Saturday, August 3, 2013

Chromecast - Initial Impressions

These are my initial impressions/notes on the Google Chromecast media streaming device.


The out of box experience is pretty simple. Plug in the Chromecast to an HDMI port on your TV, and the USB into power (I plugged it right into the USB on my TV).  A few short steps of configuration via wifi (either via phone/mobile app or PC app) include setting the Chromecast device name and wifi network connection options.   I should note that the app to configure the Chromecast connects via wifi directly to it, after which you then enable the device to connect on the network for streaming.

Casting (playback/streaming)

With my setup, the TV will automatically switch HDMI inputs when starting a cast.   This may be related to using power off the smart/Anylink USB connection on my TV.  I'll have to try using wall power at some point to see if it behaves the same.

Mobile Device

There are only a few apps that stream from mobile at the moment, including YouTube, Netflix, and Google Play Music/Movies.   However, a lot more are in the works coming soon or down the road.   With what I tried out, it all seems to work great.  Streaming YouTube for example automatically scales up the size for the TV resolution perfectly.  All the apps have a 'cast' button that you can use to start streaming.  Unfortunately Google Music wont let you cast 'sideloaded' music, so that means you cant play items locally stored on your phone.

PC/Laptop (via Chrome browser extension)

The default cast option is to display the current tab from Chrome.   It will show the tab in full screen on the TV.   Chrome will play videos from a Chrome tab in full screen, including audio! I did this simply by dragging a video file onto the chrome tab.  The double bonus of this is, you can minimize Chrome on the playing device, and it still goes full screen to the TV while you do other stuff on the casting device.

The Chromecast extension on the Chrome browser also lets you display your entire desktop as an option.  Seems to work great too, except for a couple things.  For one, it does not display the mouse.  Therefore you cant really use it to use your TV as a full screen browser, you still need the visibility of the pointer on the PC. You also cant display full screen apps, the cast will actually just continue showing the desktop/windows that are up 'behind' the full screen app.

Final thoughts

The Chromecast is a pretty slick device, and works quiet well at what it does, especially at the pricepoint it is offered.  I'm looking forward to the future where more apps and likely games will take advantage of it.