Google Chromecast just got a surprise downgrade — here's why

Chromecast with Google TV, Chromecast Ultra and a Chromecast
(Image credit: Google)

Chromecasts are great streaming devices — I use my Chromecast Ultra on a regular basis. But now, many Chromecast owners like myself are getting an unexpected downgrade.

First spotted by 9to5Google, Chromecast’s guest mode is going away for good. This feature allowed users to allow their guests to connect to Chromecast devices using just a four-digit PIN rather than needing to connect to the same Wi-Fi network. This PIN would be shown on the Chromecast’s screen saver and worked by emitting a hybrid Wi-Fi/Bluetooth beacon that would allow nearby users to connect provided they had the PIN.

While not necessarily a major selling point for the device, this was still a great feature for those who didn’t want to share their home Wi-Fi network with guests. It’s unclear why the feature is being taken away, but it’s no longer available to Chromecasts that were Cast-powered — these are Chromecast devices not powered by the Google TV smart TV interface. Even the Guest mode toggle is being removed from device settings in the Google Home app for these older Chromecast devices.

The (relatively) good news is that if you have one of the newer Google TV-powered Chromecast devices like the Chromecast with Google TV HD and Chromecast with Google TV 4K, you won’t feel like anything is missing. That’s because these newer Chromecasts never had the guest mode feature to begin with. They always required guests and users alike to be on the same Wi-Fi network as the Chromecast device in order to cast content. 

Chromecasts: What are my options?

Google TV with Google TV remote

(Image credit: Future)

While you can still find older Chromecasts from certain retailers, Google has shrunk its product line to just two devices.

First, there’s there is the Google Chromecast with Google TV HD. This gives you a great streaming dongle that hides easily behind your TV and supports streaming content at 1080p resolution with a 60 fps refresh rate. You also get support for HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG HDR formats and an easy-to-use remote — all for the low price of $29.99. It’s a great option if you’re looking to give a 1080p Full HD TV a smart upgrade.

For those looking to stream content at 4K resolution though, you’ll need the Google Chromecast with Google TV 4K. This streaming dongle is one of the best streaming devices out there and while it looks essentially the same as the HD version, it allows 4K streaming at 60 fps and gives you a couple of extra features. The Chromecast with Google TV 4K adds Dolby Vision HDR support and can even view feeds from your Nest Hello video doorbell or Nest Cam. If you’re looking to get a streaming device for one of the best TVs or add Google TV to your TV, this is definitely the Chromecast you want to get. 

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Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.