Google has released their own competitor to Apple TV and Roku called Chromecast. It’s a very small device that plugs into an HDMI port in your TV and can stream Internet video right to your TV. The box is very small and does not come with a remote because your tablet/smart phone/laptop/desktop is your remote. Using the apps on your tablet or smart phone you can stream YouTube videos, Google Play purchases, and Netflix to your TV with the push of a button. For the desktop/laptop you can stream anything that is in your Google Chrome browser, which you should all be using anyway. At a price tag of $35 it’s pretty easy to convince yourself to just jump in. Below is the unboxing as well as my thoughts on setup and use. I’ve had it for a few days now so I’m not a huge expert on it but it’s so simple there really isn’t much to it.
Let’s walk through the pictures and setup. That small box is all you get when you order Chromecast. Opening it up reveals the HDMI device and taking that out shows you there is at least one more wire. Chromecast needs power, as HDMI ports aren’t powered, and it gets it through either a USB port on your TV, which is what I did, or they have an adapter that lets you plug it into a wall. After plugging it in you switch to the HDMI channel for that device and you see that great setup screen. It tells you the URL to go to and you follow the very basic setup instructions. As anyone who knows me will attest, I tend to skip instructions and I misread what I was supposed to do. It said to connect to the Chromecast’s WiFi using my phone or laptop. I thought it meant the WiFi my Chromecast will be on, hence the error screen. Once I reread and then checked the available networks I saw my Chromecast was broadcasting and let me jump on. After connecting you go through a setup to verify that it is installed correctly and to tell Chromecast which network to connect to, give the WiFi password, and give your Chromecast a name! I named mine Chrometastic. It took a couple of tries to initially connect to my network but once it was connected everything was great.
Until I released there really isn’t that much to do with Chromecast right now. There are only a very small handful of native apps that will stream to the Chromecast. Right now only YouTube, Google Play, and Netflix work natively with big names like Hulu, HBO, Redbox Instant, and Revision 3 among others working on apps to be released soon. We don’t use Netflix, we use Amazon Prime Instant Video, so that’s one app I don’t use and I’ve never bought anything from the Play Store, though I may now. YouTube I have never really been into either. I know there are people who can watch hours of YouTube but I never saw the appeal, until now. Using my Nexus 10 I setup a queue of YouTube videos that lasted two hours and just sat and watched all the goofy things that are on YouTube. Very easy to use and the quality on the screen is perfect.
The Hulu app is still in development but I wanted to try streaming from my laptop to the screen using Chrome. I opened up Chrome, downloaded the extension, and headed over to Hulu. I picked a great episode of Psych to see how good the quality would be and hit the Cast button. After a moment of buffering that tab appeared on the TV, video and all. The frame rate was a bit lower than the native apps but it was definitely not terrible. They say that feature is still in beta, what Google product isn’t?, so I hope it gets a little better but it’s not bad at all.
There has been talk of Google blocking you from playing local content through Chromecast. This was a huge bummer to me because that is one of the things I wanted to do with it. Luckily, just as I was writing this, Google has come out and said that they will let you cast content from your local storage. Big plus and I’m glad they said something about it.
I loved everything about the experience and continue to use it as my YouTube watching device. I think it is still really new and needs to be developed a bit more but is worth $35. Once more apps are created for it, really looking at you Amazon, it will be awesome. Even though I know everyone already has a device that plays digital media like a Playstation 3, XBox 360, Apple TV, Roku, the list goes on, I think there is a place for Chromecast if only for the price and YouTube watching.