All About Google Chromecast

A Quick Review

Chromecast. Courtesy Google

Google announced a $35 device that plugs into your TV and allows you to stream Netflix. How awesome is that? Well, somewhat awesome provided that your interest is mainly in streaming TV, such as Netflix and YouTube videos.

I'm a very experienced streamer. I haven't had cable in my house for years, and I only got a terrestrial antenna this year in order to test a DVR. I ditched it and stuck with the streaming.

I've tested a ton of different devices, and I've got two or three streaming devices hooked to my TVs at any point in time. I don't think users should have to have a huge amount of technical savvy to watch a Netflix movie on their TV, and I think the remote industry needs someone to stage an intervention to discuss their button addiction. That's why I was excited about the new Chromecast and was one of the first in line to purchase one at Best Buy.

The Chromecast is a $35 device (hooray for not spending an arm and a leg), and it's available online through Google Play and through retailers like Best Buy (but not Amazon, who sells the competing Amazon Fire TV).  

Now the Chromecast is a dongle that plugs into the HDMI port of your TV. The device includes a bit of extra cord in case your HDMI ports are inconveniently located, but you must have an HDMI port on your TV for this to work at all. It also needs power, so hopefully the outlet or strip you're using for your TV has room for another plug.

In some cases, you may be able to plug the Chromecast into the USB port of your TV in order to power it. 

You need to have Internet access and a wireless network. If you want to use the Netflix, YouTube, HBO, Google Play, or other streaming service features, you need to have accounts set up for those as well.

You can use Android and iOS phones and tablets as well as computers and laptops to control Chromecast. 

Chromecast Setup

Once you have plugged your Chromecast into your TV, you should follow the onscreen instructions and download the setup app. I found this easier to do from a laptop, but it is technically possible to set up your Chromecast from an Android tablet or phone, too. It doesn't matter which way you configure the Chromecast - you can use something else to connect to it. In fact, I find that using my phone is to connect is my preferred method after playing around with all my devices.

You do need to install a player for each device you want to use with your Chromecast, but you don't have to individually configure it. If you are connected to the same Wi-Fi network as a Chromecast, you can control that Chromecast. That is both an awesome thing and a possible problem. More on that later. 

Playing Videos

If you're interested in this device for playing Netflix or YouTube, it is my current favorite way to do it. Well, I'll give a caveat here. Playing Netflix from my Android phone is my favorite way to do it. You can easily browse to movies from either app and tap on the screen to send them to Chromecast.

(You have to decide you're sending them to Chromecast, which means you can still choose to curl up with your phone and headphones on the couch if you don't want to broadcast to the TV that day.)  Once the Chromecast starts playing the movie, you can do other things with your phone or turn it off. If you have an Android watch, you can also control pausing and playing through it. 

The video playback on the Chromecast is super smooth, and there were no audio glitches or other problems. This is on par with the other ways I have tested playing Netflix movies including: Xbox, Playstation 3, Roku, Google TV, and smart TV apps. (I may have an addiction to home theater equipment.)

I found that playing videos from a Chromebook or Mac laptop was not as smooth, mainly because it forced me to screencast the videos instead of just sending them to the device like I did with my phone. That brings me to screencasting.


With the proper plugin, you can screencast from your browser tab.  Anything in your Chrome browser window is mirrored on your TV. That's great in theory. Really awesome. You could then watch Hulu and all sorts of other videos that have arbitrarily been banned from video streaming devices, right? Well, sort of. Streaming services are free to ban the behavior, and some do. You will also run into hurdles if you want to cast something from a browser tab that is using a proxy server. 

One of the joys/sadnesses about the Chromecast is that it has the potential to be something schools or businesses use to give phone and tablet access to their projectors. That would be amazing. However, the fact that anyone logged into the same Wi-Fi network can potentially control the remote means there are a few bugs to work out before this will see wide use. However, they faced the same issues with the Apple TV. The Chromecast is one better since it is slightly more agnostic in terms of the devices that can use the screencast mirroring feature.

Bottom Line

The Chromecast is a solid and easy solution for streaming videos from services that want you to stream them. That includes a large and growing number of subscription services like HBO Go, Hulu+, Amazon, YouTube, and Netflix. 

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