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Chromecast 3rd Generation Review 2021

Google's Chromecast 3rd Generation is still an inexpensive and simple device to get you streaming right away.

Chromecast 3rd Generation

Price: $29.99
Video: 1080p
Audio: 2.0 stereo

The bottom line: Chromecast 3rd Generation delivers cheap and easy streaming

Google’s 3rd Generation Chromecast is a plug-and-play streaming device in the most literal sense: simply insert it into your TV’s HDMI port, and you’re ready to go. Well, there’s also a second plug for power—but setting up a Chromecast is still ridiculously easy, not to mention cheap.

For 30 bucks, it’s a convenient couch-potato accessory that lets you cast and surf YouTube, Netflix, or anything from the Google Play Store. But, as a serious streaming TV device, Chromecast can’t compete with other set-top power players on the market. For that, you’d want the newer Chromecast with Google TV.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to set up
  • Small and unnoticeable

Cons

  • Occasionally glitchy
  • Not 4K compatible
  • Not Philo compatible

Chromecast 3rd Generation deals and promotions

The Chromecast 3rd Generation streaming device has recently dropped in price from $35.00 to $29.99, likely due to the introduction of the more powerful Chromecast with Google TV.

What is Chromecast 3rd Generation?

The “cast” in Chromecast means that you wirelessly stream content from your phone, tablet, or computer directly to your TV. There’s no remote or interface because Chromecast mirrors what’s on your mobile device or laptop (if the app is compatible, as indicated by a Chromecast icon).

As much as we’d like to avoid the word “dongle,” the Chromecast 3rd Generation s just that: a tiny piece of tech with limitations, even more so than similar devices like the Roku Streaming Stick or the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

It is fun to use, though. If you think of it as a bargain toy rather than a full-blown entertainment center, you can get plenty of play out of a Chromecast . . . dongle.

Chromecast 3rd Generation specs

The “body” of the Chromecast 3rd Generation is about the size of an Oreo cookie, and it’s attached to a flat, five-inch HDMI cable and plug. When tucked behind a TV, it’s practically unnoticeable.

  • Price: $29.99
  • Size: 6.4”
  • Video: 1080p
  • Audio: 2.0 stereo

Chromecast 3rd Generation vs. the competition

Price Video Audio Remote
$29.99 1080p 2.0 stereo None
$29.99 1080p 2.0 stereo, Dolby Atmos Included
$39.99 1080p, 4K 2.0 stereo Included

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The table above compares the most basic streaming stick models from Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku. FYI: there are 4K versions of Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV Stick available.

The biggest minus of the Chromecast 3rd Generation is the lack of a remote, obviously. If you want to spend a little more, Chromecast with Google TV remedies that.

Chromecast 3rd Generation setup

Setting up a Chromecast 3rd Generation is a little different than plugging in a set-top box streaming device, but still pretty easy. It only takes three steps to get casting:

  1. While downloading the Google Home app to your phone or tablet, plug the Chromecast into your TV’s HDMI port.
  2. Open the Google Home app and tap the Devices button.
  3. Tap Setup for your Chromecast (which will appear as “Chromecast0066” or something similar) and follow the prompts to complete configuration and customization.

From there, you’ll be able to rename your Chromecast for easy identification and TV location (like “Living Room,” “Kitchen,” “Panic Room,” etc.). Like most things Google, it’s comfortably intuitive. Chromecast is actually easier to set up and start using than some finicky Bluetooth speakers we’ve tried—not that we’re still bitter about that derailed office karaoke party.

Included equipment:

  • Chromecast dongle
  • USB power cable
  • AC power adaptor

Equipment you’ll need:

  • TV with HDMI port
  • Wi-Fi network

You’re able to perform other tasks on your phone or another device while casting, by the way. Chromecast’s internal Wi-Fi antenna grabs the app’s video or audio stream, freeing up your device’s interface. Meaning: Netflix doesn’t have to be visibly “open” to stream Queer Eye while you’re eyeing Instagram.

Philo is another matter, though: Chromecast isn’t compatible with the Philo app. You can, however, cast Philo from a Chrome browser—it’s not ideal, but it works.

Besides the lack of a traditional TV interface, Google Chromecast doesn’t—surprise—play well with some non-Google applications. If you’re a Firefox devotee who wants to cast from that browser, for example, you’ll have to set up a series of workarounds. Or set aside your Firefox values and just use Chrome for casting—we won’t tell anyone.

Chromecast 3rd Generation apps and channels

Livestreaming and on-demand TV channels and services

Chromecast can cast content from hundreds of livestreaming and on-demand TV apps—the only glaring omission is the Philo app.

Chromecast 3rd Generation TV and video apps (partial list)

Entertainment apps

Chromecast also works with a wide variety of entertainment apps. You can cast nearly anything and everything that you enjoy on your phone, tablet, or laptop to your TV. Yes, even those hundreds of photos and videos you took of your dog last weekend. He’s cute; we get it.

Chromecast 3rd Generation entertainment apps (partial list)

  • Google Chrome
  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • Twitch
  • Spotify
  • Google Play Music
  • Pandora
  • Tidal
  • YouTube Music
  • NPR One

App and channel guide user experience

Besides the price tag, the most attractive feature of the Google Chromecast has always been its ease of setup and use—that’s as true now as it was in 2015. If you already know how to navigate your phone, tablet, or laptop, you’re good to go.

So despite its lack of a home hub of app operations, we’ll take Chromecast over the clunky, junky interfaces of most “smart” TVs any day. Not having a dedicated remote is a little harder to forgive, but we can live with it.

Google Chromecast experiences the occasional buffering and glitches—which, to be fair, happens with even the best set-top streaming TV devices. To maintain Chromecast’s 1080p HD picture quality, we recommend internet speeds of 25 Mbps or even more for the Chromecast with Google TV; 4K HDR is a serious bandwidth hog.

Chromecast models

There are two Chromecast models: Chromecast 3rd Generation and Chromecast with Google TV. The latter was introduced in 2020 as a major upgrade from the original Chromecast.

Model
Chromecast 3rd Generation
Chromecast with Google TV
Price Video Audio Wi-Fi
$29.99 1080p 2.0 stereo 802.11ac (2.4GHz/5Ghz)
$49.99 1080p, 4K, Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+ DTS, Dolby Digital+, Dolby Audio, Dolby Atmos 802.11ac (2.4GHz/5Ghz)

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The biggest distinction: Chromecast with Google TV comes with its own interface and a remote, which puts it in the same streaming device league as a Roku or Amazon Fire TV stick.

Also, Chromecast with Google TV is available in white, pink, or blue. Chromecast comes only in black, but at least that means you can use it after Labor Day (just kidding—we don’t follow summer fashion rules).

Compatible devices

Google Chromecast is compatible with any TV that has an HDMI port and a USB port to power it (or an AC outlet). If your TV doesn’t have an HDMI port, you can get a third-party USB-to-HDMI converter to bridge the technology gap.

No HDMI or USB ports? You’ll need a different set of old-school adaptors. We’d direct you to the nearest Circuit City or RadioShack, but. . .

Final take: Chromecast 3rd Generation is cheap enough to keep around

While it hasn’t been upgraded significantly since 2015, the Chromecast 3rd Generation is still the quickest and most inexpensive way to become an overnight cord-cutter. At just 30 bucks, you’re not out much more than the price of a couple of pizzas to take it for a spin.

On the other hand, you can get far more powerful options from Roku and Amazon stick streamers at about the same price, or the new Chromecast with Google TV for $20 more. If you want a fast and cheap device, though, Google Chromecast satisfies.

(For the record, here at CableTV.com, we consider pineapple on pizza much less objectionable than the word “dongle.”)

Chromecast 3rd Generation FAQ

What’s the difference between Chromecast and Chromecast with Google TV?

The Chromecast 3rd Generation is still the same device that was last updated in 2018. It doesn’t have its own interface, remote, or 4K capability; it casts 1080p content from your phone, tablet, or laptop.

Chromecast with Google TV, introduced in 2020, comes with its own interface (Google TV), making it more like the streaming sticks offered by Roku and Amazon Fire TV. It also comes with a Google Assistant voice remote, and 4K, HDR, and Dolby Vision compatibility.

What are the power requirements for Chromecast 3rd Generation?

Chromecast 3rd Generation can be powered either through a USB port on your TV, or with an included AC adapter plugged into a wall or power strip outlet.

How can I cast Philo with Chromecast?

Philo is one of the few streaming TV apps not supported by Chromecast 3rd Generation (though it is available on the newer Chromecast with Google TV). You can, however, work around this by using the Philo app on your phone (Android only right now) and screen-mirroring the content to the Chromecast.

You can also view Philo on Chromecast 3rd Generation by casting from a Chrome web browser (PC or Mac laptop, also iPhone or iPad). Just open the web version of Philo in Chrome, then cast the browser (or single tab) to the Chromecast.

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