For $35, the Google Chromecast is a great Christmas gift. The Chromecast acts like a Roku player (or similar streaming media player) however it’s controlled by your smartphone or computer over WiFi. Once it’s set up you use apps on your phone or computer to stream content to your TV. However the Chromecast doesn’t pull data from your phone or device, it will connect to the content on it’s own and stream it from the source so you’re free to use your phone for whatever else once it starts streaming.
For example, you can launch the Netflix app on your phone and hit the Chromecast button to start up the Netflix app on the Chromecast. Once you select something to play it’ll begin loading on the Chromecast and you can close out the app on your phone. You can use the app on your phone to control the content by fast forwarding or pausing if you like.
Recently Google added a few more apps to make the Chromecast more versatile. Originally it could only stream from a handful of apps such as Netflix and Google Play. Now there are more options including HBO Go, Hulu Plus and Pandora (and several more that I’ve never used such as VEVO, RedBullTV and RealPlayer Cloud). The HBO Go and Pandora apps are my favorite additions. I’d like to see a Dish Anywhere app sometime in the future, but HBO will do for now.
You can view the video below for a look at the new apps and to see the Chromecast in action. For $35 it has a great, easy to use design and I love using it. Sure I have all of the same apps and more on my PS3, but the ease of controlling everything seamlessly through my phone is great. I can start something playing on Netflix while I search for something to watch on HBO and switch between the two in a matter of seconds. On the PS3 the time it takes to exit one app and enter another is painful.
Last week, seemingly out of nowhere, Google announced Chromecast. It’s an HDMI dongle that allows you to stream content to your TV from the cloud using almost any device connected to the same WiFi network (yes, it works with the iPhone and iPad as well as Android devices).
You simply plug the device into an HDMI port on your TV and plug it into a power source (my TV has a USB port right beneath one set of HDMI ports which is quite convenient. It also comes with a power outlet adapter) and you’re (almost) ready to go. Once it’s set up you’ll see a Chromecast button in supported apps and you simply click the button and Chromecast will begin streaming the content on your TV. You can control the content with your device, but you can also exit whatever app you launched the video from and continue using the device while the Chromecast continues streaming.
The only annoying thing about the Chromecast for me was the setup. It wasn’t as simple as it should’ve been. For some reason you have to change the name of your WiFi network to the name of your Chromecast device (ie. Chromecast9999) in order to connect to the Chromecast and get it set up. Then you can change your WiFi network back to it’s original name before you save the connection settings for the Chromecast.
I have yet to discover if that’s a process you have to go through everytime you use the device on a new WiFi network or if it’s simply for the initial setup. I hope it’s the latter because otherwise it won’t be as convenient of a device as it could be. Sure you don’t have to carry around an HDMI cable, but fooling around with router settings every time you go somewhere new would be a chore.
Overall I’m impressed with the device and for $35 it’s a steal. It initially came with 3 months of Netflix, however due to overwhelming demand Google had to remove that offer (luckily I got in before it disappeared). I’m also impressed that it works so easily with iOS apps, though as of right now you cant use it with the Chrome iOS app (it does support the desktop version). At the moment you can use it with YouTube and Netflix on iOS (I’m not sure if there’s a Google Play app on iOS, but I assume if there is that would work as well) and there should be more content to come in the near future.