Looking to spruce up your lounge?
An Apple TV top box starts at $299.
A PlayStation 4 is currently $449.
A smart TV will set you back hundreds.
Forget all of them — Google sells a gadget for just $55 that will transform how you watch TV.
It certainly did for me.
Get the latest Google stock price here.
I'm talking about Chromecast. It's a 'dongle' that Google sells that you plug into the back of your TV.
You slot it into a HDMI port, the sort found on basically all modern TVs. Once there, you control it with your smartphone.
You can throw videos and music onto your TV to watch by pressing the Chromecast button on any of the hundreds of compatible apps.
You can also mirror the screen of your smartphone, browse the internet, and show off photos. It even has some compatible games.
In effect, it turns any television into a smart TV -- but for a fraction of the price of one, and with almost no hardware.
This is because most of the heavy lifting is done on your phone. You've got a powerful computer already in your pocket, so the dongle capitalises on that to keep costs low.
I picked one up about at the start of 2016 and it revolutionised how I watch TV. My housemates and I don't have to search for a laptop and HDMI cable to watch movies or worry about battery -- anyone can throw on a film with a single click.
And if you've got friends round, you can make a queue of music and videos via YouTube that anyone can contribute to via their phone.
Oh, and it's not just for Android phones. It also works with iPhones, as well as tablets and laptops. You can stream media straight from your Chrome web browser on desktop.
There are two main versions of Chromecast: The regular one ($55), and the more expensive Chromecast Ultra ($99). The ultra is designed for 4K televisions, letting you stream video in 4K ultra-high definition. Oh, and there's Chromecast Audio, which allows you to stream music and audio from your phone to your speakers.
Sure, so this isn't just breaking news. The Chromecast first launched back in 2013, and was updated in 2015, with the Ultra launching in 2016. But I'm not exaggerating when I say that it's one of the best gadgets I've bought in years. Don't bother shelling out for an Apple TV or smart television: This is all you need.
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