Got a new toy this week. It’s the Google Chromecast thingy. I haven’t spent the entire week evaluating it; I have another project going on that’s taking up a lot of time, but I did manage to get a good test of the Chromecast.
Now, just as a reminder, I do the Internet TV thing. Though I do have an antenna, I don’t have cable or satellite, and most of my TV viewing is via the Internet. Not on my computer. There are lots of people that do that. I think Frank J. does. I don’t use a computer; I use other devices to get content to my TV. I use Roku, Apple TV, TiVo, Simple.TV, and Xbox 360. Do I need all that? No. Nobody needs all that. But I got it anyway. Mostly because I felt like it. Or, I wanted to try something out and kept it.
That’s where I am on this new toy. It’s called Google Chromecast and it’s a slightly different take on things.
While the other devices primarily make connection with the streaming services (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, iTunes, and so on) the Chromecast doesn’t. It allows your TV to receive a stream from one of your other devices, like a smartphone, a tablet, or a computer. And, I’m gonna tell you my thoughts about it.
Okay, maybe I need to say a little more about it. Well, it’s a simple little device. You can click the image at the top and get an idea of how big it is. Or little.
It plugs into an HDMI port on your TV, and you can use your computer browser, or a smartphone or tablet to set it up. Now, you can’t set it up using a Kindle Fire. At least, I couldn’t. Most other Android-based tablets will work, though. You can use an iPhone or iPad. There’s an app for it. Or, you can use your computer and the Chrome browser.
The box comes with simple instructions on how to set it up. You can simply plug it in, attach the power cord, and set your TV on the HDMI port and the instructions will appear on the screen. Do exactly what they say and you’ll be just fine.
About that power cord. You can use the included wall wart power adapter, or if your TV has a USB port (not a service port, but one labeled “USB”) that will power it. Be advised of one thing: on one TV I tried it on, the power saver feature turned the USB power off after a while, meaning I had to remove it and plug it back in. Using the wall wart solved that. Your TV may not do that, and using the USB port keeps things tidier.
The good: It works. Using the Netflix app on iPhone and Kindle Fire, or the Netflix Website using the Google Chrome browser, a “Play On” button appears that lets you send the output to the Chromecast. And, that means it plays on your TV, both picture and sound.
Right now, Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, and Google Chrome are the only apps that will send content, but that actually covers a lot. I was able to send Hulu content using the browser. Not just Hulu Plus content (which is all Roku, Apple TV, and other set-top boxes support), but also Hulu standard free stuff. The stuff you can’t watch on set-top boxes. And, you can send a lot of stuff via the browser, so in that respect, it works pretty well.
Also, if I send an app from my tablet to Chromecast, say Netflix, I can still check email such. There may be something that will interfere, but so far, I haven’t run into anything.
The bad? Well, it doesn’t do true mirroring. For instance, using Apple TV and a Mac from the last two years, you can mirror your desktop on your TV. With Chromecast, you can send content from a browser tab, but that’s about it. There is no full desktop mirroring with Chromecast.
The other thing is the fact that I have to have a separate device. That is, it’s not that I can send stuff from my browser, my phone, or my tablet, but I have to; that’s the only way I can get content to it. With Roku, Apple TV, or such, I don’t have to break out my phone or tablet; those set-top boxes connect directly to the streaming source.
Oh, and not every streaming source works in the browser. Amazon Instant Video, for instance, doesn’t work well
at all unless you have disabled Silverlight. Using the default Silverlight plugin, I can mirror the browser tab, but there’s no sound, and full-screen simply does not work. So, it’s either not fully baked, or it’s not fully supported. Using Flash, it streams fine.
Still, for the price ($35) it’s a pretty good setup. It’s a cheap way to start watching streaming content on your TV, without having to string wires across the room.
Will I keep it? Maybe. I don’t know. I already had all the HDMI ports used with other stuff, and I had to unplug something to try this out. So, I’ll either use another input for something, or I’ll box the Chromecast back up and give it to one of the children. (Hey, kids, if you’re reading this — and you’re not; it’s not cool to get caught reading your parent’s stuff — the first one of you to ask for it gets it.)
Would I recommend you get one? Well, I won’t recommend you don’t. It does work well, and the price is nice.
It won’t replace a Roku, or an Apple TV. But, it will supplement one. Or, it will work as an initial step into the world of Internet TV. As more apps come out, it may be good enough.
So, recommend? I won’t give an enthusiastic yes, but I will give a yes.