The Google Chromecast is the latest gadget to come from the minds of the Californian based search wizards, its small, and cheap (RRP £30) but what does it actually do?
Well, it’s a tiny (34g) dongle that connects to the back of your TV or Amp in any spare HDMI port, it’s powered by a Micro USB cable either via a USB post on your TV or the supplied mains adaptor, and once plugged in the magic begins! Your TV or Amp should automatically switch to the right input and it will instruct you to visit.
On your phone, computer or tablet to set up the device, I did this on my Android phone and I was let to install the Chromecast app from the Play Store (the iPhone version is here). The app then guides you through the setup process, giving your Chromecast a name (‘Living Room’ ‘Bedroom’ ‘Ian’ etc), and the details to connect to your home WiFi. Once that’s done, you’re ready to ‘Cast’ content to your TV.
You can cast from a range of Apps (Google Play Music, Google Play Videos, You Tube, BBC iPlayer, Netflix, VEVO Music etc), and the list will grow in time. As well as Mobile Apps, you can cast a tab directly from your Chrome web browser with this extension. It all seems to work pretty well, I tested it the other night when J had a ‘CBeebies had finished’ tearfest, and within seconds I was able to Cast an episode of ‘Timmy Time’ through the iPlayer on my web browser straight onto the TV.
It’s all so magically quick and speedy, it’s just a case of pressing the ‘Cast’ button and the Chromecast instantly wakes and switches over your TV and plays the content. There’s no need to navigate through endless icons or menus, you can have your content almost immediately – I made a quick video to show this in action.
When you are ‘Casting’ to the TV, it’s not actually ‘mirroring’ the content on the screen of the phone, your phone is merely telling the Chromecast where to pull the content from. This saves the battery life of your phone, and also means you don’t have to sit with the iPlayer running, you can continue to use your device like normal. The phone or tablet merely acts as a remote control while the content is casting as the Chromecast itself doesn’t have a remote.
So.. is it worth it?
For £30 – most definitely! I’ve used mine everyday and it’s so quick and easy to share content easily, I love the fact I can cast my massive library of music stored in Google Play Music through my Amp almost immediately. It’s fantastic for stuff I can normally do with my Virgin Tivo box, like watching YouTube videos, or films on Netflix. Both of these on the TiVo need you to navigate the menus, find the app, wait for it to load, then search with the number buttons on the remote control.. It’s a slow process. With the Chromecast you can find something on Netflix or YouTube, and cast it straight away.
Obviously there are a few downsides, it’s brand new technology so there aren’t tonnes of Apps available that are compatible yet, Spotify is a glaring omission for example. For now you can use the Spotify web player and cast the tab, but it’s not a very elegant solution. The ‘Tab Casting’ too is in a BETA phase, so it’s a little rough around the edges, and casting Video / Audio can be a little choppy at times. I imagine this will change in time as more companies embrace it, the BBC have said that it is writing support for Chromecast into their web player now, and I imagine more will follow suite.
Another downside is that anyone connected to your home WiFi has the ability to cast to whatever Google Chromecast they like. This is obviously a doubled edged sword as Google want it to make it easy to share content, but adding more security and passwords would make it less instant. That said, you don’t normally give your WiFi password out to all and sundry so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
It’s a great little device at a price point that is worth a punt, I’m going to pick up a second one for the bedroom TV too, and I think Google have set the price so competitively so people will buy one for each TV. I think this will be a growing area in content sharing, it’s so quick and easy to use, heck I think my Mum could suss how to use it without my help!
View details of Google Chromecast here.
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