The first thing you’ll notice about the new Google Chromecast is its form. But more interesting by far is its function. The new Chromecast app solves the biggest issue with the first iteration of Google’s streaming pendant (née stick): finding stuff to watch. The app pulls in information from compatible services like Netflix and Hulu and will let you search for and stream shows and movies without having to jump in and out of 17 apps. It’s a simple idea, but it transforms the Chromecast from a standard “casting” device into a legitimate competitor for more “functional” set-top boxes.
I tried the UK version of the discovery app, which is apparently identical to the US app aside from the content on offer. It’s simple to use, with Netflix-esque carousels of shows to scroll through, divided into apps and categories. The search function is more useful. It was only working with a handful of services (namely Netflix and Google Play Movies) in the limited demo, but I’m assured Google’s making it easy for all of its partners to plug their apps into search.
There are some other meaningful additions to the Chromecast formula here. The new shape, Google says, will drastically improve its WiFi strength, and video will be cast in 1080p whenever available. With the improved discovery options, universal search functionality, higher picture quality, and same low price, Google is offering a lot for just $35 (£30).