Review: Google Chromecast

I’ll start off by saying that I typically don’t purchase new gadgets right away — I’m not an early adopter. But, for $35, the Chromecast is a pretty easy impulse buy. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s an HDMI stick (commonly referred to as a dongle) that plugs into your TV, connects to your WiFi network, and allows you to watch and listen to online content. Here are snippets from the official product page:

With Chromecast, you can easily enjoy your favorite online entertainment on your HDTV—movies, TV shows, music, and more from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Google Play Movies and Music, and Chrome.

Chromecast works with devices you already own, including Android tablets and smartphones, iPhones®, iPads®, Chrome for Mac® and Chrome for Windows®. Browse for what to watch, control playback, and adjust volume using your device. You won’t have to learn anything new.

Most consumers will probably buy one without ever reading a review. That’s not to say it’s not worth it, because it is. And since it’s relatively new, I figured I’d write about this device that seemingly has a lot of potential.

Setup

A power source is required — you can either connect the Chromecast to the back of your TV if you have a USB port or to an outlet via the supplied adapter. You’ll go to the website specified in the box only to enter your WiFi credentials. After that, you’re ready to cast.

My TV fortunately has a USB port.

Use

It doesn’t matter which device you use (phone, tablet, PC, etc.) as long as both the Chromecast and the casting device are on the same network.  For example, the button to cast will not appear in the YouTube app if you don’t enable WiFi. I realized this when my brother wanted to cast from his Galaxy S3 but didn’t have the option. This brings me to one of the great features — the ability for more than one device to cast and edit the TV queue. Others have viewed this as a security issue since anyone can throw whatever they want onto the TV. I see it as a point for ease of use, but I’m not against having a list of ‘trusted’ devices. The experience is very similar to watching a YouTube video in a Hangout. The differences are: you’re all in the same room and you won’t have to worry about timing issues because someone has a slower connection.

There does seems to be one issue for playback of YouTube videos that begin with an ad. After the ad finishes, the video doesn’t start — go figure. That’s one negative and hopefully it’ll be fixed soon.

Wrap-Up

I don’t have a Netflix account. If I did, the value of this device would be that much better. For the price, this device allowed me to do some serious “cable cutting”. I no longer need a dedicated box under my TV to watch YouTube. Sure, Roku and Apple TV are quite small; however, you still need a cable from the device to a power outlet and another cable (HDMI, composite, etc.) from the device to the TV — not to mention you’ve also added another remote control to your collection. The Chromecast is around a third of the price and has just enough functionality and app support. For those of you who do have Netflix and Hulu, what are you waiting for?

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