Google's Chromecast device is an affordable TV streaming option for owners of Apple devices or Android smartphones and tablets who are tired of watching their video on tiny little screens.
The latest smart TVs use the power of the internet to deliver what should be the ultimate TV experience. However, the reality for most viewers is a clunky, counter-intuitive internet experience. The idea of a smart TV is great, but we want the TV to be smart, not complex.
The Chromecast is easy to set up, all you need is wireless internet access and a TV. Plug the small flash-stick-sized device into a spare HDMI connection on your TV and a USB cable into a USB connection on your TV and you're ready to go. If your TV doesn't have a powered USB port, you can power the Chromecast from a power point using the supplied adapter. The best thing about the Chromecast is that you should already know how to operate the device, as your phone or tablet acts as both the media player and remote control.
Once the HDMI port is selected on your TV, the Chromecast looks for available wireless networks and attempts to set up automatically. Before you go any further, you need to install the Chromecast app on your Android or Apple iOS device so you can watch video that is streamed or cast from your device to the TV.
Features and services
As with all things Google, by the time you read this review, the boffins at Google central will have added dozens more features and functions. Virtually everything Google does is in a constant beta phase, which may sound great when you get to enjoy all the new apps as soon as possible, but frustrating when features and functions don't operate as expected.
The Plex media player app allows you to send media stored on your computer network to your TV wirelessly through the Chromecast device, while the Allcast app allows you to stream content from your Android device to your TV through the Chromecast device.
Hulu Plus, Netflix and HBO GO are some of the services that you won't officially get on the Australian version at the moment, but you do get Pandora, YouTube and Google Play movies and TV shows, which is pretty cool for a device that retails for only $50.
The Australian services announced at launch time included ABC's iView, as well as Quickflix and Foxtel's Presto movie service. However, more announcements are expected before too long.
Thankfully, the official Chromecast device you buy from Google Play store online or from JB Hi-Fi or Dick Smith hasn't been locked down. This means you can use a VPN to access overseas (geographically restricted) content, if you choose.
The Chromecast isn't an all-powerful smart TV device that will give you an ultimate TV viewing experience – remember it's only $49.95! But it does a great job at sending the content you would normally enjoy on your phone or tablet to your TV. Now that it's officially available in Australia, you can expect much more content to enjoy in addition to whatever you normally watch on your mobile device. Let's hope that other players such as Netflix and HBO Go join the local party before too long.