The second coming

The latest iteration of the Google Chromecast is different. For starters, the changes seemed cosmetic, with a slight mark-up in price. The new Chromecast is priced at Rs 3,399, is shaped like a puck and comes in three colours. And it has a reboot switch.

I connected it to a "dumb" TV turned it on and voila - it was on in a jiffy, faster than its predecessor. I connected my Android phone to set it up and was soon streaming a high-resolution episode of The Blacklist from Netflix. There was a bit of a lag before the casting over the Google Cast app started; but once it was on, it seemed smoother than its predecessor, maybe because it was pulling the video off the dedicated 5Ghz video band on my home network.

I found the Chromecast's changes were more than skin deep. For example, there is support for the latest dual-band Wi-Fi standards. It has a the flexible HDMI cable (which magnetically sticks to the puck) and makes it a lot easier to connect the Chromecast in hard-to-reach corners. The new Chromecast maintained a strong link to my home Wi-Fi network anywhere in my apartment. And I could pull full high-definition videos off YouTube, and got them to play on the new Chromecast a whole lot quicker.

The new Chromecast seems to support most of the plethora of streaming apps that are a part of our lives. I used Netflix, Hooq, Wynk Movies, hotstar, Eros Now and Viu extensively. A caveat: One can't cast music or movies off iTunes on a PC.

The new Chromecast is a perfect fit for those who want to turn dumb TVs smart. If you already own the first one (as I do), it'll be difficult to justify buying a second one for the added features; well there's no harm in buying a spare one, right?

When I tried the first Chromecast, I had lamented the fact that Google didn't bundle an audio in port so one could stream the sound to speakers; what I didn't expect was Google actually coming up with the Google Chromecast Audio (Rs 3,399).

I brought out old and dusty iBall Tarang 2.1 PC speakers and my stereo JBL speakers and a pair of reference headphones. First, I connected the Chromecast Audio to the line in jack of the Tarang, powered both up and then logged into my Android phone to set it up. Next, I logged into Saavn (a six-month subscription is bundled) and played Ariana Grande's "Dangerous Woman"; the notes were loud but the sound seemed a tad compressed.

Now I connected the reference headphones and routed a lossless version of Sinead O' Connor's "Nothing compares to you", with very satisfactory results. Also, I used a battery bank to power the Chromecast Audio and thus had a home-made portable wireless solution for headphones. This was AirPlay on steroids!

The Chromecast Audio also supports optical out via an optional Toslink cable as also the ability to control Chromecasts in multiple rooms using the cast app but I couldn't try these out. But for Plex, it's difficult to play audio files directly off the PC in the absence of support for Google Play Music in India; there's a geeky workaround found on Reddit threads though. As it stands, the Chromecast Audio seems like the answer to my dreams as an audiophile.

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