Google introduced a new Chromecast at its Pixel-rific event on Tuesday. It’s a minor improvement with some promise. But with the $35 price well within range of an impulse purchase, should you upgrade your old models?
In a word, no. The new Chromecast features a slightly faster processor that can do 60 frames per second, 1080p video—the 2015 version can only do 1080p-30fps or 720p-60fps. But the vast majority of videos on both YouTube and paid video services are 30fps, because that’s the standard for both television and movies. Even pro sports programs, which might benefit from the extra frames, don’t take advantage of it. Unless you watch a lot of video game content on YouTube and Twitch, you’re very rarely going to see that faster, smoother video.
Google says that the new model will work with the Google Home suite of products to make connected speakers, a la Sonos. And that’s neat… but not anything particularly special. The Chromecast can already use your TV to stream music from apps like Google Play Music and Pandora, integrating it with a Google Home system doesn’t add that much value. Even if Google unlocks the device’s inactive Bluetooth radio—which doesn’t seem likely—the extra capability simply isn’t worth replacing your three-year-old device.
There’s one other situation in which the new Chromecast might be worth a buy, even for those that already have the “hockey puck” 2015 version. Its improved 5GHz Wi-Fi reception is useful if your TV is a long way from your Wi-Fi router, and you’ve noticed your video cutting out on occasion. If that’s the case, easing that strain on your network could justify a $35 purchase.
So, unless you’re constantly streaming high-FPS game video or your current Chromecast isn’t cutting it in terms of Wi-Fi signal, stick with what you have. If you’re buying a new one for a TV anyway, there’s no reason not to get this one over the older model, but you might consider a 4K-capable Chromecast Ultra or a Roku Stick for a modest increase in price.