Aug 01 AT 8:46 AM Nick Sarafolean 32 Comments

Chromecast review: The ultimate Android TV accessory

Chromecast (5)

Have you ever sat down to watch something on your phone and thought, “Man, I wish I had a bigger screen to watch this on.” I’m willing to bet that many of us have. For years, there hasn’t been a very elegant or cheap solution to this problem. Sure, you could get a micro-USB to HDMI adapter and plug your phone into your TV, but that’s neither cheap or elegant. You could have a Smart TV or Blu-Ray player that has a Netflix app, but that’s all stuck in your TV; it’s not portable and certainly isn’t cheap. The same can be said for consoles like as the Xbox 360 or PS3.

Chromecast (2)

Behold the Chromecast, Google’s answer to your big screen woes. While it is just a simple HDMI dongle, it packs big useability. And in fact, it’s probably the most useful living room accessory I’ve come across so far. Note that I didn’t say that it was the accessory with the most bells and whistles, but that it’s the most useful accessory. Because in truth, the Chromecast can’t do a huge amount of things. But the things that it can do are by far some of the most useful.

For a week now, I’ve been toying with my Chromecast. Tearing down all of the walls of untruth, I actually wondered if I was making a good purchase when I was checking out at my local Best Buy. I didn’t think that it was going to be all that useful and would only be used on special occasions. Boy, was I wrong.

Chromecast (3)

The Good

Dead useful for a number of things: Seeing as it’s just a small HDMI dongle that can fit in the palm of your hand, you wouldn’t expect the Chromecast to do a whole lot. But when it comes to viewing content on a bigger screen, the Chromecast is the easiest way to do it. While Netflix is available on pretty much any and every device under the sun, it can often be a pain to use. With the Chromecast, you can simply start it on your phone and then send it to Chromecast with a single button at any time. The same goes for anything else that’s supported, and it makes it incredibly easy to watch a movie with friends or start some music playing during a party.

But one of the most interesting features is that you can send what you’re doing in Chrome straight to your TV. In fact, I’m doing that while I write this. This is a really easy way to throw content up onto a bigger screen. And it’s not just screen sharing, either. To make it better for content, the search bar and pointer are both hidden from view while casting. All you can see is the webpage.

Irresistible pricetag: At $35, there’s next to no reason not to buy the Chromecast. Even without the Netflix promotion, it’s dirt cheap and offers so much bang for the buck. And when compared to some of its competitors such as Apple TV, the Chromecast is a steal at $35.

Chromecast (6)

Fairly portable: While the portability factor of the Chromecast isn’t just grab-and-go, it’s pretty close to that. As most HDMI ports don’t provide the power for it, it either requires a USB port to power it or you can use the USB adapter that’s included in the box to just plug it into the wall. So no, you can’t just grab the Chromecast and throw it in your bag, but it’s portable enough to the point where it would be quite easy to take it to a friend’s house or something.

You can still use your phone while streaming: This is one of the biggest advantages that differentiates the Chromecast from other things like screen sharing devices. You can still use your phone like you normally would even if you’re streaming something to the Chromecast. For example, as soon as something on Netflix loads on your TV, you can use your phone to check Facebook, take pictures or whatever you want. The app chooses how your phone is used in the process. With Netflix, it serves as a remote to control whatever you’re watching.

Seamless set-up: While you’d expect a device like the Chromecast to require a fair amount of set-up, the Chromecast requires almost none. It walks you through the entire (short) process: download the app from, sign in to your Wi-Fi network and connect to the Chromecast. Boom, you’re ready to go. That’s all it requires.

Chromecast (1) Google Chromecast Chromecast (3) Chromecast (4) Chromecast (6)

The Not-So-Good

Chromecast (4)

Lack of app support: This is the biggest problem the Chromecast currently faces. It’s a great device, but there are only about four or five apps that currently support it. At this point, you’re limited to Netflix, YouTube, Play Music, Play Movies and TV. (Unless you count Google Chrome, but that only works on a desktop). We know that Pandora support is already in the works, and presumably, other apps are as well. Google has made the development kit open, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for developers to update their apps to include support for the Chromecast.


Streaming Google Chrome is barely functional: While streaming what you’re doing on Google Chrome is a really cool idea, it’s terrible at the moment. I understand that it’s in beta and that you need a fast machine and fast Wi-Fi network to run it, but it’s still horrendous. To be clear, I’m running on a 2012 HP Envy 15 with a 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, so the computer is no slouch. My Wi-Fi network averages 40-45Mbps on the download and 5-10Mbps on the upload, so it wouldn’t be considered slow by most.

And yet, streaming Google Chrome is a painful process. A lot of text is tiny up on the big screen, and the entire process is sluggish and choppy. There was a noticeable delay between the computer and TV and, at times, the entire process would freeze up for over ten seconds. Not at all a pleasurable experience. I imagine that some of these issues will be fixed in software updates, but for now, streaming Google Chrome is just a pain.

Chromecast (1)

The Final Word

The Chromecast is, simply put, the most useful living room accessory to date. It gives you tremendous power in an extremely compact package. While it’s not quite perfect, it excels at certain things that are both useful and functional. Further support will come with time and is already on the way. An OTA update for the Chromecast is already slated to roll out over the next few days, which shows that Google is serious about keeping the device as useful as possible. Developers will also hop on board as time goes on, and there will be more options as to what you can use the Chromecast for. At just $35, the Chromecast is about the best deal out there. If you haven’t yet ordered or picked one up, I urge you to do so. You won’t regret it.

A nerd at heart, Nick is an average person who has a passion for all things electronic. When not spending his time writing about the latest gadgets, Nick enjoys reading, dabbling in photography, and experimenting with anything and everything coffee. Should you wish to know more about him, you can follow him on Twitter @nsarafolean.

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  • sandwich

    Meanwhile, in the part of the world that lies beyond the digital divide that is the North American continental boundaries, tumbleweed rolls by as hordes of geeks – insufficiently privileged to live among the elite – look on with envy… :p

    • domi1k

      you mean that little country with so much debt they will never recover? Cross your border once and a while.. direction Asia for example and your will be quite surprised.

    • JasonReece10

      Much better than Chromecast is a new Miracast TV adapter ($39) which offers a lot more features, much like Apple Airplay… and one of the first sources to carry this new device is a site called Tablet Sprint — which also features some impressive new Androids tablets, including the Pipo M7 Pro ($255) tablet which launched this week, that for roughly the same price as the new Nexus 7, features a much larger 8.9 inch display with 1900×1200 screen resolution, a Quad core processor, along with built-in GPS navigation– and is packed with features that compare to the new Nexus.

  • Scott Wilhelm

    You skipped right over the part where google strong-arms updates onto your chromecast without your permission or accepting the update. Yup. Silent updates from google. You can kiss rooting your chromecast goodbye now.

    • yankeesusa

      Who cares. Right now most of the stuff that is needed on the chromecast doesn’t require root. Its not a phone that requires root so you can tether or install a custom rom. Don’t like it, don’t buy it. Either way I’m sure devs will figure something out once root is needed to make this thing do more amazing things.

      • Sean

        Probably the same person who would complain that updates don’t come soon enough. You just can’t please some people.

  • Janson

    You also skipped the part where you can cast to your (hdmi passthrough enabled) receiver to play either video or music on your good speakers, except that google music is spitting the bit with a “sideload” error for most users. This hardware is not yet functionally compatible even to your short list of software. On the other hand, it will get better fast, and it’s a really elegant (though not in appearance) hardware solution.

    • Nick Sarafolean

      Huh, interesting. My Chromecast has been hooked up to my receiver and plays everything fine through my 5.1 surround system. Play Music also works flawlessly.

    • K

      That’s because you have those songs copied over to your device in addition to having those uploaded to Play Music.
      Delete the songs on your device (assuming you already have them all uploaded) and then pin the ones you want locally.

  • Luis

    I’ll have to do more in-depth testing with the broswer but using my phone, it works great and that’s what I was looking for. Honestly, I wish I didn’t need this; I have the wireless Samsung All-Share cast hub but it just doesn’t work well at all. ChromeCast works much better at half the price. I just hope developing for it becomes a routine thing for developers.

  • Nick Gray

    Mine is still in the box. Have not had time to install it yet. The one thing I’m looking forward to is using Chromecast to replace my PS3 for Netflix viewing. The PS3 is great, but it is ridiculously loud!

    • Arthur

      As a side benefit over the PS3, it uses next to nothing in energy to run compared to the PS3 so throughout the year, it actually might end up saving you a few bucks on your energy bill, of course savings vary on how much use your PS3 gets for Netflix purposes.

    • yankeesusa

      My xbox is louder but I definitely know what you mean. Plus like someone said, it will help the electric bill. I just hope that the video and 5.1 sound is just as good. Plus currently my surround sound receiver doesn’t have an hdmi so my ps3 is plugged in with optical audio to recevier and hdmi to tv so it wouldn’t help me in my case. I guess I gotta convince the wife its time for an upgrade!

    • Jimmy_Jo

      Can you use screen mirroring on the PS3 with a Galaxy S 3 or 4???

    • aranea

      I’ve replaced my ps3 for netflix and youtube. definitely worth it.

  • richrads

    An amazingly awesome product produced by Google. Google has added some new stuff to its calenders also

  • Vance

    I’ve had mine for three days and we use it constantly. I was actually already using all 4 of my HDMI ports on my TV so I replaced my Logitech Revue with my Chromecast and haven’t looked back. One understated but awesome feature is the fact that you’re chromecast will turn your TV on when something is casted. This morning sitting in my kitchen I pulled up Google Music on my phone and casted it and the chromecast turned on my TV and immediately began playing my music through my home theater system. The same holds true if you cast something from your laptop or any other device. Freaking awesome!

    • aranea

      I didn’t know it had that function. I’ll try it when I get home. Thanks

    • dunneldeen

      I didn’t know that either, awesome feature. Would be better if the TV would switch back when I stop casting, but that’s probably the TV’s fault, not Chromecast.

  • Tom

    cough cough…xbmc…cough cough.

    I run xbmc on xubuntu 13.04, the htpc plugs in via hdmi to my av receiver for 5.1 surround, i got a 3Tb hdd and the whole computer is the size of a vcr and looks more like a game console than a pc…i made it using mostly scavenged parts…just cost me $20 for the case and $100 for the hdd, its a perfect solution for everything, runs “real” chrome (with all syncs, bookmarks, extensions, and apps) xbmc also has great add ons for things like pandora and youtube…not to mention this is a real computer so you can do pretty much anything you want on it like store all of my movies , tv shows, and music…i also run android on my linux box so i can use android apps…id say chromecast is a step in the right direction for the consumer market…but it is not comparable to a true htpc.

    • yankeesusa

      The chromecast is not made to do everything you just said and for $35 you wouldn’t expect it too. But the possibilities for it do even more are there and that is the point. If you have a method that does more than the chromecast and don’t need it than good, so don’t buy it. Also not everyone can build something to do what you did. That’s great that you can do it but again not everyone can do that.

      • domi1k

        Why don’t you download Xubuntu and give it a try? You’ll notice it’s as easy as Windows to install.

  • yankeesusa

    For those that are looking to buy, Best Buy just posted on their site that they have some available that will ship in 1-2 weeks. Plus they are still giving away the netflix code for 3 months. Its better than the 4-8 weeks from google and amazon doesn’t even have a date.

  • Brooks Barnard

    How does the chromecast effect phone battery life? I realize you don’t have to have the phone display on which is the biggest battery sucker, but it’s using the phone. Anyone noticed any significant effect?

    • Nick Sarafolean

      Honestly, not yet. Maybe a couple of extra percent but since the Chromecast is the one doing the actual streaming, it doesn’t affect your phone a whole lot.

    • aranea

      I haven’t seen anything on my nexus 10 bur haven’t used it much on nexus 4.

  • aranea

    I love mine too. Yea there are a couple hiccups but it works flawlessly for the reason I bought it.

  • alexanderharri3

    Ended up jumping in for one. Have a Revue, but it tends to struggle and doesn’t cast anything but YouTube. Nice overview AAM

  • dunneldeen

    As a semi-frequent traveler, I’m looking forward to using this while on the road. It’s getting to the point that most decent hotels have a TV with HDMI input. This could be the end of having to plug my laptop into the TV to watch a movie. It’s only going to get better as more app developers add support.

    Now I really want Synology to add it to their DSVideo app; I’d have access to every movie and TV episode on my NAS.

  • donger

    Chromecast FTW!

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  • john

    The best Android TV Box by far is the SkystreamX. It has a dual core 1.5 Ghz processor, Mali 3d graphics processor, 1 Gb Ram, 8Gb internal memory, Preloaded with all of the good XBMC add ons and Android 4.2.2.

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