Google, after a botched attempt three years ago with Google TV, is now ready to compete with Apple TV. Paired with Airplay, Apple has dominated the marriage of portable devices and television for some time. But, being the proprietary giant that it is, Apple TV requires solely Apple devices for the synchronization process to work. But lo, Google now has entered the market with full force and introduced Chromecast. It offers something every broke, pajama-wearing couch potato wants: versatile, instant synchronization of their [varied] devices with their television set, at a very affordable price. Finally, we see hope in Google’s gadget gear.
Chromecast – What is it?
The Chromecast, capable of ‘casting’ everything you see in your device’s Chrome browser onto the television, is only subtly different from Apple TV. Aside from being a third of the cost, Chromecast allows you to watch videos, surf the net, and stream media from your browser, not entirely unlike Apple’s mirroring function in Airplay. Everything that is cast, though, must take place either through the Chrome browser tab(s) or through independently supported applications—which bypass your device to stream directly to the dongle. This severely limits the “mirroring” of your device to your television set and is bad news for people who’d like to multiply their screen view space by 100 times.
Similarly, unlike Apple TV’s plethora of supported third-party applications, Chromecast has limited support from outside companies offering direct streaming. Currently, only YouTube and Netflix offer direct streaming of media (in which case you can set aside or the mobile device or use it as a remote control) though it is only a matter of before more developers utilize the API to incorporate this feature.
Much smaller and sleeker than the Apple TV box, the $35 dongle looks a lot like old school USB memory sticks. The dongle acts as a link between your TV and your device. There is no other gadget or fuss involved, other than providing power to the dongle either through an AC adapter or, if your TV is fancy enough, a USB port – both are supported with the purchase of Chromecast. A little relief for Apple fans; you don’t have to go out selling your gadgets since Chromecast works for most all gadgets and TVs as long as the app is available for your device (i.e. laptop, phone, tablet).
Setting it up Chromecast
The process is a piece of cake and is really setup to just plug and play. You’ll need:
- TV, with a spare HDMI port
- Wireless internet, with password readily available
- Chromecast dongle
That’s it! Stick the Chromecast dongle in the spare HDMI port (similar to a USB stick) in your TV and choose/plug-in the dongle’s power source. A prompt will appear asking you to download the Chromecast app on your device. After the download completes, the app will automatically detect whichever TV Chromecast is inserted to. Connect, and you will be asked to enter the password of your Wi-Fi, insert the password and your good to go! Start with Netflix shows, and YouTube videos on your handheld device, and view them all on your TV screen – using your handheld device as a remote control, this will ensure that you never lose it.
Although the gadget might sound like it’s a delight to use, and it is; there are a few glitches that might affect your entertainment time, mainly:
You might think that you’ll really enjoy watching ALL your favorite videos but without media companies adopting Chromecast, viewing options are somewhat limited to what is streaming through a Chrome browser. On the bright side, Hulu, Pandora Vimeo and HBO Go have already pledged support and we hope/predict other heavy hitters will soon incorporate the technology into their applications.
Another problem Chromecast encounters is some lag time. Since it relies on your network connection, a weak internet signal will hinder your viewing experience and there may be a delay between your device and the TV. So if you don’t have a good connection to back Chromecast up, you should think twice before buying it.
While Chromecast is a perfect way to turn your portable devices into remote controls, it is hardly the cure for never getting out of the recliner. Limitations include too few third-party entities offering direct streaming and the incapability to mirror all content from your device onto the TV. Regardless, Chromecast is likely to become a ubiquitous technology and, for less than the price of a tank of gas, you don’t have much to lose in adopting it.