Noel Campion says streaming to your smart TV has never been easier, thanks to Google Chromecast Gen 3.
4K smart TVs are now more common and yet the majority of people still have full HD TVs, and will mostly watch content that’s 1080p or less.
Having a Smart TV means that you can watch services like Netflix or YouTube directly on your TV, without any external devices, because those apps, and others like them, are built into the TV’s OS software.
Many of them allow you to cast directly to the TV from your phone, tablet, and some other devices, like cameras.
I own several Chromecasts and even have a Chromecast Ultra hooked up to my 4K smart TV, because the TV’s built-in casting capabilities aren’t as good, or as compatible, as that found on Google’s offering.
The new Chromecast is now available and replaces the previous one and offers a new-look design, slightly faster streaming performance, and can display video up to 1080p, at 60fps.
It also supports 5GHz 802.11ac wireless connections as well as the ability to stream audio to speakers wirelessly, in a future update.
If you want 4K, then you’ll have to look at the more expensive Chromecast Ultra 4K, which offers some extras, including HDR support.
There’s no support for Amazon Video and, unlike other, similar streaming devices, there are no apps onboard.
What comes in the box is all you need, assuming you have an Android or iOS device to set it up.
The Chromecast does everything the previous version did, but now has a new design, which features a matte-textured finish, rather than a shiny one.
Hanging off the side, you’ll find the short HDMI cable and a micro USB port for power.
You can power it via a standard, micro USB cable, but the 5V USB adapter and cable come in the box.
The device has no power switch and just a single LED for status notification and a tiny button to perform a reset.
I like the new look, but once you’ve hooked it up to your TV, you’ll rarely see it again.
My TV was able to power the Chromecast directly, which makes for a neat set-up, but be aware that not all TVs have enough power in their USB ports to do this.
Set-up is incredibly simple. If you don’t have it installed already, you’ll need to download and install the free Google Home app.
This is the app that allows you do the initial set-up, but also controls the Chromecast and other Google devices, if you have any.
Once you power up the Chromecast for the first time, you’ll be guided through the few steps it takes to get it online.
Unlike other streaming devices, the Chromecast has more apps you can stream from your phone or tablet.
For example, my TV has an app for the RTÉ Player, but it doesn’t work most of the time.
However, I can cast it directly from my phone to the Chromecast, every time, without any issues.
This is the same for so many other apps that support casting that don’t have apps on my TV.
There’s no interface to control or fiddle with. Instead, the user interface is from the app that you’re streaming from.
This is far less confusing and simplifies the experience, especially for non-tech users.
I have thousands of photos in my Google Photos library and use the Chromecast screensaver screen as my gallery.
This is a nice feature and you can customise which albums you want in the slideshow.
The Chromecast can also be handy on monitors that have HDMI ports.
The extra speed isn’t noticeable, in everyday use, between the new and previous versions of the Chromecast, although I did find it slightly faster in my side-by-side comparisons.
However, I did see an improvement in signal quality and strength, when the Chromecast was further away from the Wi-Fi router and in another room.
A common misconception about casting from your phone or tablet is that it will drain your battery.
This isn’t true, because the phone is only used to establish the connection to the stream and set it up.
Once connected, the Chromecast takes over steaming duties and your phone is then only needed if you want playback controls, effectively acting as a remote control.
The only exception to this is when you are casting content that resides on your phone, like photos or videos, and this will take a hit on your battery.
If you own a Google Home or Home Mini, you can use your voice to control the Chromecast.
This works by saying what you want to watch on Netflix or YouTube and the name of the Chromecast device you want to play it on.
You can also use your voice for playback controls.
The Google Chromecast Gen 3 is still a useful device for streaming, especially if you don’t have a smart TV.
Available now from store.google.com/ie €39.