Gadget Review - Google Chromecast (Updated as of 12/17/13)

I may be a little late to the game of reviewing the Chromecast. I had it a couple days after launch, but faced some busy periods during the summer and needed to fully experience the device before reviewing it. This device has changed the way I interact with my TV and all media.

For those that don't know, the Chromecast is a device created by Google to bring media to your TV. The device is a small HDMI dongle with a USB port for power. If your TV has a USB port, you can probably power the Chromecast without a wall outlet. Once you start the device up, you can use a smart device to give it access to your wireless network. The device does not stream media from your phone, but rather receives a "command" from your smart device, which tells the Chromecast to stream directly from the source.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the Unboxing of Google's Chromecast. Since then, I've tested Netflix, Youtube, Google Play Music/Movies, and even mirroring my Chrome Browser Tab on my TV. I have been very pleased with the results. Here's what I found:

 

 


Here we can see my very professional diagram of how the Chromecast works

 

Netflix

My goodness, Netflix is amazing with the Chromecast. Best Buy gave me a free 3-month trial/extension with the purchase of the Chromecast, meaning that my $35 investment came with a $24 value. From an investment standpoint, that means the device is costing me $11 before taxes, given that Netflix is something I already have purchased.

The Netflix interface is amazing. I use both my Galaxy S3 and iPad to control Netflix, and I can even alternate each one. If I start up a movie with my iPad and then plug it in to charge, I can access Netflix from my Galaxy S3 and control it from there. I can pause, change the video playing, reverse 10 seconds, and even stop the video from streaming.

Youtube

Youtube has a few unsatisfactory aspects, but overall is great. With the growing level of professional Youtube Producers, I can see the Chromecast being a useful device. I can add items to a TV Cue, so they play one after another, which is nice to build as the first video has an intro to it. My issue is with the inability to edit the playlist once it is started. Another complaint is how difficult it can be to get back to the TV Cue once you leave the app. Finally, I dislike the new Youtube interface. It makes me feel as if the Chromecast is not a priority for Google, which I completely understand at this point.

Google Play/Music

I use Google Play Music for all of my music. It's just easier for me. I rarely purchase movies from Google Play because I have both Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, but I streamed a free video from it.

Music works well, the presentation is nice. My only complaint is that the iPad doesn't have an official Google Play app, so I am forced to use my Galaxy S3 for this purpose. Combine the Chromecast with a nice speaker system, and you have your entire music collection through your speaker system with a smartphone as the remote control. In addition, anyone on the WiFi can attach their Google Play collection through the system.

Play Movies works just fine. It was designed to work well with the Chromecast. No complaints.


Update: The Chromecast now supports the following systems on it:

  • Netflix
  • Youtube
  • HBO Go
  • Hulu Plus
  • Pandora
  • Google Play
  • Chrome Browser

All of which work fantastic. The device is quickly becoming a powerful system for cable-cutters or people who just want to bring more media into their entertainment space.


 

Chrome Web Browser

The Web Browser interface works quite well. On maximum resolution/quality, there is a lag, but once you lower the quality, it is usable. However, I felt that text-based webpages look horrible under the 480p quality. Even under 720p, it isn't perfect, and we have a lag. Perhaps it is my router or connections, but for me personally, this device was not delivering. Also, note that you must download the Chrome Extension if you want to cast your browser to your TV.

Something Else

While investigating the Chromecast, I came across a Google Plus Post Giving You the Aircast App for Android. Install this .apk file and you can stream videos from your device to the TV. This is great for home movies, digital content on your device, and music. Be warned, it will eat up bandwidth across your wireless router. Totally worth it.

This feature is no longer available. Google decided to pull this support through a system update.

What's Next?

Well, the Chromecast is definitely worth the $35 investment for just the above listed items. However, in order for this device to follow Google's reputation, we need the following:

  • Ability to work with embedded Youtube videos
    The Chromecast must take videos from a Youtube App. Yes, I realize this is mandatory due to the limits of the software, but if I could use a Chrome Browser to reroute the video to the TV, it would definitely enhance the experience.
  • Support from third party apps such as HBO Go, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Hulu, Vimeo, news sites, and anything else that delivers content to mobile(HBO Go and Hulu support has been added)
    Yes, the Chromecast is young and we will expect these soon, but it would have been nice if Google had pushed other companies to enable this from launch. I am on the verge of dropping Cable TV to save money, and being able to stream any video source to my Chromecast would be amazing. There are rumors that many of these companies are developing for the Chromecast already.
  • Better interface for multiple sources and continuous access to the Cue
    I would LOVE to have a dedicated app to the Chromecast to add multiple sources to the cue of the device. I think it would be awesome to stream a youtube video, and immediately after, set up a cue that switches to Netflix or Google Play Music. It would simply enhance the device. Also, having this access would definitely help me to access cued content once I lock it in. I would like to change order, delete, add, insert between two items, etc.

Overall

One thing I failed to mention above is the Chromecast's HDMI CEC functionality. If I have my TV on and another input is running such as an Xbox 360, I can "activate" the Chromecast and have my TV switch to the Chromecast HDMI port automatically. This is great for some very specific reasons, but here are a few that I thought of:

  • Commercial breaks during a TV show? Switch to a 3 minute Youtube video.
  • Can't beat a level or need a tutorial for a video game? Pause and swap to Chromecast to watch a how-to video.
  • No need to even have the TV remote with you if you want to watch a Netflix video on a TV that is already on. Just add a video and it will auto-change.

Overall, it would be pretty foolish to not purchase the Chromecast, especially if you don't have a Roku Player or Apple TV. If you have one of those, the Chromecast is not going to give you more features or functionality. Perhaps the Chromecast would be a nice side investment for a spare TV or for on the go.

Combined with the free Netflix extension/trial of 3 months and the delivery, the Chromecast is a great investment. While it still needs to be developed, it is important that we acknowledge this device as a constantly evolving entertainment device. It is bringing us closer and closer to having the choice to drop Cable TV instead of being forced to use it for our entertainment.

9/10
9.5/10

I can guarantee that in time this will be a 10/10 device, but I cannot give a perfect rating until the interface is fixed and there is more support.