First Impressions of Chromecast

Chromecast

UPDATE: Below I reference that chromecast would not work on a wired desktop. This is incorrect. Once one sets up chromecast on their wireless network, you can use it on a wired desktop through the extension in Chrome. My problem was that Ad Muncher was blocking the extension. To fix this, I disabled intranet filtering. It now works perfectly.

I am one of those that once I heard the announcement of chromecast (affiliate) I went out and bought it. For $35 it was a no brainer. If you haven’t heard of chromecast yet, it is the latest device to come out of Google which allows one to broadcast your computer monitor to your TV. The device itself plugs into an HDMI port on your TV and plugs in via USB or electrical outlet for power. It is about two and a half inches long and extremely easy to setup. It also comes with an HDMI extension, if you cannot fit a two and a half  inch device wherever your TV  and HDMI port is. The device connects to your WiFi network to transmit the broadcast signal.

I ordered mine on Wednesday from Amazon when it was announced and it arrived on Friday with two day free shipping (Amazon Prime). Chromecast has since sold out at most retailers, including Amazon. Besides being only $35, the initial version of chromecast came with a three month subscription to Netflix streaming, making the total cost of the device about $11. However, due to overwhelming demand, Google had to end the Netflix promo after one day of sales.

I plugged my chromecast directly into an open HDMI port on my AV receiver so that sound would go through my surround sound. And it has worked great so far. The main downside, that I haven’t been able to find a solution to yet, is that you cannot broadcast in full screen and still use your laptop. One of the features Google highlights is that one can keep browsing in another Chrome tab while broadcasting to the TV. However, when one does this, you cannot have the video in full screen, so your broadcast is basically a video player on the TV screen. Chromecast does try to rectify this by providing you an option that allows the device to automatically crop the broadcast to the video, but its not perfect. However, since I’m using my laptop to broadcast, I can still use my desktop to browse and keep the broadcast on my laptop in full screen.Now, there are a few caveats about using chromecast. First, it only works over your WiFi network. So if you have a desktop wired directly to your router (like I do), you cannot use chromecast. Thankfully, I also have a Macbook Air, so I can use chromecast there. The other caveat is that you have to use the Google Chrome browser. I have to say, what a smart way to get more Chrome users and take a bite out of Internet Explorer’s market share. When you setup the chromecast, you download an extension to the Chrome browser, which allows you to broadcast a tab to the device and thus your TV. At launch, certain services have been optimized to work with chromecast, such as Netflix, YouTube and Google Play. But you can broadcast anything that appears in a Google Chrome tab, with a few exceptions.

ChromecastThere are a few negatives. First, the app for iOS devices isn’t available yet. This would allow one to broadcast from Chrome on your iOS device to your TV. I suspect that the recent Apple Developer Program hacking incident and shutdown has something to do with this. Or it could just be the usual unpredictability of when an app will get approved. The other negative, specifically for me, is that because I have to broadcast from my laptop, I am forced to watch commercials. On my desktop I have ad blocking software which usually blocks commercials from playing on websites, including video ads during TV shows that I’m watching online. I do not have this software on my laptop, so really it is just a matter of me breaking down and buying it. Although I dislike having to buy two of the same thing because of two different operating systems.

Others have criticized chromecast because they don’t see the value, citing that they can get Netflix, YouTube and Google Play on their TV already. They’re right, there are other devices (e.g. Roku, Apple TV, Google TV and so forth) that allow one to get these same optimized channels on their TV. Since I have Roku 2 and a PS3, I can get all those channels and more (except Google Play). However, there are still plenty of TV shows that I have to watch on the Web, including everything on CBS, A&E, TLC and so forth. Chromecast allows me to broadcast those shows to my TV, allowing me to work online or play a video game on my computer while watching a TV show (because who can do one thing at a time?). If you missed an earlier post, I cut the cable cord long ago and can only watch live local channels on my TV. Marketing Land has a great post comparing what you can watch on each device on the market. Although I would note that you can watch many of these services through your Chrome browser and broadcast it to your TV, even though they are not optimized for chromecast.

So let’s see how well it works:

One thing I noticed is that my laptop was connecting to my regular WiFi network and there were some buffering issues when chromecasting. When I switched my laptop to my 5G WiFi it worked perfectly with no buffering issues and I was able to do plenty of other network intense activities without diminishing the buffering.

Overall, I think chromecast will be a game changer for many of us that have cut the cord already and may encourage others to do so. I will be interested to see how the TV industry responds. I am sure it is just a matter of time before someone figures out a way to block the chromcast extension on their website.

3 thoughts on “First Impressions of Chromecast

  1. Reply austin Jul 27,2013 2:33 pm

    Hey Greg, Put virtuawin on your computer, then full screen the browser when you shift away to a second desktop the screen will stay maximized but you will be on a clean desktop instance.

  2. Reply austin Jul 28,2013 10:30 am

    there is actually a similar multi-desktop feature cooked into the mac called spaces here is an article that explains how to use it: http://www.maclife.com/article/howtos/how_use_spaces_mac_os_x_lion

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