Chromecast Generations and Variations Comparison

Chromcast is a digital media streaming device developed by Google. The device allows you to play streaming audio or video contents on your home audio system or TV through apps on a mobile device and computer. At the time of writing, Google has released three generations and two variations, Chromecast Audio and Chromecast Ultra. Here is the post about Chromecast generations and variations.

1st Generation ($35)

The 1st generation Chromecast was released in 2013, introducing Google Cast technology, which allows you to watch contents with your mobile device on a big screen TV. It uses your home WiFi to connect between Chromecast and mobile devices. There are two different methods to cast contents to your TV.

For Chromecast-enabled apps, such as Youtube, Hulu, and Netflix, once you cast, the app can be running on a background so you can do other things with your mobile device or computer.

You can still cast unsupported apps to your TV by using the mirroring feature. With this feature, whatever is displaying on your mobile device or computer also displays on TV, and sound comes out from TV. As compared with casting Chromecast-enable apps, the mirroring feature has a little lag and may experience sluggish motions.

Both methods need a mobile device or computer to control contents to pause, resume, skip, and so on. They are all features of Chromecast, as well as 2nd gen, 3rd gen, and Ultra. It may seem a few, but the possibility is endless. Since the debut of the 1st gen, software updates have been improving the performance of Chromecast, and more and more third-party apps are getting supported.

2nd Generation ($35)

The 2nd generation Chomecast was released in 2015. It completely changed the design. While the 1st gen is stick-shaped, the 2nd gen is disc-shaped with a short HDMI cable attached. A disc-shaped body has a built-in magnet so you can stick it to the back of your TV. The same design continues on newer models and variations, including the 3rd gen, Ultra, and Audio.

3rd Generation ($35)

image of the 3rd generation of chromecast

The 3rd generation Chomecast was released in 2018. It has almost the same same size as the 2nd gen and slightly a different design on its body. It supports 1080-pixel at 60 frame per second.

Chromecast Ultra ($69)

Chromecast Ultra was released in 2016. It has the same disc-shaped body, but slightly larger than 2nd and 3rd gens. It supports 4K UltraHD and high-dynamic range through HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats.

image of chromecast ultra

Unlike the other models, Chromecast Ultra needs a power supply from a wall outlet, not from a USB port on the TV. Thus, an included power adapter is one piece: a power cable is not separate from a wall adapter. And, this adapter has an Ethernet port, so you have an option to use Ethernet cable to connect to the internet instead of WiFi.

If your home WiFi system is not stable or reliable, you may have a benefit to using this adapter with Ethernet cable. And, this power adapter is compatible with all other models. You can purchase the Ethernet power adapter separately.

Chromecast Audio ($35)

Chromecast Audio was released in 2015 at the same time as the 2nd generation of Chromecast. It’s the disc-shaped body with micro USB port for power and 3.5mm jack on the other. An included 3.5mm Aux cable plus into the jack, and the other end is plugged into an aux jack of your home speakers.

It works in the same way as regular Chromecast, but it’s just audio version. When you use multiple Chromecast Audio devices connecting to multiple speakers and group them. And you can play the same music across multiple speakers. Back then, the concept was appealing. However, with the advent of smart speakers like Google Home mini and Amazon Echo Dot, the features of Chromecast Audio became useless.

Instead of buying multiple Chromecast Audios, you can buy multiple smart speakers, which is the same price range or even lower prices, and group them. You may also connect them to your home speakers with Aux cables. They just work the same for the same or maybe lower investment, plus you will get voice assistance feature. As a result, Chromecast Audio has discontinued in January 2019.

Which one should you buy?

At the time of writing, the 3rd gen Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra are being manufactured. The other models are discontinued. If you have 4K TV, Chromecast Ultra is the one that is capable of streaming contents with the same resolution. If you don’t have 4K TV or not planning to buy one anytime soon, the half price, 3rd gen Chromecast will be enough.

Should you upgrade from older generations?

Not necessarily unless you need the 4K support Chromecast Ultra. There have been many improvements since its debut, but it’s on the software side, not the devices. All generations of Chromecast has the features of “Cast” and “Mirror.” That’s all. And, that has been the same from the 1st to the 3rd. Unless you want to stream 4K contents, I don’t think you need to upgrade from the 1st or the 2nd to the 3rd gen.

1st Generation
2nd Generation
3rd Generation
Released Year20132105201820152016
Regular Price$35$35$35$35$69
Dimension2.83" x 1.38" x 0.47"2.04" x 2.04" x 0.53"2.04" x 2.04" x 0.54"2.04" x 2.04" x 0.53"2.29" x 2.29" x 0.54"
Weight1.2 oz1.38 oz1.4 oz1.08 oz1.66 oz
1080p@60fpsn/a4K Ultra HD
High dynamic range (HDR10, Dolby Vision)
Included AccessoriesUSB cable
Wall adapter
USB cable
Wall adapter
USB cable
Wall adapter
USB cable
Wall adapter
3.5mm audio cable
USB Ethernet power adapter

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