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Chromecast: My review on Googles streaming magic stick.

As many people today are choosing to cut the cable cord due to rising programming costs and the ever growing advertising on premium channels, there are now more choices than ever for those who need their entertainment fix.  The current reigning champion in the alternate TV space is the Roku.  A small streaming box about the size of a deck of cards that streams multiple channels via your broadband connection.  Apple has a similar approach with its Apple TV.  These devices start at $49 for the Roku and $99 for the Apple TV and have the added feature of being able to stream media from your mobile devices in some cases.

Enter Google with it's Chromecast:

This is a $35 adapter which streams content directly from the internet to your TV by simply plugging a small HDMI dongle into it.  The one thing that needs to be made immediately apparent however is that the Chromecast does NOT stream directly from your phone to your TV.  What it does is pull content from specific apps that are compatible with it and directs it to your dongle.  The advantage to this is that the battery life on your phone or device does not take a hit since it's not processing and beaming the stream to your TV.  Your device is comparable to a high tech WiFi remote control and the dongle is the receiver essentially turning your TV into a "Smart TV."

Opening the box reveals the main HDMI adapter along with a dongle (in case you need extra mobility), and a USB cable with a power adapter.  If your TV has a USB port built in then chances are that you won't need the power adapter.  It should power the dongle just fine on its own.

On the box itself are the instructions which are pretty simple.  Plug it in.  Switch to the correct input.  Set it up by going to Chromecast setup.  Once on the web page you will be asked to download the Chromecast setup app for your PC.  Follow the setup to get the Chromecast connected to your network.  Once this setup is done, you will be prompted to get the Cast extension for the Chrome browser.  This will let you send Youtube and Netflix videos from your PC directly to your TV.  There is also a "Beta" feature that will let you stream any tab from your Chrome browser or even your entire desktop to your TV.  Your mileage may vary since this is an experimental feature.

To use this device with your Android or iOS device simply download the app from their respective stores.

Chromecast App for Android

Chromecast for iPad

Once installed the app will inform you of the respective services that are compatible.

For Android they are:

  • Youtube
  • Netflix
  • Play Movies
  • Play Music
  • Hulu Plus
  • Pandora
For iOS they are:

  • Youtube
  • Netflix
  • Play Music 
Google claims that there will be more apps in the works that will support the Chromecast in the near future. Since I first purchased mine, Hulu Plus, and Pandora have been added.  I hope to see more services in the future such as HBO Go and Crackle.  Overall the service works great.  You simply start the app that you want to work with, press the Chromecast icon and the streaming starts on your TV.  You can then continue to multitask on your device while the stream plays.  

Press the Chromecast icon and the magic begins
You can adjust the volume from your device and in the case of Youtube you can even queue videos.  On my TV set videos from both Youtube and Netflix were a crisp 1080p and ran flawlessly with no buffering issues.  

There is another device that works similarly which is the Playstation 3 but that system will not be in the $35 price range anytime soon.  Roku and Apple TV do more but they take up more room and cost more.  To sum up this review, the Chromecast is a steal at $35 and will be an even better deal as Google releases more compatible services.  Everyone should have one.


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