How is everyone’s new year starting out? Mine started with a lot of snow and the flu. Lucky for me, my employer called off work on Thursday because that’s the day I started feeling sick. I’m on the upswing now, finally hungry again today, but not looking forward to work tomorrow. The forecast is calling for wind chills as low as -45. I’m still low on energy but at least I’m not exhausted from just walking across the room.
I thought I’d start the year out with a review of a fun little gadget we’ve had for a couple of months now. You might have seen some ads for Chromecast but I don’t see them often so it’s possible you’ve never even heard of it.
In our house, this thing has become very popular. You see, we bought a lovely 40-inch flatscreen television almost two years ago now with a mess of gift cards. It isn’t a smart TV but it did what we wanted, connected to cable and looked pretty. (The old TV was pretty dead and everything looked green on it.) Later we thought how cool would it be to watch Netflix on the TV. I could do that with an HDMI cable from my phone but that is annoying to connect and keeps my phone busy. A few months ago, hubby saw this commercial for the Chromecast dongle so we bought it from Amazon with our gift card balance. For $35.00, it seemed like a good deal and we weren’t disappointed. You can buy it from a lot of different electronics retailers.
Chromecast comes in a little box and doesn’t have a lot of parts. There’s the dongle itself, the power cord, and another cord in case you need a little length to connect to the HDMI port. While I plugged it in, hubby downloaded the Chromecast app on his Android phone (also available for iPhone). We have since downloaded the app on my phone and the extension to the Chrome browser on our laptops. From the app on his phone, hubby completed the setup which included connecting Chromecast to our Wi-Fi network and giving it a name. I’m guessing the name is in case you have more than one in your house. And that was it. Set up complete.
Chromecast is controlled by devices with the app, compatible apps (like Netflix), or the browser plug-in. It works best from the phones so far but it can Cast the Chrome browser on your computer. It works with Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Google Play TV & Movies, and more. They have added some since we bought it. I haven’t played around with the new stuff yet because I just saw that today!
For us, it has been wonderful to stream Netflix to the TV so easily. Unlike connecting my phone with an HDMI cable, with Chromecast, my phone is basically just playing remote control. It doesn’t actually stream through the phone. The phone just gets the movie or show started and then Chromecast streams directly from Netflix over the internet. This makes it much smoother, no lag from pushing it through the phone, and the phone can still be used for other things. I also noticed the Cast button in my Netflix app on my Kindle Fire HD. That’s something that was an added surprise they didn’t mention! I played with YouTube some as well. You can queue up multiple videos and it plays each in order. With any content, you can pause, stop, rewind, etc., from the device you’re using to control it.
The only thing I didn’t like so far is the mirroring of the Chrome browser. It’s jumpy and not a all smooth. There’s a delay when viewing video content in the browser. Unlike going through an app like Netflix or YouTube, it is pushing from the computer so this isn’t too unexpected. But I wouldn’t choose this for that purpose alone.
One of the biggest complaints I saw in reviews for Chromecast was that you couldn’t stream your own content. This wasn’t a deal breaker for me since that isn’t what I wanted it for anyway. But, they added Plex and Real Cloud Player as compatible apps which both seem to offer this feature. I haven’t tried either yet but they look promising as options.
In summary, Chromecast is a great solution if you don’t have a smart TV but want to get Netflix or other content streaming to your television. The price is perfect. It’s small and easy to set up. The size makes it even possible to take with you if you’re traveling. You must have the Chromecast and controlling devices connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Once it is set up, this is very easy to use. I do recommend connecting your Chromecast to a power strip that you can turn off to limit power consumption when it isn’t actively in use.