By Tommy Ly on Thu, 01/09/2014
Google's Chromecast ($35) has been on the market since this past summer, but is it the "Apple TV killer" that many are claiming it to be? The Chromecast may not be a killer, but it definitely is a deadly competitor against Apple's little black box.
The Chromecast is a small, unassuming little dongle that connects to an HDMI port on your computer monitor or TV. To the untrained eye, it could easily be mistaken as a USB flash drive. There's a single LED light and micro-USB port on the back of the Chromecast. Other than some Chrome branding, the dongle is fairly inconspicuous.
Included with the Chromecast are a micro-USB cable, power block, and HDMI extender if you need it. The Chromecast unfortunately doesn't draw power from your TV or monitor, so you have to connect that micro-USB cord and connect it to wall outlet or another powered USB port.
Once the Chromecast is successfully connected to your TV and powered on, I highly suggest finishing the setup process using the Chromecast app for iOS, which took no longer than three minutes for me. Just follow the onscreen prompts, and assuming you have a decent Wi-Fi network, you'll be ready to cast in no time.
First thing's first: Chromecast and Apple TV do not stream content in the same way. You can use Apple TV on its own without owning a Mac or iDevice; you can just plug it into your TV and use it right out of the box. Chromecast, on the other hand, is more of a bridge between content on your device (computer, smartphone, or tablet) and your TV. That being said, the Chromecast is pretty good at what it does.
Google has an ever-growing list of supported apps that can be "cast" to Chromecast. If you're using a supported app such as YouTube or Netflix, a new Cast icon will appear with the rest of the video controls. Once Chromecast takes over and starts playing your content on your TV, you're free to leave the app and use your device for something else. The app you're casting from will serve as a remote if you decide to stop playback.
Video quality was great in my experience. Instead of streaming from your iDevice to Chromecast, you're basically telling Chromecast to go find your content online and handle all the streaming on its own. You aren't streaming to Chromecast from your device, because casting tells Chromecast to stream from the internet.
As a bonus, you can also cast open tabs from your Chrome browser to your TV. And you aren't limited to just streaming fullscreen videos from Netflix and YouTube (fullscreen flash videos work from just about everywhere else). You can even drag files from your computer into Chrome and cast from there, as long as it's a supported filetype.
- Easy to setup
- Small enough to travel with
- Short list of supported apps (for now)
- MUST have a separate device (smartphone, tablet, or computer) to operate
Picking up a Chromecast is a no-brainer if you currently don't have a way to stream content from services like Netflix on your TV. For the price, it's tough to beat, especially since its supported app list will only continue to grow. However, if you need to stream content from your Camera Roll or iTunes library to your TV often, the Apple TV is a better choice.