Four Months with Chromecast

December 6th, 2013 2 Comments

Since Google announced the Chromecast earlier this year, I’ve been stoked to see how it developed.

The little device has a ton of potential, and even though Google has been a little slow to push its adoption, even slowing down the efforts of some curious developers, they do seem committed to the device.

I preordered one immediately and have since added another, all for one purpose, cutting the cord, which I finally did a couple months ago. HuluPlus support sealed the deal for me.

After four months using the Chromecast every day, I still love it.

The Good

There’s a lot to like about the Chromecast, even if you set aside the price. One thing I’ve noticed over four months is there’s a ton of content available in the Google Play Store. The Play Movies & TV app supports the Chromecast, obviously, and before the Chromecast, I never really considered the Play Store as an alternative to Amazon or iTunes for movies and TV.

Unsurprisingly, it’s very easy to buy content and cast it, all from the device. I’ve never used an iOS device with AirPlay to do this with an Apple TV, but my guess is that they’re similarly easy. I don’t know if Amazon probably has anything like this for the Kindle Fire, but I have to assume if they don’t, they soon will.

If you don’t subscribe to Netflix and/or HuluPlus, you’re probably not in the market for a Chromecast. But if you do, it offers a great way to get content onto your TV, smart or otherwise. This is a plus, given the relative size of smart TV ecosystems when compared to Android and iOS.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d much rather cast Netflix to my TV than use an app built for a smart TV OS.

Speaking of the TV, the Chromecast turns on the TV to the appropriate HDMI input when you cast, which is nice. You can also control volume from the player, if the app supports it, but alas, to turn off the TV, you’ll have to find the remote.

A final unexpected plus I’ve noticed is that having my device at hand while I’m watching and controlling programming means more second screen activity. So, I find myself looking up stuff on IMDB that I would have tabled for never in the past. On the downside, I end up reading email too.

The Rest

Not many apps have adopted Chromecast yet, which seems to be a combination of Google’s desire to keep development tight and perhaps a wait-and-see approach from content owners.

Right now, only a handful of apps support it, Netflix, HuluPlus, Pandora, Play Movies & TV, YouTube, HBO GO and Play Music. That’s a lot of content, but depending on what you watch, wider support probably matters.

Update: Today, Google announced a slew of new apps that support Chromecast.

Of course, one major feature of the Chromecast is its ability to cast from any computer with Chrome and the Google Cast extension. Although the majority of my experience has been casting from a device, I have done so from Chrome, with mixed results. You can also cast local content from the computer too.

Like anything over a network, speed matters. The faster your wifi, the better the casting experience.

Turns out that router placement for the device that’s casting matters too.

I’ve found that if my device has low (one bar) connectivity to my router, the device often loses connectivity to the Chromecast. This results in an uncontrollable stream, i.e. the player on the device disappears and I can no longer pause or stop playback, bit of a bummer, but not a fatal flaw.

It turns out that all players are not created equally. Most of them do offer the ability to pause from the lock screen on Android, which is very nice, but from a consistency perspective, each player implements casting differently.

For example, Netflix offers a stop button from their player, which is full screen, while HuluPlus does not, because HuluPlus doesn’t seem to offer stop at all in their app.

nfHP

For comparison, here are the players for Play Movies & TV and YouTube.

pmtvYT

So, yeah, each one is different, even those produced by Google for its own apps. Minor complaints, and to be expected.

Google seems poised to expand support for the Chromecast, which is great news. Rumors suggest that media center app, Plex, will soon release support for it. Personally, I’m looking forward to casting from the native Android Gallery so I can cast pictures and video of my daughter.

Anyway, those are all my thoughts on the Chromecast after using it for four months. At $35 a piece, it was a no-brainer to buy one for each of my TVs. I may even buy it as a holiday gift.

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2 Responses to “Four Months with Chromecast”

  1. Ultan Says:

    Gotta get it.

    Looks like a major spanner in the works for Apple, though i am not sure it’s TV or Media direction is something for 2014 anyway…

  2. Jake Says:

    @Ultan: I don’t think the Chromecast hurts Apple too much short term, but it will help Google protect its turf and maybe make some headway into Apple’s ecosystem, e.g. several TV manufacturers say they plan to include support for the casting protocol. Looks like a long game.

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