Chromecast – The Future of TV?

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IMG_0779 A few months ago, I was really excited to receive my new Google Chromecast in the mail. I know – I am weird, but I’m a geek and these type of things get me going.  The bad part was, I had to wait so long.  I literally ordered the $35 Device the night it released – but due to initial popular demand, I was backordered….and not in a good way.  Initial estimates were 1-2 months before I received it.  Knowing Google, I thought that meant Christmas, so you can imagine my surprise when it showed up only after a three week wait.

For those of you that do not know – Chromecast is a digital media player developed by Google.  Its a small device that plugs into an HDMI Port (but still needs a power source – more on that in a minute) and allows you to stream HD Video from the internet (or local network) via WiFi.

I was pretty excited to get Chromecast, because AppleTV never really worked for me.  I saw the benefit, but for some reason…it just didn’t click.

The first thing I learned about Chromecast, is it needed power.  With newer devices that the Mobile High Definition Link (MHL) standard via HDMI ports, this isn’t an issue.  However, with older devices – you might have to find an alternate source.  Chromecast solves this with an additional USB cable that can take the 5V required.  This did pose a problem for me however, as we have a mounted TV that snakes the cables through the wall.  Sadly, the provided cables (both HDMI and USB) were to short for this – plus it would be a huge hassle to get behind the TV.  Luckily, we had the infrastructure to work around this.

First, we use a KINIVO 501BN HDMI Switch to handle all our devices.  Since we had an open port, it was really easy just to plug the Chromecast directly into the back (no cables required).  The Chromecast footprint is so small, its not even noticed.  Sadly, the 501BN doesn’t support MHL either, so there was still the problem of power.  Again, a little thinking outside the box showed the Sony FIOS receiver has a fully powered USB right on the front.  Since we leave it powered on all the time, plus the 501BN sits on top, the short cable was not an issue and we had a very workable solution.

chromecastOnce the power problem was sorted, it was next to no time before we were up and running.  Setup was literally less than 5 minutes and consisted of

  • Downloading a small app
  • Identifying your Chromecast(via the 4-digit ID on the screen)
  • Select the WiFi network to connect to
  • Adding the Google Cast extension to Chrome

I’ve seen printer installations that were more difficult.

From there, it was off to the races – and we were streaming away.

So – is it worth it?

When I first got my Chromecast, there were very limited options to stream.  Limited initially to Google Play TV & Movies, Google Music, Netflix and YouTube – I didn’t see much initial value that I didn’t already have.  I will say however, my son LOVES watching YouTube on the big screen (especially football tape) – so that was a plus.

Since then, Hulu Plus and Pandora were added – and even as I write this, HBO Go has been added as well.  This shows Google’s commitment to making this a viable solution, and I honestly think there will be other vendors working to have their technology integrated.

Of course, there is always a downside- and with Chromecast, the biggest is the lack of support for Plug-ins such as Silverlight and Quicktime.  To me, Quicktime is the least of my worries, but Silverlight is basis for Amazon Instant Video, so this is a major blow for us (as Prime Members).  Hopefully it is only a matter of time before this is worked out – but I am not holding breath, as this has yet to be resolved with the more established AppleTV.

Overall – I still think the $35 price tag still makes this an attractive option, despite the shortcomings.  Considering how new the device is, and the continued development, if one goes into Chromecast knowing its capabilities, I think they would not be disappointed.

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