The Google Chromecast is a small compact device which sits quietly in your HDTVs HDMI port ready to stream media content. Priced at just £30, the Chromecast is rather inexpensive and offers a great alternative to other media players to watch online streams such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube.
What’s in the box?
The Chromecast comes in a compact and attractive square box. Inside, there is an AC power adapter, a USB to microUSB cable for power, an optional HDMI extender to improve your WiFi signal and of course the Chromecast device.
The setup process was fairly simple, though people who are not confident with technology may struggle slightly. To get started, the Chromecast needs to be connected into the HDMI port of your TV and connected to external power through a USB port. Most modern TVs have a USB port included though Google has kindly included an AC power supply in case your TV does not have a spare USB port. Once you have physically connected the device to the TV and have hooked it up to some power, you need to switch your TVs input to the appropriate HDMI signal.
The first thing you will need to do during the setup is to connect to your Chromecast device. To do this, you will need to visit: https://cast.google.com/chromecast/setup/ on your smartphone, tablet or computer and download the app. Once you have downloaded the app, and installed it, it should be able to find your new Chromecast device. When you click ‘Continue’ it will move on to the next stage, displaying a code on your TV screen and device. This process is just to check if you are communicating with the right Chromecast. If this code is the same on both your TV screen and device, you will then need to connect it to your router through WiFi. The Chromecast also allows you to enter a name for it during this stage which is a handy feature to help identify your Chromecast, especially if you have multiple Chromecast’s connected to your network.
That’s it! Once you have connected your Chromecast to the Internet you are ready to stream. You will need to download additional extensions or applications to use some other features, such as the Google Chrome extension to stream a tab.
The setup process was relatively easy, though we initially tried to use it on our desktop which used a wired Ethernet connection to the router. Unfortunately, the initial setup of the Chromecast cannot be completed through a wired Ethernet connection so it’s important to have a WiFi enabled device nearby, such as a laptop or smartphone.
The Google Chromecast requires an app, either on your computer, smartphone or tablet to tell the Chromecast what to stream. The UK version can support the major apps such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube as well as less popular apps. There are some other apps which support the Chromecast, including Google Play Movies and Plex. You can view what apps are supported by visiting the official Google Chromecast webpage.
In addition to smartphone apps, the desktop version of Google Chrome is capable of streaming content to your Chromecast. Google Chrome can stream a browser tab or even your whole computer screen. While these features are still being improved they are certainly helpful since you can beam your screen over to the TV to show other people content, rather than crowding round your laptop screen. To use these features on Google Chrome with your Chromecast you will need to download the Chromecast extension from the Chrome app store.
If you have local video files stored on your hard drive it’s also possible to beam them over to your TV using the Chromecast. Google Chrome is capable of playing some video formats within the browser, so it’s possible to load the video in the browser and cast the tab to your TV. When we did this the quality was good, though the video often stuttered and appeared choppy in places. Another downside to this is that the video will need to be playing on your computer while it’s being streamed to your TV.
Ease of use
The Chromecast was created to be an effortless, easy to use method to stream content to your HD TV. We found that the Chromecast was incredibly easy to use, especially from an Android device. On our Android device we used the YouTube and BBC iPlayer app which were very easy to start casting. A Chromecast compatible app has a casting icon which can send the video to your TV. We were trying to think of any alternative ways Google could have implanted the casting option, though we don’t think it could get any easier.
Performance and quality
The video quality of the Chromecast is good, especially from sources such as BBC iPlayer and YouTube. Mostly, the overall quality of the video will rely on the stream though the Chromecast showed no strain of playing a HD stream as the playback was smooth and clear. The performance of the Chromecast is good to, taking only a few seconds to start the stream after you send it to the Chromecast. If you want this device for streaming from online sources it’s important to consider your network speeds. Like other streaming players, the Chromecast requires a fast Internet connection to watch HD streams.
For £30 the Chromecast is an affordable device to stream content to your TV. The initial setup is fairly easy however, you need a WiFi enabled device such as a smartphone or laptop as you cannot setup the Chromecast using a desktop with a wired connection to the Internet. There is a wide range of apps supported on the Chromecast, ranging from BBC iPlayer to YouTube, though other common players are, at the time of the review, not supported on the Chromecast. Internet streaming works really well, offering high quality video streams and smooth playback.
In addition to apps, you can also use the Google Chrome web browser to cast web tabs or your entire desktop. You can also use this method to play local media to your TV, which is saved on your hard drive however, we found the playback was stuttering slightly.
The Chromecast is a great alternative to other media players and is very affordable. We feel that it’s certainly worth considering if you are looking for a cheap way to watch catch up TV in HD.