- Editor Rating
- Rated 4 stars
- Google Chromecast
- Reviewed by:
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- Cosmetic AppealEditor: 80%
- Design & Build QualityEditor: 90%
- FeaturesEditor: 70%
- FunctionEditor: 80%
- Value For The PriceEditor: 100%
Google's Chromecast brings multimedia streaming benefits to your HDTV via a plug-n-play dongle.
Google unveiled the Chromecast, an affordable media streaming dongle last summer and it was met with a great reception from the media. I've owned my Chromecast unit for around 5 months now so I thought it was about time I give it a formal review. With a $35 price tag, the Chromecast is commonly an impulse buy and rightfully so as Google has priced it significantly lower than its Roku and Amazon Fire TV competitors.
Included with every purchase is the Chromecast dongle, an option HDMI extender, USB power cable, and USB to wall outlet adapter (in case your TV doesn't offer USB power). The Chromecast dongle is small and sleek with a close resemblance to a traditional USB flash-drive. This makes it easy to hide cleanly behind your HDTV and keeps it out of harm's way.
The front of the device offers a standard HDMI male connector and the rear features a button (for resetting the device) as well as a female micro-USB port which is used to power the device. Depending on the type of HDTV you have, you'll need to either plug in the USB charging cable inside your HDTV's integrated USB port or directly into the nearest wall outlet using the supplied USB to wall outlet adapter.
There is a short setup process the first time you plug in your Chromecast, but it is simple to execute and only requires you to do a few things like name your Chromecast and pair it with the correct Wi-Fi network. Once this process is completed, your Chromecast is ready for streaming from any compatible device.
Moving onto the actual features of the Chromecast, it is important to distinguish how it differs from a Roku or Amazon Fire TV. Unlike these competing devices which can operate solely on their own, the Chromecast is not a standalone device therefore it requires a smartphone, tablet, or computer that is connected to the same WiFi network in order to stream content.
Additionally, the number of apps supported by the Chromecast at this time is fairly limited when compared to the offerings of their higher priced competitors so you'll want to take into consideration when choosing which device to buy. There are free apps like YouTube, Pandora, or VEVO although most of the real value comes from premium apps like Netflix, HBO GO, or Hulu Plus which do require a separate paid subscription to access their content.
There are a few noticeable apps that are missing from the Chromecast yet are included on competing devices including Spotify, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Redbox Instant, and Amazon Instant Video. Google has opened up the Chromecast SDK for 3rd party developers benefit so hopefully some sort of app store will be opened in the near future which will make it easier to get more out functionality out of the device.
Current Chromecast Apps
Another big feature found within the Chromecast is the ability to “cast a tab” from your Google Chrome browser which is ideal for discussing a website, presentation, or other web-related medium on a larger HDTV screen. This functionality is rather flexible although it doesn't work for non-supported multimedia websites.
For example, I have an Amazon Prime subscription which means I can access premium streaming content within the Amazon Prime Video library. Since there is no Amazon Instant Video app with the Chromecast, I thought I may be able to cast a Chrome tab from my computer which is playing an episode of Suits through the Amazon Instant Video website. While it works in theory, the execution is poor since the video lags begin thus keeping the audio from matching up correctly and rendering the content unwatchable.
To utilize the apps or stream a Chrome browser tab, you simply click the universal “Chromecast casting” button which is pictured to the right. When connected to a Wi-Fi network featuring an active Chromecast device, you'll find this button on your YouTube videos, Netflix apps, Chrome browser, etc.
I've found the Chromecast to be most useful in groups when sharing media on my 50″ Vizio HDTV. For example, my friends and I like to site down and share funny or cool YouTube videos that we have watched since we last saw each other. Since we all own smartphones, we can easily switch on/off as to whose streaming on the Chromecast as anyone on your Wi-Fi gets access to use of the Chromecast and can take it over at anytime.
For those of you who are looking to stream a video or audio file that's stored locally on your computer, the easiest way to do this is to download a free Chrome extension called Videostream. This allows you to select a local media file and it will begin through your Chrome browser and be pushed to the Chromecast. It is very user friendly and controlling your media playback through the Chrome tab is simple. This isn't an officially supported app by Google themselves, but I've utilized it on multiple occasions and always had a positive experience with it.
In the end, I think Google's Chromecast is a no-brainer purchase for any consumer looking to stream multimedia to their HDTV. While it may not be a standalone player like Amazon's Fire TV or the Roku Stick, you can't beat the price and the ease of use that the Chromecast offers. I'd recommend it to any prospective buyers as long as you understand its functionality and limitations, I plan to purchase 2 additional Chromecasts in the near future so I'll have one for equipped on every TV in my house. It may not compete directly with Amazon or Roku's standalone options, but it wasn't intended to and that is why Google priced it the way they did.
As a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and our Managing Editor, Colt loves testing out the newest tech products/services. His goal is to help better educate other consumers to ensure the most satisfying purchases decisions on consumer electronics and services. When he is not working on creating new content, Colt enjoys spending time with his two Australian Shepherds, Mia and Zoey.