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Google Chromecast review: this streaming stick gets better and better

Authored by: Kris Carlon — 2 weeks ago

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. It's been around for a while, and has seen some big improvements in the meantime. Read our updated Chromecast review to see what's changed about Google's clever little streaming stick.

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

Google Chromecast release date and price

The Chromecast was first released back in July 2013, and was essentially the same device back then as the one you can still buy today.

The Chromecast price is pretty much unchanged as well. The TV dongle initially cost $35 in the US and £30 in the UK, and that price tag remains today. The Chromecast sometimes drops by $5 or £5 in price, but its price essentially remains stable.

Google Chromecast design and 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. 

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The Chromecast will spend its life hiding behind your TV, and its design indicates practicality rather than elegance. / © ANDROIDPIT

Installation and Use

Installation is a breeze. You simply download the Chromecast app to your smartphone or tablet and plug it into your TV's HDMI port. Launch the app on your laptop, phone, tablet or PC, and it will locate the Chromecast via your Wi-Fi network. Once you've set it up, 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.

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 for that app 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.

androidpit chromecast logo
This icon is important. If you see it in an app or in your browser (a much smaller version of it), then click or tap it to stream whatever you're viewing to your TV through your Chromecast. / © Google

Google Chromecast software

When the Chromecast was first released, there wasn't a persistent Chromecast interface when the device was connected. This meant that it lacked a bit of polish with its presentation. Many updates later, and things have changed quite a bit, as the channel on which the Chromecast is plugged in now has a dedicated background, which you can add your own slideshow of pictures to.

The option to 'Cast Screen' has also now been added to the Chromecast Android app, and works on the vast majority of devices. This is great if you want to share a video or a bunch of pictures you took with friends on the big screen.

Apps for various streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Instant Video, BBC iPlayer and many more are available now, but bear in mind that these services remain region-specific. So HBO Go will only be available to US viewers, while BBC iPlayer is only available in the UK.

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Big Web Quiz is a must-play game for the Chromecast. / © Google Creative Lab

There are some great, inventive little games available for the Chromecast now too. Check out our list of the best Chromecast apps for all our favorites, but we can say off the bat that Big Web Quiz is a must-play. It's a colorful trivia quiz game where each player uses their own device to guess answers to questions generated by the Google Knowledge Graph.

The Chromecast's $30 price tag puts it well below Apple TV or Roku, and the ever-increasing number of apps available for its value for money better and better. Sure, the latter options are still more feature-packed and have their own interfaces, but the Chromecast thrives on its own simplicity.

Google Chromecast 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. There are occasional stutters, but the performance of the Chromecast has improved a great deal since its initial release.

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

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.

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, and many of the issues - such as a lack of content, interface, and connectivity issues - have been ironed out.

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 Play 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. Like a fine wine, or Android itself, the Chromecast has improved with time, and matured to be a much better device than when we first got our hands on it.

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The Chromecast is an affordable and nifty piece of equipment. Will you be getting one? / © ANDROIDPIT

Has our Chromecast review helped you decide whether you'll be getting Google's clever little streaming stick? Let us know in the comments.

Kris Carlon comes to the AndroidPIT Editorial Team via a lengthy period spent traveling and relying on technology to keep him in touch with the outside world. He joined the Android community while resurfacing in civilization back in 2010 and has never looked back, using technology to replace his actual presence in other people's lives ever since. He can usually be found juggling three phones at once and poring over G+ posts, Reddit and RSS feeds.

6 comments

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  • Derek Baker {Taff} 2 months ago Link to comment

    Hi i just bought one and its the bees knees so far,news and views will be great ..thanks,Taff.

  • Ellett 2 months ago Link to comment

    It's well worth noting that there are over twenty thousand (20,000) cast-enabled apps!!!

    Google Cast is by any measurement an industry standard.

  • Daniel Cueto Aug 22, 2014 Link to comment

    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 !!!

    • NiKo0LaZ Aug 24, 2014 Link to comment

      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.

  • Night Lithium Aug 1, 2014 Link to comment

    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.

  • Paisan NYC Jul 31, 2014 Link to comment

    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.