Google Chromecast media streamer
Google's media streamer is a little prone to crashes, but when it works, it delivers a blockbuster experience
- Small and easy to install
- Best suited for streaming YouTube content to a TV
- Not a good solution for streaming locally stored video files
If you've always found it a chore to watch YouTube videos on your TV, the Google Chromecast is a neat solution. It simply plugs into an HDMI port on your TV, and receives YouTube content that you send to it from your smartphone, tablet, or computer.
Price$ 49.00 (AUD)
Google's new Chromecast device wants to make it dead-simple to play Internet video on your TV, using a huge range of phones, tablets, and laptops as your controller.
The experience is like using AirPlay to beam content from an iOS device to an Apple TV. Tap the Chromecast button on your phone or tablet, and poof--the video starts playing on your TV. But unlike AirPlay, Chromecast isn't streaming the content from your device itself, but rather straight from the Internet, at the highest resolution available. That means you can still use your device to multitask without interrupting the video. In fact, it works like the Plair, only more reliably and for less money.
These are early days for the Chromecast, and not all of its features worked quite as effortlessly in our office as they did for Google in the company's Wednesday demo. But considering the impulse-buy price of $35, Chromecast is still a worthy purchase--especially since it includes three months of Netflix streaming, a $24 value.
The Chromecast is a small HDMI dongle that plugs into any available HDMI port on your HDTV. But because HDMI doesn't provide any power, the Chromecast needs constant power from a USB port as well. That can be a USB port on your TV if it has one. If no port is available, you'll need to connect the included USB cable to the bundled power adapter and find a place to plug it in.
After you've inserted and powered the dongle, Chromecast directs you to visit a URL on an approved device to finish setup. But when I fired up the Chrome browser on an iPhone 5 to do just that, I was greeted by an error message directing me to use an Android phone, or the Chrome browser on a Mac or Windows laptop. So, while you can use iOS devices to control your Chromecast, your initial setup requires other hardware.
I tried again from a Nexus 4 running Android 4.2, and the URL directed me to grab the Chromecast app on the Play Store. That app automatically detected the Chromecast device and let me name it and add it to my Wi-Fi network. So far, so good. Now the Chromecast was viewable by my iPhone and Mac as well as my Android phone and tablet.
Uh-oh, it's (not) magic
Google's demo started with the TV off, and when product manager Rishi Chandra sent a video to Chromecast by tapping the friendly Chromecast button in the YouTube app for Android, the TV obediently flicked to life. "Chromecast is turning on my TV, switching it to the right input, and now playing YouTube in HD on the TV," he boasted, but that trick didn't work at the TechHive office.
I thought maybe this was because I had plugged Chromecast into the TV's USB port, and it wasn't getting power with the TV off. Not so, apparently. When I plugged Chromecast's power adapter into the wall instead, the TV-on trick still didn't work. The YouTube app for Android saw the Chromecast and let me cast to it, but I had to turn the TV on myself (like a caveman!) and select the proper input to see the already playing video.
While a video is playing, you control it with your device the same way you would if it was playing on that device--meaning, I could mash the volume buttons on my Android phone and see a volume indicator on my TV. If you max out that volume slider, you see a message telling you that if you still need it louder, you'll have to turn up your TV itself. So while you can control playback from your phone or tablet, plan on keeping your TV remote handy too.
But aside from those niggles--and some intermittent crashing back to the "ready to cast" screen, which might be the result of an overcrowded Wi-Fi network here at the office, the other features in Google's demo worked as advertised.
Playing videos from the YouTube apps on Android and iOS was a cinch--just tap the Chromecast button, and select the Chromecast device. YouTube even lets you add additional videos to the TV queue--an obvious "Add to TV queue" pops up on the Android app when you browse to another video, and the same option appears on iOS, but it's slightly hidden under the Share menu.
The Chromecast button appears in Netflix for iOS and Android too, and works like a charm. Once a video is playing, you can put your phone or tablet to sleep to save battery life, and still pause the playback from the lock screen, or pick up the controls from another device on the same Wi-Fi network.
The Play Music and Play Movies & TV apps on Android are also supported and let you cast content you've bought or rented from the Play Store. I was unable to play the Yeezus album that I'd sideloaded in to Play Music, and volume control lagged a little and worked only when I was in those apps. I could put the phone in sleep mode and get forward/back and play/pause controls on the lock screen, but the volume controls didn't work there either.
Chromecast can also display content from a tab in Google Chrome on a Mac, Windows machine, or Chromebook Pixel, although that particular feature is still in beta. Once I downloaded the Google Cast app for Chrome, the Chromecast button appeared in my browser's upper-right corner, next to the URL bar. Casting a tab worked, although the playback lagged behind what was shown in the browser, and I was unable to adjust the volume with my Mac's volume buttons.
Still, I successfully played videos from Vimeo, Hulu Plus, and BravoTV.com. Chromecast strips out the view of your desktop and the browser's menu bar to focus on the content itself, which is a nice touch. I still had to go full-screen on my Mac to get a full-screen view on the TV, which meant I couldn't do other things on my Mac, unless I pressed Command-H to hide the Chrome app, or parked some other Mac apps in another Desktop space. Closing the tab on the Mac halts the playback on the TV.
As expected with anything marked beta, the tab-casting feature crashed a few times. Playback would freeze, attempt to buffer, and eventually return to the Chromecast's "ready to cast" start screen--once with a sheepish error message that said just "Brain freeze."
Still, with an SDK to let more developers add in-app support, a low price, and cross-platform compatibility, the Chromecast has a lot going for it.
Join the PC World newsletter!
Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop
Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive
Samsung portable 1TB T3 drive
Epson EcoTank Expression ET-2500
Everki ContemPRO Roll Top Laptop Backpack
Linksys AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit router
Epson WorkForce ET-4550
Smart LED Bulb LB130
Huawei Mate 9
3SIXT Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
Acer Swift 7
Epson WorkForce DS-360W
Belkin MIXIT Metallic Lightning to USB Cable
Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive
Lexar® Portable SSD
Google Daydream VR headset
Logitech G403 Prodigy mouse
Garmin Fenix Chronos smartwatch
HP Pavilion x360 13”
HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450
Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards
Dell Inspiron 5000 series 2-in-1
Surface Pro 4
Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive
Dell XPS 13 laptop
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Blade 28 backpack by Arc’teryx
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Huawei Mate 9 full in-depth smartphone review
- 2 ZTE Axon 7 review: Is ZTE dumping old stock on Australia?
- 3 Oppo R9s smartphone full review
- 4 Huawei Nova Plus smartphone review
- 5 Google Pixel XL full, in-depth smartphone review: Phones just got smarter
Latest News Articles
- Up next for Apple TV: 4K streaming reportedly in the works
- Apple’s original TV shows are almost ready for prime time
- Apple snags Amazon Fire TV exec to lead Apple TV efforts
- AirTV's slick marriage of Sling TV and OTA channels isn't in the product yet
- Here's what's coming next from Sling TV
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- How to quit Pokemon Go (or to start enjoying it again)
- Huawei Mate 9 full in-depth smartphone review
- Time to ditch Foxtel and the iQ3: How to replace Foxtel packages with cheaper alternatives
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- CCSenior Infrastructure EngineerNSW
- FTInfrastructure Solution ArchitectSA
- FTTechnical Team Leader | ArchitectQLD
- CCFirewall EngineerNSW
- FTJunior Software Engineer - Adelaide Based (PV, NV2 or NV1 required)ACT
- CCSystem EngineerSA
- TPService Desk ManagerVIC
- CCArcSight Security Engineer - Contract - IT Services - SydneyNSW
- CCSecurity Policy AnalystsVIC
- FTNV1 Cleared Software Engineer (Mid level) - Defence Projects - North Ryde areaNSW
- TPSCCM SpecialistVIC
- FTSenior Functional Consultant - Data Analytics - TelcoVIC
- TPOrganisational Change Manager | Enterprise Information SharingQLD
- CCSecurity Policy AnalystsNSW
- FTSenior Web DeveloperNSW
- CCDevOps Engineer - TelcoVIC
- CCWindows System EngineerNSW
- CCSenior Project Manager - ApplicationsNSW
- CCLevel 1/2 SAP Support AnalystACT
- FTSenior Full Stack .Net Developer with Strong SQL DevNSW
- CCSenior Storage System Engineer -NetApp & TSMNSW
- FTTechnical Business AnalystNSW
- TPSenior Network EngineerWA
- FTInfrastructure Architect (Adelaide Based)VIC
- FTTechnical Consultant - SQL Server programming skillsACT