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 newsletter!
Panasonic OLED 4K Ultra HD TV - TH-77EZ1000U
WD MY PASSPORT™ X Gaming Storage
cloudandco Smart Cane
Bang and Olufsen BeoVision 14
Dyson Supersonic™ Hair Dryer Fuchsia/Iron
Apple iPhone X
SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™
WD MY PASSPORT™ Gaming Storage
Nespresso Creatista Coffee Machine
Panasonic OLED 4K Ultra HD TV - TH-55EZ950U
Toys for Boys
Ubiquiti Network’s Front Row Camera
Propel Star Wars T-65 X-Wing Drone
LaCie Rugged USB-C Portable Hard Drive
Bose SoundLink Micro
Leica M10 Digital Rangefinder Camera
Lego Mindstorms EV3
Google Daydream View VR Headset
Onyx Smart Walkie Talkie
Panasonic Hi-Fi - SC-UA7GS-K
PETKIG Go Smart Dog Leash
Toffee Bags Commuter Satchel
Belkin Pocket Power 10,000mAh
Amazon Echo Bluetooth Speaker
Nest Protect Smart Smoke Alarm
Xbox One X
WD MY CLOUD™ HOME Personal Cloud Storage
Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K
Dearear Endear In-ear Wireless Earphones
iRobot Roomba 980 Vaccum Cleaning Robot
Urbanworx Full HD Action Camera
Ikea NORDMÄRKE Wireless Charging Pad
Tile Pro Bluetooth Tracker
Kogan Bluetooth Soundbar
Panasonic Portable Splashproof Fun - RF-D20U
Lexon Flip Alarm Clock
Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse
Raspberry Pi Starter Kit
3SIXT 3-in-1 Smartphone Lens Kit
Logitech Doodle Collection Wireless Mouse
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review: A solid winter flagship that cribs from the best
- 2 Google Pixel 2 review: not quite 'pixel perfect' but damn close
- 3 Huawei Nova 2i review: Flagship features get smuggled into the mid-tier
- 4 Moto X4 review: This is what a world without MotoMods looks like
- 5 Giabyte Aorus X9 Gaming Laptop review: Full, in-depth review
Latest News Articles
- Foxtel Now's new streaming device launched weeks after TelstraTV
- Logitech announce new MX Sound speakers
- Telstra looks to solve 'Entertainment Exasperation' with new 4K Telstra TV
- Sonos reveals Sonos One, an Alexa-enabled speaker that will support AirPlay 2 and Google Assistant
- Bose Introduces Tiny New Bluetooth Speaker
PCW Evaluation Team
It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.
Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.
The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.
The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.
The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic
I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.
- Huawei Mate 10 Pro review
- The Best Australian Black Friday Tech Deals That Aren't On Amazon
- Wolfenstein The New Colossus Review: a Nazi-stomping shooter that's more than the sum of its parts
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
Product Launch Showcase
- CCTest Analyst - BrisbaneNSW
- CCBusiness AnalystACT
- FTHealthcare TesterVIC
- CCMicrosoft Dynamics AX Project ManagerQLD
- FTSenior .Net DeveloperQLD
- FTSenior Business ConsultantOther
- CCChange ManagerNSW
- CCScrum MasterQLD
- FTInformation Security ManagerVIC
- CCWeb Applications Project ManagerQLD
- CCSecurity/ Penetration Test AnalystQLD
- TPProject Manager - Records ManagementVIC
- FTDrupal DeveloperACT
- TPSAP ABAP DeveloperQLD
- FTWeb DesignerOther
- FTDevOps EngineerNSW
- FTNetwork Lead AcrhitectACT
- FTWindows Server EngineerOther
- FTTechnical Business AnalystOther
- FTSenior Business AnalystOther
- TPSenior Project CoordinatorVIC
- FTCyber Security Program ManagerACT
- TPBusiness Consultant - Dynamics CRMWA
- CCInfrastructure Specialist - Pharmaceutical IndustryVIC
- CCITSM OR iTIL Business AnalystNSW