It's been nearly two years since Google unveiled its Chromecast media-streaming dongle (see best media streamers 2015), but it has been worth the wait, arriving alongside Chromecast Audio. We reveal the new Chromecast and Chromecast Audio UK release date, price and specifications.

What is Chromecast? 

Chromecast is a £30 dongle that plugs into any HDMI screen enabling you to make a dumb TV smart. All you need is a single HDMI port into which to plug in Chromecast, and a single USB port (or a nearby mains outlet) from which to power it.

In its second-generation the Chromecast has a new circular design and a built-in HDMI cable, which means you can take it anywhere and plug it into any TV, and then use any device on the network to remotely contol it. Also see: How to set up and use a Google Chromecast and Best Chromecast tips and tricks 

With no user interface of its own (it operates via the newly upgraded Chromecast app you download to your phone or tablet), in essence it's a wireless alternative to connecting your phone or tablet to a TV via an HDMI cable. Google Cast also lets you display anything on your mobile device's screen on the TV or monitor. Well, almost anything - Sky still won't let you stream Sky Go over Chromecast, for example. 

Apps are the difference between an HDMI cable and Chromecast, however. Not only will you find a Cast icon built right into many apps written to include Chromecast support, but there are also apps built specifically for Chromecast. We've rounded up some of our favourite free Chromecast apps, and there are soon to be many more as Google has recognised the need to improve on content- and app discovery.

What is Chromecast Audio?

Chromecast Audio

Chromecast Audio is a small dongle, also priced at £30, but the difference here is that it handles just audio- rather than audiovisual content, and plugs into a speaker rather than a TV. Indeed, Chromecast Audio plugs into any home speaker using an AUX cable, then allows you to cast audio to it.

The new Chromecast Audio is just as simple as Chromecast to use - you simply plug it into power, connect to a wireless network, and start casting. 

Google Chromecast 2 UK release date and price; Chromecast Audio UK release date and price. 

In common with the original Chromecast, the new Chromecast and its Chromecast Audio sibling cost just £30 each. You can buy them now on the Google Store, with the devices expected to ship within the next few weeks.

What's new in Chromecast?

New Chromecast

Many of the rumours we'd heard about the Chromecast 2 turned out to be true. There's an all-new design, with a circular body that comes in Lemonade, Coral or Black, and an integrated HDMI cable that means you can take it anywhere and plug it into any PC.

As we suspected, Wi-Fi has been upgraded, with new support for dual-band 802.11ac. Wi-Fi performance also benefits from a new adaptive antenna system.

The new Chromecast supports higher-quality video and audio, with less buffering, too. But some of the biggest improvements come in the software.

A redesigned Chromecast app that makes it significantly easier to discover content and apps will roll out for Android and iOS in the next few weeks. You will also be able to see at a glance which apps installed on your phone support Chromecast, search for content by voice, and Google has added new playback controls that allow you to use any device on the network as a remote control for Chromecast.

The touted Fast Play feature is a reality, and can reduce load time by up to 80 percent by automatically beginning to load up an app the second you open it. Fast Play also predicts what you might want to watch based on your previous behaviour and can begin loading up, say, the next programme in a TV series you are following.

Gaming has also improved with the new Chromecast, now dependent on your smartphone to do all the legwork, acting as the controller and powering both its own screen and the TV screen. Phones are more than capable of this these days, and their performance only gets better each time you upgrade. Chromecast can also benefit from a phone's accelerometer, gyroscope, touchscreen, camera and other features.

By using your phone as the gaming controller, Chromecast also makes multiplayer games possible - all your friend needs is their phone.

New Chromecast & Chromecast Audio launch video stream

Google Chromecast 2 launch live blog

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