Google Chromecast review
- Easy to get smart video on TV
- Simple control
- Easy setup
- Dependent on Wi-Fi speed
- Unlocking phone to watch video
Google Chromecast is a USB dongle that plugs into a TV’s HDMI port to give it ‘smart’ capabilities. Aimed squarely at Apple TV and the plethora of boxes from everyone from Roku to Sky, it allows you to play back Netflix and Youtube video using a phone, tablet or laptop as a remote - and you can even ‘cast’ web pages onto the big screen.
The obvious competitor is Apple TV, with its Airplay functionality. However, Apple’s box offers a lot more content, and access to more broadcasters - at the moment.
The difference, and what could see Chromecast win this round of the living room battle, is that Google is opening access to Chromecast to developers, letting them make apps - something Apple has, so far at least, refused to do, only letting a select few through the gates.
Google Chromecast: Features
At the moment Chromecast is it, Google admits, very limited. There are no games, and only YouTube and Netflix is currently supported. However, the firm is working with dozens of other providers. What you get are essentially three apps - Netflix, YouTube, and the ability to ‘cast’ from a computer, sending a web page to your TV.
Google Chromecast: Interface
Setting up Chromecast is simple, you download an app or visit a URL on your PC, set up wifi, and you’re ready to go - although be warned, you do need to power the dongle either via a USB port on your TV or the supplied power adapter.
The interface is really non-existent, once you’re all set up all you see is a ‘ready to cast’ message displayed until you tell the Chromecast what you want to watch.
Choosing content is easy, and once you’re up and running, a small ‘cast’ logo appears in supported apps. Click it, at the content is
sent to the Chromecast, and begins playing almost instantly.
At the moment, you’re limited to just Youtube, Netflix and the GooglePlay Store - although there are somewhat inelegant ways around this, for instance we were able to watch 4OD on the big screen TV simply by casting a browser window running it - however, you lose the full screen element, and you have to control playback through the PC.
However more services are coming - Hulu, Vimeo and Pandora are on their way, and Google said broadcasters around the world are working on Chromecast apps.
Google Chromecast vs Apple TV
The comparisons with Apple TV are inevitable, and while Google wins hand down on price, Apple wins by a big margin on content. Apple’s iTunes store has superb content, and Apple has also slowly but steadily been adding content provider apps such as Hulu (in the US), Sky News and sporting events such as baseball.
Apple TV also wins on ease of use - while the Chromecast integration with apps is excellent, it doesn’t quite beat the on screen, simple menus of Apple TV for most
Google Chromecast: Verdict
Chromecast is a huge product for Google, and one that because of its incredibly low price, stands a real chance of becoming one of the key ways to get online video in the living room. Whatever Apple has up its sleeve in terms of TV, if Google can quickly start adding apps to Chromecast and boost its features with better music support, for instance, then it could steal a march on Apple’s plans - especially if, as Google says, we start seeing it built into TVs.
Google Chromecast release date: Out now in US, UK availability TBC
Google Chromecast price: $35