Google Chromecast: First Impressions

The Chromecast HDMI dongle

Last week, Google unveiled a new device that allows you to easily stream any video content from your phone, tablet or laptop to your TV called Chromecast.

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Many devices currently support HDMI out with some form of attachment or onboard port but that means you need a long cable to enjoy it properly. Apple has their Apple TV which I’ve been a fan of and own a number of them for the TVs in my house. Samsung makes a device that is proprietary to their line of devices that does something similar but neither it nor the Apple TV works quite as simply (or as cheaply) as the $35 Chromecast.

I ordered mine from Amazon.com and had it shipped to my US Mailbox in Washington state. It actually arrived in under 48 hours from when I placed the order which caught me off guard as I was expecting it to take much longer and I’m not a Prime member and just used the free shipping option.

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What’s in the box?
The tiny box just has a simple flip open instruction panel and includes the Chromecast HDMI device (with microUSB port on it), an HDMI extension cable for those hard to reach or close to the wall mounted TVs, a microUSB cable and a USB power block.

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The Chromecast does require additional power beyond what HDMI outputs but the included cable makes it easy to plug into the back of the tv if you have a USB port already or into an outlet with the powerbrick.

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There is also a velcro tab included on the cable to clean it up if you don’t need the full length.

Setup
I chose to set it up using my iPhone 5 which was quite painless.

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Once you plug it in and turn on the TV, you switch to the HDMI input and are given a website to visit with the device you’re going to set it up with.

The TV will also display a generic name for the Chromecast which will also be the name of the wifi network that you’ll need to connect to for the initial setup. You’ll only have to do this step once.

After pairing the device to your network, you also enter any password needed for that network. One thing that did surprise me is that the Chromecast only found my non-5ghz networks. Just about every device I own works with the 5ghz N network that my Airport Extreme puts out. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to matter in the end as long as it was all on the same network in my house (which it is). Once you confirm that you’ve got the correct Chromecast, you’re just about done and just have to name it. I called mine “Donggle” (Google + Dongle…get it?)

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Once setup, you’ll need to switch back to your regular wifi network and the TV should be ‘ready to cast’. This means it’s ready to accept any video content you want to send to it. There is also a nice photo slideshow that displays in the background. Hopefully this is something that will be customizable in the future, but at the moment, it doesn’t appear to be.

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The first app I tried to ‘cast’ is YouTube which worked upon launch. Just press the Chromecast button on the top right of the YouTube app and you can choose between the iPhone (or whatever device you’re using) and the Chromecast. It immediately starts to stream the content and you can pause, rewind, etc. on the iPhone and it controls the Chromecast. You can also just press the home button and go somewhere else on the device and your video continues playing. You’ll have to go back to YouTube if you want to stop or pause the video. The volume control on your phone will also control the video volume.

chromecast

Netflix was next and it worked exactly the same…and you have to check out the great new show they have called Orange is the New Black.

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I also tried sharing Chrome tabs on my laptop and the iPhone. Both ‘just worked’. My laptop did require an extension to be installed in Chrome but it was built into the iOS version of Chrome. Strangely, the Chrome app on my Nexus 7 tablet didn’t appear to offer casting despite being up to date but it may just be a buried setting I’ve yet to find. Netflix and Youtube did work fine from the Nexus 7.

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There was a slight delay when scrolling through Facebook (or any tab of browser content) but it was pretty high quality browsing on my TV. You can also switch tabs and continue to surf while a specific tab is displayed on the TV. This will be great for those web only players on some websites.

I have to say that for $35, the Chromecast is a must buy if you have an HDTV or monitor. It just works and works well with any iOS or Android device as well as Mac, PC or Chromebook you have in your house. Google says it will continue to add support for other native services but the Chrome browser integration alone makes that almost unnecessary since any site can work right away. I think this device will be a big deal as it’s very affordable and works with just about everything you already own. Well played, Google!

Amazon.com appears to be sold out due to very high initial demand and it’s supposed to be coming to Canada in the coming weeks.

UPDATE: I just got an email from Amazon with the much coveted 3 month free Netflix coupon code that also mentioned the Chromecast was on it’s way (heh). I was able to redeem it for “100% free 3 months” of Netflix.

Netflix coupon

This effectively brings the total cost of the Chromecast down to about $11. This is despite discussion online about those that ordered after a certain time on the announcement day were out of luck (1pm – my order was placed at 1:25pm) so there is a chance that all Chromecast’s will come with this coupon…at least those in the initial launch period. Not sure if it will apply to retail purchases from Bestbuy in the US.

4 Comments

  1. Stephen Rees says:

    Very pleased that you got it and wrote about it. I think I can probably wait for it to come to Canada – where, no doubt it will cost more. We do have one Apple TV but use it rarely. I assume you have the US Netflix: I gave up on the Canadian version.

  2. Ross Craig says:

    Will you be able to use the Netflix coupon with your Canadian Netflix account? To Stephen it is simple to access Netflix U.S using your Canadian Netflix account.

  3. Awesome. Thanks for the update John. I was waiting before buying to see if I could make use of it at home and it sounds like a winner.

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