I got a chance to try it out recently and while I had them, many people’s first thoughts upon seeing them were “Wow, it’s like a $35 Sonos Connect!” I always say they’re both right and wrong, here’s why…
- Price – Google just destroys Sonos in price. The Sonos Connect starts at a whopping $350. Personally, I have always felt it was overpriced and remember, I am just talking about the basic Connect, not the version with the built in amp. But I won’t get into that, the Chromecast Audio is just $35, that’s right $35! Meaning you could create 10 zones of audio for the same price as 1 zone of Sonos, using a Connect. This gives a nice advantage to Google here.
- Ease of use – On paper I think they both provide what everyone expects, ease-of-use. Both are very easy to setup and use. I like the Sonos app, but Chromecast allows me to cast audio from nearly any music app to my speakers. Very easy to use and convenient when I want audio to play throughout my house. It really depends on what you prefer.
- Google Home voice control – I know this is low blow to Sonos (Alexa drivers are due out early next year for Sonos), but yes, Chromecast Audio already has voice control with Google Home. I haven’t had the chance to test this personally, see why in the What I Don’t Like section below.
- Tiny size – My first impression when I unboxed it was, wow this thing is small! Remember those silver dollar coins? It’s not much bigger than one of those. Need to fit it somewhere tight to get audio in your dining room? That shouldn’t be problem. It’s way smaller than Sonos Connect, probably 20x-30x smaller!
- Setup can be tricky, I picked up a Google Home to use with Chromecast and I could not get it on my Pakedge Wi-Fi at all, it just didn’t like it. In the end, I couldn’t get it to connect to any of my Wi-Fi networks! Even when I finally did at another location, it wouldn’t let me log in. On my Luxul Wi-Fi however, I had fewer problems, but it’s still not as reliable has Sonos. Another note, make sure you have good Wi-Fi signal coverage when placing them!
- It’s an only child – Google really should have released the Chromecast audio has part of its family of audio devices. I would really like to see Chromecast Audio with an amp for around $75 and a component like the Play:1 for $50. Call me crazy, but wouldn’t that make for a serious Sonos killing machine? Until then we just have to make do with just the basic device. I think Google could really take a bite out of Sonos by developing more audio products at lower price.
- Don’t forget, you still need speakers and an amplifier to turn a Chromecast Audio into something actually usable. If you already have those in place, perfect! If not, and most of us probably don’t, expect to shell out another few hundred for those parts. It’s this reason alone that I went the Sonos Play:1 route, instead of in-ceiling speakers and an amp.
Bottom line – is it good? Yes! Would I buy it, if I needed to? Yes! Would I use this over Sonos? Well that’s subjective. If you want to use your own speakers and amps, of course I would pick this over Sonos. I’d be saving myself hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars. If I wasn’t planning to use my own speakers and amps, I would go the Sonos route (and I did). That’s what it comes down too, what you need from an audio system. Both products are great, and both offer a good value; but depending on what you need, and what you already have, one may be better than the other.