I bought a Chromecast over the weekend – it wasn’t planned, but reviews elsewhere persuaded me it was worth the £30 pricetag.
And “reviews elsewhere” were right.
Chromecast is a tiny little device from Google that plugs into the back of your TV (into an HDMI port, to be precise). With it plugged in and switched on you can then view – or “cast” as Google calls it – videos, pictures, music and other content from your smartphone, tablet or PC on your TV.
That’s all it does. And yeah, my first thought on reading this was, “Gosh, however have I survived without seeing Flappy Bird on my TV?”
We have an Internet connected Freeview box, so we can watch YouTube and BBC iPlayer on the TV already – and Netflix, too, if we wanted. What does Chromecast offer that we don’t already have?
Well, quite a bit, as it turns out.
First of all, setting up the Chromecast was a doddle. Plug it in, follow the idiot-proof instructions and within five minutes it’s ready to go – no baffling questions or technical hitches, just plug and go. Two minutes later we also had the free Chromecast app installed on my phone and the tablet, and the Chromecast browser extension on the desktop PC.
Next, I open YouTube on my phone, choose a video and touch the icon to send it to the TV. Voila – it almost instantly appears on the TV!
Millie opens up the app on the tablet and sends one of her favourite YouTube videos to the TV. We spend the next half hour having a YouTube video battle on the TV. 🙂
It turns out, what makes Chromecast so much better than a smart TV is the speed and convenience. Finding a video on the TV takes bloody ages, laboriously typing the name using the arrow keys on the remote to choose individual letters. Finding a video takes longer than playing it, which just kills the whole experience.
YouTube and iPlayer on Android are fast and easy, you just press the “cast” icon to send it to the TV, and then you can use your phone to search for another video or do anything else – you don’t have to keep playing the video on your phone! Send it to the TV and it keeps playing, even if it’s no longer playing on your phone!
Next, we tried the iPlayer app. Again, we have iPlayer on our smart TV and, just like YouTube it works, but trying to find the programme you want is a long job. Again, Chromecast made it fast and easy.
Then we tried Plex, a brilliant app for watching videos from your PC on your TV. On the smart TV it can be a little unpredictable. With Chromecast it was…you guessed it, smooth and easy!
We don’t have Netflix, but that also works with Chromecast, and I’m willing to bet it’s a lot easier than the version on your smart TV, too.
Last night, rather than watch the copy of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle I recorded it was actually quicker to get it on iPlayer using Chromecast! And this morning I found Amber (aged six) lining up YouTube videos on the TV from the tablet (videos from Frozen, of course!)
Those two examples alone make Chromecast worth the £30 to me – and that’s without using it to stream music at parties, view photos from my mobile, or some of the possible gaming applications I’ve seen people discuss online.
If your house has a TV and a smartphone it also needs a Chromecast – and for just £30, that’s less than a month’s subscription to Sky!