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Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast is a small, well priced and sexy looking piece of kit. It promises hassle free plug and play streaming functionality to your living room TV from a variety of devices such as PC, Tablet and Mobile – lets see if it can compete in this crowded market.

Chromecast unboxing
Chromecast unboxing
What is Chromecast used for?

As described by Google, “Chromecast is a thumb-sized media streaming device that plugs into the HDMI port on your TV“. It leverages your smart phone, tablet or PC to send your favourite shows, movies and music to your TV so you can watch online shows on the big screen rather than the tiny mobile screen. At the time of writing, various online channels such as Youtube, Netflix, BBC, BT Sport and Plex are all supported – but Amazon Prime, 4oD, ITV and Now TV are not yet supported.

How does Chromecast work

Why are some channels supported and others not I hear you ask. Well it is all to do with how this clever little device works. One could be forgiven by looking at the Google adverts that its the mobile or tablet device which streams the contents to the TV using wifi. Actually its much more clever than that.

When you select which clip(s) you wish to watch on your mobile phone, it will send the source of the clip to Chromecast. The Chromecast device will then stream the clip directly from the internet to your TV. The mobile / tablet becomes nothing more than a really fancy TV remote at this stage, allowing you to fast forward etc as if you would using the mouse on your computer. However this clever bit requires the individual channels to support the Chromecast APIs which most are now slowing onboarding but some are still holding out.

Clip from youtube streaming on the TV via Chromecast
Clip from youtube streaming on the TV via Chromecast
Chromecast remote control app as shown on my Android Phone - the picture is static on your phone, its just a nice background while your clip plays on the TV
Chromecast remote control app as shown on my Android Phone – the picture is static on your phone, its just a nice background while your clip plays on the TV

The other really feature of Chromecast is its ability to allow you to “cast” any Chrome tabs from your computer directly to the TV. This is a great workaround for certain channels which doesn’t have direct Chromecast support. However, streaming from Chrome browser only works for Chrome on your desktop PC and NOT from your mobile and tablet. There has been some work to improve this but at time of writing this does not yet work well.

My personal favourite use of Chromecast is to pair it with my PLEX server and use it to stream my collection of movies and TV shows which reside on my computer. Its so successful that I am going to have to find another use for my Raspberry Pi which was acting as the Plex client.

Aesthetics and Build Quality

As I mentioned earlier, Chromecast is a sexy little device – at least in the photos. However if like me you dont have a USB connection on your TV, then you end up with wire hanging out to the power socket which makes a mess of the simple look and feel. Although I cant really blame Google for this one, just myself for having an old TV :)

However, I do worry about the life span of this device, it runs super hot all the time, even when idle it is still hot to touch. I also wonder how much electricity it is burning up as I plug it direct into the socket it doesnt go off when the TV is on standby.

Verdict

Google Chromecast is a wonderful little device, I believe its ever growing arsenal of channels and content will make it unbeatable at its £30 price point. Add full support for Chrome Android browser tab casting and it will help Chrome cement its place as the browser of choice too.

Do you have Chromecast? If so, would love to hear what you think in the comments below.

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