the Chromecast 2's design. The new iteration is certainly a little more versatile, and it does suit wall-mounted TVs with rear-facing HDMI ports better. If your ports face sideways or downwards, there's no effective difference, but it's still that extra bit of smart design — a flexible cable — that'll make the Chromecast 2 fit in more TVs. I would say that the microUSB power input could be more smartly placed, though.

What's It Not Good At?

I said I was in two minds about the Chromecast 2's design before, and it's true. The new Chromecast 2, even though its HDMI connector magnetically clicks to the puck itself and hides away tidily, is a little bulkier and cable-ier than the original. If you're a constant traveler, a Chromecast and Wi-Fi hotspot makes for a great combo to smarten up your hotel room's dumb TV, and the new one is just a little less sleek and streamlined. It's not exactly a big deal, but it's worth mentioning. I'm sure I'm the only one that actually cares about this.

And yes, I do still want a remote control. In the last three years of using a Chromecast, I've found that I'm extremely likely to use my Chromecast in the living room late at night, after a long day's phone use. I'll load up a movie, then go and put my phone on to charge in a different room. If I want to change the volume or pause the movie, I can do that with my TV's remote, but what if I want to change videos entirely? You can use any HDMI-CEC-compatible device's remote control to control basic functions of the Chromecast, but I'd like a little candybar with a five-way control pad and hot buttons for popular apps like Netflix and YouTube.

Chromecast still requires Android app developers to specifically include Cast support in their apps. For some companies, that's a no no due to the supposed increased risk of piracy — it's easier to lock your content to a single small screen than it is to share it to another remote source. It took a while for Stan and Presto and Spotify to get Chromecast support, for example; it's not a sure thing either. And that means that you're not buying the same peace of mind that you are with a dedicated streaming box like the Apple TV.

Because the Chromecast 2 is so simple, it's not so versatile. You can't Chromecast many games to the big screen, for example — I'd love something like Quiplash on my TV, or the beautiful Lara Croft GO. You can use Android's Cast Screen feature, but it's a clunky and relatively slow workaround, even on the newer and more powerful Chromecast 2. Something like an Apple TV will do more, and in that will justify that extra expense — why not get both?

Should You Buy It?

Well, you can't, can you? Not easily, at least. If you do happen to find yourself in the US any time soon, or any other market where the Chromecast 2 is sold, you'll pay roughly US$35 — at current exchange rates, that translates into $50 Australian. It's also common to see bundle deals with two Chromecast 2s for US$55 — bang on $80 in Aussie dollars.

The new Chromecast is $59 in Australia. That's a slight bump over the $49 RRP of the previous version, but that's not a big deal considering the extra functionality of the design and the faster speed it operates at and the faster Wi-Fi it supports. That's a good price for what is a good little device, which far outweighs its price tag with the amount of utility that it has and the quality of the video that can be streamed through it.

Google Chromecast (2016)
84

Price: $59

Like
  • Same easy setup and use.
  • Faster processor, speedier operation.
  • Better Wi-Fi support.
Don't Like
  • (Barely) more expensive.
  • No remote control.
  • (Slightly) more complex design.

The less compact design might annoy some users, especially those with LG, Samsung and Sony super-thin LCD and OLED panels which often have side-facing HDMI and USB ports quite close to the edge of the screen's rear, because the combo of magnetic HDMI port and hockey-puck Chromecast plus a longer, thicker USB cable bundled in the box is definitely a chunkier setup than the slimline original Chromecast. Sure, you do get better Wi-Fi performance with the newer unit and the extra distance between port and puck might have a lot to do with that, but it's still frustrating.

I still think that Google is missing a trick by not including a tiny, simple remote control with the Chromecast 2. Just a little thing, with a play/pause button, volume control, five-way navigation pad and some quick-launch button for anonymous apps like YouTube or once-authorised apps like Netflix or Stan. You can control most everything quickly from your smartphone, but there's no substitute for a pointing a little clicker at your screen.

It's very hard to complain about the Chromecast. It does so much and it costs so little. It's undoubtedly better value than a $269-plus Apple TV or a $200-plus Wi-Fi-enabled Google Cast set-top box or Blu-ray player — at that price, it's impossible not to be. The new version is a significant improvement on the old model, albeit in small ways, but for the time being it's a moot point — because we can't get it. When we can, go nuts — buy a dozen.


Comments

    Even for $50, it doesnt sound like its worth upgrading from my Chromecast 1.

      If you find your current Chromecast drops out or can't stream well from your router -- like mine -- then it 's a definite upgrade. Harder to sell it otherwise.

        Thanks... yeah my Chromecast 1 still works well, but will promote (when it arrives in Aus) to friends and family :)

        Ha.. thanks Campbell, I was watching iView on it last night and had a few annoying drop outs.. maybe I will give it a shot after all.

          It's my experience that iView will buffer on any and all devices. Don't blame your chromecast.

            I've had it do that and Netflix runs smooth. Haven't tried since NBN though.

          I find as well that iView is the buggiest app of all when playing through Chromecast, which surprises me as it's streaming presumably from Australia.

        I'll be getting one once available in Australia, and will give the original to my mum.

        Hey, how does it stack up against nexus player?

        Or you could look at getting an OTG cable with a Comsol USB to Ethernet adaptor from Officeworks and hook it all up over ethernet. No dropouts that way ... though you do need to have ethernet available. This is how I have them wired up at home and at my parents house.

      If anyone wants one I got one from a reliable seller on Ebay for $70 from NSW

      I only got it because wanted a chromecast and realised JB put their price back up to $49!!!

      Hi all, how would I play music via Spotify from my tablet/phone through chrome cast audio?? Any thoughts?

        Its pretty simple. Just open up the spotify app or web player, and under settings somewhere it should say something like "stream to other devices". just click on that and if the chromecast is set up it should come as an option. Click and go!

    Man i would lap up for a Roku type offer - remote with headphones connector. Shame they don't sell the new Roku directly in Australia (i'm aware of eBay / Telstra).

    Also why can't they draw power out of HDMI?

      MHL 2.0/3.0 only supplies 900mA at 5V, slightly short of the 5V 1A that USB-powered devices usually require as a minimum. Which is kind of annoying.

    Put the buttons on the Chromecast itself. Then, if you can't reach your phone, you can (gasp) get up and change the programmes. otherwise, one more item to charge and lose.

      Isn't this basically just a remote viewer for your phone?

    One of my TV's have HDMI ports that are close together and my Chromecast 1 doesn't like sitting next to other cables so it has to sit in the top port with a spare one next to it.. i ended up buying a 100mm HDMI extender to get it out of the way so its great that the new one comes with this lead, they obviously got some complaints about it.

    I just want Foxtel GO to hurry up and support it already! Then i can go on holiday and watch sport! :)

      My chromecast(s) included a small hdmi extender in the box. Did yours not come with this?

        I got one from the US when they first hit and I don't remember one. I bought one recently and it did have one. Maybe it was added later on?

    I literally signed up to say, a remote!? What the hell, who needs another remote? Phone, tablet, laptop, PC? Surely one of them is at hand. If not, when you arrive home, if your phone isnt lasting a day (get a z3), then put it on fast charge (get a note 5 or s6) and while you're eating dinner and presumably not using your phone its half charged or in the z3s case you could have used it during dinner and still have 30% charge. Or heaven forbid sit a charger behind the couch with a slightly longer USB cable and your done.

      Turn the screen brightness down to nothing, you phone should last fine. You don't watch TV in a well lit room in the evening anyway.

      His complaint is not really about a lack of a second device to act as a remote, rather the fact that having a remote with buttons for tactile feedback is easier to use without having to look at your device, I think. Correct me if I'm wrong @campbellsimpson, as I think me and you had this discussion a short while back.

    Have you tried using the buttons on your TV remote? Chromecast supports HDMI-CEC, so you can use the media player type buttons that your TV remote already has on it, like play/pause.

    Also works with PS3 (slim only I think) and PS4 if you don't want your dualshock battery draining while you're watching a movie (you may need to enable an option in your PS3/PS4 settings for this)

    Shame there's no combo analog&S/PDIF output.

    Mandatory HDMI seems unnecessarily limiting for an audio streaming device (though useful in some cases, of course.)

      That's what Chromecast Audio is for, a separate device aimed at audio streaming only.

        Indeed - for some reason my brain mistakenly thought that cc2 = cc audio.

    I find it frustrating... Such a neat little nifty, nicely designed device yet SO limited! If it only did mirrorcasting instead of the stupid limited Android screencasting it'd be able to do SO much more.

    I got so much use out of the first Chromecast I think I want the new one I also need another for the spare room TV so grab the new use the old one else where.

    After all the issues I had with the Google TV i am wondering if anyone with high end setups have had any issues? Google TV was a travisty and dont feel like spending my money to test a unit for no reason.

      If you have other stuff plugged in via HDMI this will be the same.
      It's works insanely well for Netflix/Youtube or any other video content that is compatible.

      And it's only $49. I use mine daily.

    I bought a chromecast when they first came out and it didn't have extender. I then bought one for my sister last week and was pleasantly surprised to find an extender in the box, it wouldn't have fit otherwise. It's nice when a company listens to complaints.

      Yeah I didn't get one when I bought the original about 1.5 yeas ago.

    And yes, I do still want a remote control. In the last three years of using a Chromecast, I’ve found that I’m extremely likely to use my Chromecast in the living room late at night, after a long day’s phone use. I’ll load up a movie, then go and put my phone on to charge in a different room. If I want to change the volume or pause the movie, I can do that with my TV’s remote, but what if I want to change videos entirely?

    I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that this is a regular occurrence for you, but we both know you're just being overly knit picky. You don't need a remote, because you use your phone or tablet as the remote. And why on God's green earth are you not planning ahead and either charging your phone first, or using a tablet, or invest in a power bank of you haven't already done so! For around $40 you can get 16000mah power banks that will charge your phone for a month (ok I exaggerate, but it will a few times over at least).

      I'd still prefer to have a remote, like the old Apple TV remote. Physical buttons in a layout that you can use without having to look down at it.
      If you have been watching for a while, having to reach for your phone, swipe to open it, find the app and open it, just to 'next' or 'chapter skip' is annoying, and you have to look down at its screen to find the virtual button you want to push.

        First world problem. With my nexus device I touch to unlock, and either look at the recently used apps or click the shortcut on the home screen and off I go. It's not that much more effort than a remote, and in saying that, once I've started playing what I want to watch, there's often very little reason why I'd want to touch my phone or remote anyway.

        You don't have controls on the lock screen?

      I have a metric buttload of power packs, but that's just not my M.O. Like I said, the way I use my Chromecast is at the end of a long day, and my phone is sometimes in need of a charge in another room. A remote (nothing fancy, just a little credit card) would fix the one small issue that I have in this case :)

    I have a 2015 Android TV with built in Chromecast. I'm guessing the build is the same (AC wireless etc).
    I still find screen mirroring from my phone or laptop a very on and off affair. Screen freezes, jumps, goes all crazy, just like my original Chromecast did. Has anyone experienced this on the new Chromecast?

    Last edited 20/01/16 7:34 am

    Had heaps issues with the 1st Gen Chromecast, was always a hassle to get working. Got a shiny new one from the states for Xmas (Thanks Mr G), and it pretty much handles everything. The only hiccup is really high quailty 1080P (10GB movie over wifi AC), sometimes stutters (not always) - but then you an just change the stream to 720p if you need to watch it straight away..

    Last edited 20/01/16 9:36 am

      How do you change the stream to 720p from 1080?

        There's a Chrome App called Videostream for Google Chromecast. Use this to stream your vids and there's an onscreen option to adjust the quality i.e. make it 720p etc..

          Legend, thank you! Installed and will test tonight!

    Spend a bit extra and get a dedicated standalone streaming media player, such as the Nexus Player. I messed around with a Chromecast and found it to be inconvenient having to push all your content to it from another device. I realise that's what the Chromecast is manufactured to do, but process is quite inconvenient, and totally unnecessary if you're wiling to spend a bit extra.

    Why, if this is an Australian review, do you say "under the hood"? We have bonnets in Australia

      Because that is what the phrase is.

        Never heard the term 'under the bonnet' then hey?

          Only when a bee is under it like in this case.

      Because I use the phrase "under the hood" :)

        Yeah, but what does it mean here in Australia specifically? Do you call them the hood and trunk of your car? I'm not trying to be a goose, just trying to understand why it's used because I've never heard anyone here refer to their car like that.

      Because he's not the one with a bee in his bonnet :p

    I'm a little confused about this. Why would I use something like this over a simple Miracast dongle that I can pick up for $25 and will support any app I want to use?

      Would a reason to buy the Google dongle be, because the Miracast only mirror casts from your device, through your device, while the Chromecast gets its orders from your device, but then streams directly from the internet, so a much faster, smoother experience?

    Does the Ethernet adapter work in Australia? My understanding was it only has pins compatible with US power sockets?

      Right, but its 110/230V compatible, so yes, it works.

    A remote control is not necessary especially in an age where we have portable and wireless chargers. It would be a massive waste of extra junk as most people would not use it. The whole point of chrome cast is to stream from your electronic devices at hand, including your laptop and tablet so it's already pretty versatile.

    I have a remote for my Chromecast. My normal TV remote can be used to do basic functions. Play / pause, skip etc. Chromecast is compatible with a bunch of TV's remotes. I don't know what else you need the remote to do other than these basic functions.

    So for instance, when I'm watching Making a Murderer and need to get up and yell at the TV screen. I pick up my Panasonic remote control. Down the bottom are basic functionality controls. I press pause and the chromecast pauses. Press play and it plays when I have stopped yelling at Ken Kratz.

    Are people unaware of this feature?

    Last edited 21/01/16 11:43 am

    I want a second Chromecast to use with our other TV, but I'm holding off until they release this in Australia. Hurry up, Google, get your act together.

    I bought two online before xmas for $50 (plus postage) they came with US call chargers but we've all got spares around and i have them plugged into the TV's USB anyway.
    One for me and one for my 73yo mum.
    Smoother and fast than the first caster - they are simple, easy and brilliant.

    Is there any idea about when they will be sold in Australia?

    Does the US version output NTSC or isn't this am issue with HDMI?

    I had the chromecast 1, but got the new apple tv and now the chromcast is in the cupboard somewhere, it doesnt even come close to the apple tv

      My brother has an Apple TV, which he loves, but he hasn't been able to explain why. To me it doesn't seem to do anything his big-arse smart TV can't already do, especially as he has his gaming PC plugged into the HDMI.

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