Chromecast is a $35 streaming dongle that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port. You can use it to stream online videos from YouTube, Netflix and elsewhere by using your computer, cell or table as the remote control. It doesn’t have a specific interface on the TV nor does it require a particular app store. Everything is controlled from the computer or mobile device.
The key element here is control. The mobile device doesn’t stream videos directly to your Chromecast dongle. It just “tells” the device which video it should stream from the cloud. Therefore, once the streaming starts, you can use your mobile device/cpu for other things. Of course, this type of remote control works with apps and specific sites that support Chromecast. Also, with the use of a special Chrome extension, one can stream any web content directly from their computer’s Chrome browser.
Set up is fairly easy as long as you download the set up app on your computer or mobile device. It can literally be done in a couple of minutes. Simply plug the dongle into your TV, connect it to a power source, and fire up the app on your cpu or mobile device. Enter your local Wi-Fi network and all is set.
Streams look great and are very easy to navigate. Big plus, Netflix on Chromecast allows you to track the progress of a video on the mobile device white its playing on the TV. Also, the ability to switch from one device to another makes for convenient functionality.
Another neat feature is that any other Netflix subscriber with a mobile device can log-in to your WiFi and “share” contents of their account on your TV. This can be done without having to switch account information. It can make movie night with friends extremely conducive.
Many will claim that Chromecast setup with YouTube is more user friendly than any of the apps available on mobile devices. However, there is a downside. It is currently only supported if you are on YouTube.com, and not if the video is embedded in another website (which is often the case). Sometimes, there is an issue of “unsupported video format”, but it doesn’t seem to happen often.
Since Chromecast does offer the ability to stream a tab from your PC’s Chrome Browser straight to your TV, screen sharing is a possibility. The idea is to be able to stream anything that is not available through the native app yet. The downside seems to be the quality coming out to be more like VHS (anyone remember that?), which may be too much of an eye sore to some. Google still calls this feature beta for that reason.
The browser-based streaming can also be used to listen to music from Rdio.com which seems to work fairly nice, but can encounter the occasional glitch in volume or tempo.
This feature seems to be the highlight. Chromecast can turn on TVs that support HDMI-CEC and even change input. Sidenote: will only work if it is plugged to the extra power adapter that Google ships with Chromecast.
Overall, Chromecast is proving to be growing in popularity at a very reasonable price. With the high prices of premium cable packages, it is sure to only grow more with more improvements.