aNewDomain.net — At a recent press conference Google unexpectedly unveiled the Chromecast, a new device that streams media. Google has had issues with functional media streaming in the past, exemplified by the expensive and under-powered Nexus Q. It seems Google took the criticism well and has introduced a superb product for only $35.
Image Credit: Seth Heringer
The Chromecast works with nearly every device — Android and iOS, smartphones and tablets and any computer using the Chrome browser. These devices become a remote control that lets the user stream online content directly to a television.
Simply plug the hardware into the HDMI port on a television, connect it to the local WiFi network, and begin streaming content wirelessly.
The Chromecast does not mirror or project your device, but rather connects to the Internet itself. This cuts out the middle man and keeps the stream fast and responsive.
Image Credit: Seth Heringer
Notice the “Chromecast” button (top right) in the YouTube app on a Galaxy S3. Clicking that button enables the Chromecast, which then streams the video straight from the Internet, and uses your device to control selection, pause, play, etc.
Where it Stands
The market for streaming devices is already overloaded. The Chromecast competes directly with the $99 Apple TV, which can do everything Google’s device can do with the added functionality of streaming local content.
The Chromecast can only stream media on the Internet and has launched with only three compatible apps — Netflix, Google Play and YouTube.
However, the functionality and price point of the Chromecast stacks up much better than high-end devices like Roku, Xbox, and Playstation. If and when it gets more content partners, the Chromecast will be the most-viable option for many users.
Usability and Experience
So who is this device for? Priced at $35, it is for almost everyone who has a mobile device and a television.
Since it works with both iOS and Android, even its basic functionality of streaming YouTube and Netflix on a big screen will make this device worthwhile for many. You can even create a YouTube queue on a connected device while a video is playing on the television.
Image credit: Seth Heringer
Getting one for every TV will allow the user to switch the streaming to different screens as they move around the house. As Google adds even more content partners, the device will get even more useful.
However, users heavily invested in iTunes or who need to stream local content such as pictures or videos will want to pass. But most people already have their pictures uploaded to a site like Flickr, and such sites can be streamed to the television with a computer by using the Chrome browser and its new Google cast extension.
The Chromecast isn’t a perfect device. It can only stream online content (see this article for a loophole). It needs to be connected to a quality router over a strong wireless signal. The Chrome extension is still in beta and flaky at times, and it currently only works with three apps.
Even with these initial problems this product has all the necessary features and price point to be revolutionary. With everything moving to the cloud, Google has come up with a winning strategy here.
Based in Los Angeles, Seth Heringer is senior editor at aNewDomain.net and co-host of the Attack of the Androids podcast. Seth also is a PhD candidate in the humanities who, when not working on finishing his dissertation, loves to partake of all things tech. Email Seth at Seth@aNewDomain.net.