Skip to main content

Chromecast and Nest Hub ambient displays are returning to their former glory

Ambient display showing pictures on a Nest Hub
(Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google previously altered its ambient displays on Nest Hub and Chromecast products during COVID to save internet bandwidth.
  • The company slowed down slideshow timing and lowered resolution to keep ambient displays from "clogging up the pipes."
  • Google is reverting that practice and restoring the original timing and resolution of photos for ambient displays.

For the past two years, Chromecast and Nest Hub ambient displays — that's the term for the constantly rotating stock of pretty pictures on your TV or smart display — have been a little different than originally designed. Starting today, Google is reverting this practice and returning those ambient displays to their former glory. That means photos will be displayed at full resolution on each display and the cadence at which pictures appear will once again be quicker.

Google made the announcement in a community post (opens in new tab), detailing the previous practice, which was intended to help save bandwidth worldwide by reducing the frequency at which photos cycle on smart displays (opens in new tab) and Chromecasts. Additionally, Google reduced the resolution of these photos for the same reason. Google says this practice is no longer necessary because of reduced internet traffic worldwide. During the pandemic, it was common to see companies like Netflix (opens in new tab) reducing the quality of video streams for the same reason.

While the resolution of photos on ambient displays will automatically be adjusted to their proper resolution, you can change the speed at which the ambient display cycles through photos. These are the steps Google outlines to do that:

  • Open the Google Home app.
  • Touch and hold your device's tile.
  • At the top right corner, tap Settings.
  • For Chromecasts, tap Ambient mode. For Displays, tap Photo Frame.
  • Scroll down and under Slideshow speed, select your preferred speed (5s, 10s, 30s, 1m, 3m, 5m, 10m) 

Just this week, Google added Fitbit and Google Fit integration (opens in new tab) to Google Assistant, which will soon allow you to view your daily fitness stats at a glance on Nest Hub displays. Google is also removing the need to say (opens in new tab) "Hey, Google" on the Nest Hub Max for customers who enroll in the beta program, removing a small annoyance from the lives of Nest Hub Max owners.


Nicholas Sutrich
Nicholas Sutrich
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu