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Google Chromecast review: stream media from your Android to your TV

Kris Carlon
4

The Chromecast is a nifty little device from team Google that lets you wirelessly cast your smartphone, tablet or laptop's screen to your monitor or TV. You simply connect the HDMI dongle to your TV and pair it with your portable device via a Wi-Fi connection. From there, anything you can get on your smartphone can be displayed on your TV. It's a simple, cheap and clever solution to watching content stored on your device or via a number of Chromecast app services including Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Pandora and more.

google chromecast anschluss tv
© AndroidPIT
4 ★★★★

Rating

Good👍
  • Very cheap
  • Reliable streaming
  • Easy to setup and use
  • Lots of potential
Bad👎
  • Can be laggy/stuttery
  • Some use case limitations
  • No dedicated interface

Design & Build Quality

The unit itself looks like a traditional Wi-Fi dongle and is small, compact and utilitarian: just what it needs to be. In the box you'll get the Chromecast itself, a USB charger and a female-to-male HDMI adapter which serves as an extension cord if there isn't enough room on your TV to fit the Chromecast alongside other attached cables. There's not much to say about the looks of the device, but it certainly feels well built and has a little more weight to it than you might expect. There isn't a persistant Chromecast interface when the device is connected though, which makes it feel a little less polished than I would have expected. In this respect the Chromecast feels more like a tool than a product. A dedicated interface is rumored to be in the pipelines though.

vergleich chromecast
 © Google

Installation and Use

Installation is a breeze: you simply download the Chromecast app to your smartphone or tablet and plug the device in to your TV's HDMI port. Launch the app on your portable device and it will locate the Chromecast via your Wi-Fi network, walk you through the pairing process and then show you the app itself, where you can browse the available Chromecast apps in the Play Store, check out your connected devices, cast your screen, learn more about the Chromecast or enter the settings menu.  

chromecast 1
Everything you need to turn your Android into a media streaming center. / © AndroidPIT

Display

When you cast your screen through the app your screen content will be mirrored on your television, but if you cast through one of the apps then you'll get a Chromecast interface instead. Casting via the apps themselves rather than by simply casting your screen content actually means your device is then removed from the mix and the connection is made directly from the Chromecast to your Wi-Fi connection instead of being routed through your device as a middle man. This can be a little odd the first time it happens as all of a sudden your screen is no longer being cast if you back out of a native app [Edit: What I mean by this is that your cast content will continue streaming, but your phone will be disengaged, so what your phone screen shows no longer matches the content on your TV]. The benefit of this is increased speed and a dedicated interface.

cast screen
The Chromecast app is super easy to use and navigate. / © Google

The list of Chromecast apps is still relatively short but all the major services are on offer in the US, as mentioned above. Other countries in Europe have some pretty serious limitations on what content is available, but this will undoubtedly grow over time, especially as the device gains traction in the US market. App developers have also been encouraged by Google to make use of the Chromecast SDK to add a cast feature to their apps, effectively making them a native Chromecast app, but in the meantime you can do the slightly less streamlined screen casting of your mobile apps. As Google expands its Material Design UI across all its screens, you'll start seeing more Chromecast apps looking more unified.

chromecast nexus tv
Services like YouTube allow you to use the built-in Chromecast support, disengaging your phone from  the streaming.  © AndroidPIT

Performance

Speed is another issue. Obviously there's a bit of lag in the transmission from your device content to the Chromecast, depending on the speed of your Wi-Fi connection and the amount of traffic on it, but I found the lag to be entirely acceptable. At some times the Chromecast responded near instantly, so it's not something that will always bug you. Unfortunately the unreliable connection speed means that you couldn't really use the Chromecast to cast games to your screen and use your phone as a controller, unless it was more of a slow-paced puzzle game. Of course, you need to be pretty familiar with where your fingers need to be on the device, but if you're good with this then it is at least a possibility.

As mentioned above, when you remove your portable device from the connection triangle things get noticeably faster. In much the same fashion if you are casting from your laptop the opposite is also true: you are then getting a Wi-Fi connection from your router, through your laptop, back through the router and then to the Chromecast. Of course the more apps that build Chromecast support in as a default option, the better it is for the end user experience.

google chromecast anschluss usb
The Chromecast can be powered by a USB port on your TV or with the included wall charger. / © AndroidPIT

Also, if you have a spotty or heavily-trafficked Wi-Fi connection you might not be as happy with the smoothness you see: adding an extra layer of streaming to the viewing experience is going to come with certain drawbacks. All things considered though and on a good connection, the Chromecast is a speedy little gadget that does exactly what you expect it to and could become indispensable if you have friends over that want to share photos, music videos, movies or other media content.

Price vs performance

The Chromecast's 29.95 USD price tag puts it well below Apple TV or Roku, but there is a definite lack of native apps for the service, even this long after its initial launch. There is no doubt that many other alternatives exist with more options, but with Google at the helm you know that Chromecast isn't going anywhere and the available services are only going to grow over time. The Chromecast is available anywhere that Google products are sold, but the services and apps you have access to will be country dependent.

google chromecast teaser setup
It may not be perfect (yet), but the Chromecast is a great addition to your tech kit. / © AndroidPIT

Final Verdict

I found the installation process and use of the Chromecast to be really good. It was easy to set up, reliable and worked as advertized. It's definitely something that could work its way into my everyday Android usage and become a default replacement to always pulling my laptop out when media content is involved. The experience is intuitive but there are some issues: the relatively limited use cases, lack of widespread services, irregular streaming speeds and availability of free apps that do much the same thing are all issues that one should consider before purchase.

At such a low price tag you really can't go wrong with the Chromecast and as a gift I doubt anyone would be disappointed with the available features. If you are already subscribed to Google Ply Music All Access, Netflix, Pandora or other streaming services, then you'd be crazy not to add this great little tool to your entertainment kit. If you're not part of these services then you might find a lot fewer use cases for the device, and it is for this reason that I think the Chromecast is a great start, but not quite the finished product I had hoped for.

Comments

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  • Paisan NYC 4 months ago Link

    I have to disagree with the cons. For the price and ease of use, Chromecast blows Roku, AppleTV, and FireTV out of the water.

    Can be laggy/stuttery? I had similar issues with Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, etc. I came to find out it was my ISP. I had the most basic slow package. When I upgraded one tier higher/faster, I have no issues streaming. If I stream locally from my laptop to the CCast, it only stutters when I am doing other intensive stuff at the same time on that laptop.

    Some use case limitations? - There are dozens and dozens of services providing Casting ability now. Movies, sports, music, web casting, phone screen casting, etc. What more limitations could there be?

    No dedicated interface? - I appreciate no dedicated interface because the app or service dictates functionality. My experience with my old Roku was horrible. Every app had pretty much the same interface, and it was extremely laggy. With the CCast, when I have an app on my phone or tablet, all i have to do is hit the "Cast" icon in that app.

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  • Night Lithium 4 months ago Link

    So, I see that this was posted a day ago... was it written a year ago, and then you just delayed publishing it? Because I don't know how you could have possibly missed, I dunno, 90% of the most important features?

    First off, screen mirroring. You misused it when you said native chromecasting 'mirrors' your screen, it doesn't, casting a YouTube video will highlight this right away. Chromecast enabled apps use a separate interface (you got that part right) so they can act as a *controller* for the content. Backing out of the app, contrary to what you said, doesn't end casting (again, look at Youtube for an example).

    Now, chromecast CAN also mirror your devices screen directly. This means it can display *any* content, in *any* app, running on your device. This is also possible (and fairly trivial) on computers. This is important because it increases the number of things you can do with chromecast from 'stream content from specific providers', to 'do literally anything on your television that your computer or phone is capable of doing'.

    Among the things I've used this for? Playing Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart 64 (both of which require split-second reaction time) in an emulator, on my phone, *wirelessly*, with an Xbox 360 controller (plugged in via a USB OTG adapter). Name me another device that lets you wirelessly play N64 on your TV.

    Obviously this increases the use base out to near-infinite possibilities, some of the other things I've done are 3d modelling and graphic design on the big screen (with 3dsmax and Photoshop), played accelerometer-based racing games (making my phone basically the steering wheel for a near-life-sized racecar) and of course, browsing the internet.

    The "you can't play local content" remark is too ignorant to deserve a response, I've been streaming local content since the first day I got mine.

    Better still, I stream content directly from my Google Drive folder, and from Vuze via DLNA, plus from my Synology (NAS) using a nice app I found (CloudCaster). So not only can you stream from specific authorized apps, you can also stream local content, cloud content, your desktop, and your phone. As a matter of fact, I don't think there are any other things you could stream if you wanted to, with just the one app, but if there was, it would just be a matter of installing an app and *voila*, problem solved.

    Final point I'll make; You don't need to already be subscribed to Google Play Music All Access, or Netflix, since you get free subscriptions to both (at least, I did, when I bought from Amazon). 60 days of all access, 3 months of Netflix.

    I don't know why you'd write an article without doing at least a little bit of research first. I mean seriously, Google 'chromecast local content' - that tiny amount of effort is all it would have taken to realize you were wrong about one of your major points, and fix it before publishing.

    2
  • Daniel Cueto 3 months ago Link

    Hola, agradeceria si me pudiesen responder si el podria chromecast funcionar en la ONU feelnology tv bgh, Tiene puerto Hdmi Pero Lo Que No Se Si en Argentina sí Aplica el chromecast.
    Pregunto PORQUE según rubro AndroidPIT el this Aparato bueno y lo del quiero comprar. Espero do Respuesta, muchas gracias !!!

    1
    • NiKo0LaZ 3 months ago Link

      hola Daniel
      En principio no tendras problems todo lo que necesitas es una coneccion internet y un hdmi en tu televisor y para que sea mas comfortable un USB en tu televisor sera el bienvenido por la alimentacion energetica del Chromecast (sino tendras que enchufarlo al corriente mediante un adaptador que te entregan en la caja del Chromecast.

      0