When the first generation Chromecast came out we were promised a cheap option to make the traditional TV into a smart TV, and for the most part it worked. At $35 the Chromecast allowed users to stream content from various apps at a fraction of the cost of the newly emerged smart TVs. Since its original release in 2013 the market has flooded with new options for streaming “sticks” causing the cracks in Google’s armor to appear.
Now, with the competition knocking at their gates the internet giant/media mogul released the second generation of Chromecast. Released at the end of September 2015, Google hopes the second generation Chromecast will once again take over the TV streaming market long since dominated by the likes of Amazon and Apple. Unfortunately for Google, they appear to have missed the point, and what is left is the same experience provided by the original.
On Google’s website they laud the second generation, claiming faster internet connection, with more reliability than the first generation. If this is the case, it was unnoticeable, especially compared to the stable connection offered by their competitor, the Amazon Fire TV stick. The major addition here is the 5.0 GHz band, which the original Chromecast did not support, though in my testing connecting to my 5G network did not dramatically improve video quality/performance. What the addition of the 5G did do, however, was nearly break the setup process.
First time set up went quickly, but for some reason the device forgot my wireless network after only a few days of not being used, and then required a device reset in order to set the network. Once I reached the screen where it asked for my network it defaulted to the 2.4 band network. After swapping it to the 5G network the trouble began, and the Chromecast became unresponsive, ultimately leading my phone to state that it could not be communicated with. This issue lead to a frustrating hour long quest to attempt to set up the Chromecast, which at the time of this writing has still not been resolved.
Once you actually wrestle with it long enough and it gets connected to a network it works exactly like the original, without exception. If there was an advantage to be had with the new hardware it was not immediately obvious, with the exception perhaps of the games, which I did not have a chance to try out.
When designing the second generation Chromecast Google seems to have forgotten what the biggest problem with the original had been; the software, which can be temperamental and slow, often disconnecting the Chromecast from your phone halfway through a video, causing you to lose all control over it. Fortunately connecting to the second generation Chromecast is as straightforward as the original, once the Chromecast is on your network, you’ll gain access to the trademark “Cast” button on several video/audio applications that support it.
The second generation Chromecast isn’t much to write home about. A marginal improvement in hardware power didn’t translate into a different experience, and as a result I don’t see the value in switching from something like a Fire stick, or upgrading from an existing original Chromecast. The greatest improvement over the original seems to be the built in HDMI cable, which the first one sorely lacks, although sadly that’s not quite enough. The Chromecast’s reliance on your cell phone harms it ultimately, leading to a more complicated setup with more space for errors. At the end of the day, at a similar price point the Fire TV Stick is more reliable, allowing you to use a remote for controlling, and not requiring your cell phone in order to interact with it.
The second generation Chromecast isn’t much to write home about.
Overall the experience is unchanged from the first iteration, and I can’t recommend it as is, especially with companies like Amazon doing the same thing, but a little bit better. If you’re already on the Chromecast wagon, there isn’t much for you here, it will perform almost identically to your first generation device, and unless you are really pining after that 5G support, it’s probably best to give this one a pass.