Customer Review

1,546 of 1,605 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chromecast: What it is, what it does well, what it doesn't do well, and what it doesn't do at all, 27 Mar 2014
This review is from: Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player (Personal Computers)
There's some strange reviews on this gadget. Many start with "I assumed...".

Please. I know it's only £30, but READING THE TIN IS STILL WORTHWHILE :-)

If you want to learn what it will do, as opposed to what you assume it will do, please read this review. Thank you.

Update25: Wow. Now £18, still with free Google Music offer, itself worth £30! Get one, effectively, they pay you £12!!!

Update24: Price currently (21/08/14) an amazing £20 and free delivery with Prime, plus the Google Music offer.

Update23: Firefox browser for android adds chromecast support.

Update22: The listing at 18/08 now mentions the Google Music offer.

Update21: It's not mentioned in the listing, but Google have replaced the Movie offer with a free 90 days Play Music deal.

Update20: Tesco have now added Blinkbox support. Rent/buy movies and TV shows.

Update19: The listing here says that a UK charger is not supplied. That is incorrect. Chromecast comes with both USB and mains power options.

Update18: Mirroring means I can now play my Amazon mp3's via chromecast. Can't try it on Prime video as we use stock android.

Update17: Google starting official android mirroring. My N4 got it 09/07. Can now mirror ITV Player. Looks OK, but not HD.

Update16: Stevie app for android/iOS adds support for casting Facebook, Twitter, and more.

Update15: Tubecast app allows YouTube casting from Windows Phone.

Update14: Spoticast app removed from GP due to name confusion with Spotify :-(

Update13: Improved functionality in 2014 announced in Google I/O, including official android casting.

Update12: Google now list supported apps here google.co.uk/intl/en_uk/chrome/devices/chromecast/apps.html

Update11: Blinkbox (Tesco) announce chromecast support coming. Rent/buy movies and TV shows.

Update10: Spoticast app support added. Cast your Spotify music directly to your Chromecast from android.

Update 9: The reference to a £4.99 GP credit is back in the listing.

Update 8: Cast your Google+ photos and videos from June 3rd.

Update 7: FilmOn.tv adds support from May 26th. Watch a "live" TV stream without an aerial.

Update 6: Wuaki.tv app added from May 21st. Buy/rent movies & TV shows (HBO etc), or subscribe.

Update 5: Add browser and local content casting from your android/iOS device with the EZCast app.

Update 4: Recent figures from Netflix show the average speed of a customer connection in the UK is 2.72Mbps. A 3 or 4 meg connection *should* therefore deliver a good experience.

Update 3: The reference to an offer of a £4.99 credit against Google Play content has been removed, but is still on Google Play's own site. T&C's apply.

Update 2: The Chromecast Help links I gave have been stripped out. If you search on the terms I used you should find them. Alternatively, please post a question and if I see it I'll give them again. Links in questions seem to survive better :-)

Update 1: BT Sport app added from April 7th.

This Chromecast review is a summary of:

*what it is,
*what it does well,
*what it doesn't do well,
*what it doesn't do at all.

so that folks can decide whether it's for them, have realistic and accurate expectations, and learn what it will do, rather than what they think it should do.

So - what it is:

Chromecast (CC) is a small wireless dongle, designed to be inserted into a spare HDMI socket hidden behind a TV, AV amp, console etc. No other connections are available, in or out. A short HDMI cable extender is included, in case access is tight. The dongle is about 7.0cms long tip to tip, and about 3.5cms across at its widest point. Our main chromecast didn't need the extender on the lounge TV, but the kitchen chromecast did. In use, they're both hidden.

It needs power, either from a spare USB socket on the TV, or via a supplied 3 pin UK mains plug. It wirelessly connects to your router (on the 2.4GHz channel, if it's a dual-channel model). In theory it could work away, say in a hotel, if full access to the network was available. It does require always-on internet. Set-up was straightforward for me via a BT Home Hub 4. It doesn't come with a remote. Instead, it uses what you already have in your pocket, or readily to hand - a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, or a laptop. They become a remote-with-a-display, unlike the standard "buttons only" remote.

Mobile devices need to be android running Android 2.3 and higher (not Kindle variants), or iPhone/iPad/iPod (iOS® 6 and higher), computers need to be chromebooks, or running the chrome browser on W7 and later, or chrome for Mac on 10.7 and higher.

It's a dumb pipe. There's no interface or menu, all that is in the app on your phone. It neither adds nor subtracts anything from the stream being sent to it. Whatever it receives from the service being streamed, it hands over to the TV. It does show a screensaver mode, a slide show of some lovely pictures, but otherwise, that's it.

What it does well:

Its main purpose is to directly stream online internet services from supported apps (what Google call "Cast Ready" apps) in the home. On launch day in the UK, these included BBC iPlayer (free in the UK), Netflix (subscription), Google Play Movies/Music (buy or rent), and YouTube (free). BT Sport has been subsequently added (free for BT Broadband customers), as has Wuaki.tv, part of the Rakuten Play.com Group, the world's third largest e-commerce company (buy/rent movies and TV shows or subscribe), and Tesco's Blinkbox.

The currently featured "Google Cast Ready" apps are:

BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Wuaki.tv, Blinkbox, YouTube, BT Sport, Google Play Movies, GP Music, Google+ photos & videos, Red Bull, Vevo, Plex, Real Player Cloud, Rdio, Deezer, DailyBurn, Chrome browsercast, and android mirroring.

In addition to the featured apps, Google list hundreds more third party apps here:

google.co.uk/intl/en_uk/chrome/devices/chromecast/apps.html

Where material from these services provides it, chromecast can deliver up to 1080p video and DD Plus 5.1 audio via suitable equipment.

In the US, users don't have BBC iPlayer, BT Sport, or Wuaki.tv, but do have HBO Go and Hulu services and some US sports stuff. Otherwise the app line-up is pretty similar. The US services we don't get are not available in the UK, on any legal platform. Territorial restrictions are a decision for the service providers, not a deficiency of Chromecast. Equally, Amazon Video does not work on Chromecast, either here or in the US. That is Amazon's decision. Kindle type tablets are also restricted, apparently.

The development kit has been released and apparently thousands of developers have signed up. So it can be expected that more services will be supported in time. Content is king, clearly. Roku boxes and Apple TV have been going longer so have more services, but let's be realistic - if a box has a 1000 apps, 995 will likely be dross you'd look at once, and never again. The reviews for Roku's Streaming Stick make this point. Apple TV has been going 7 years, and it still doesn't have BBC iPlayer, or indeed, any UK catch-up player. It has iTunes, but otherwise its online offering is poor. Where it scores is mirroring an idevice via Airplay. In an iOS house it makes perfect sense.

Still, many reviewers compare chromecast with other, more expensive solutions, or complain because it doesn't provide a function it was never designed for. On a £30 gadget, I think those expectations are a little bit unrealistic. Personally, I don't think it's comparable with any box solution. Cutting to the chase:

*If you already have an Apple or other box with wires and yet another remote (at 3 times the price), or your MAIN NEED is to mirror something else, show local content, or cast a business presentation, don't bother with chromecast.

*If you prefer your own home server set-up, have multiple connection requirements, or want to overcome territorial restrictions with dubious work-arounds, don't bother with chromecast.

*If you have all the smart services you want on other kit, you don't need chromecast.

*If you only want Amazon Video via a Kindle variant tablet, it won't work with chromecast. Wait for Fire TV to be released in the UK.

But if you want to add access to some or all of the listed online streaming services, without another box, without more wires, in your home, neatly, cheaply and effectively - get a chromecast. Get two. Or three. There is nothing to touch it at this price. And it will only get better.

With CC, you browse the service you want on a mobile device, choose your title, press the cast icon on the app, and that tells CC to grab the stream directly from the internet. It's then doing the heavy lifting, so your device is free to take calls, browse, do whatever - even be switched off - although in practice you'd probably leave it on, so you can pause the stream when you go and put the kettle on.

On my Nexus phone and tablet, I can pause/stop the CC even with the phone locked, a neat touch.

This feature cannot be over-stressed. With an optimized app, CC handles the streaming, NOT your device. The device isn't being tied up and eating battery, and you don't have cables cluttering up the gaff.

On our set up it handles this main function very well. In fact, we have iPlayer on the TV and PVR, and the equivalent on CC is better. It loads quicker, and buffers less. We have Amazon Video with the old Lovefilm app on the TV, and frankly, I prefer Netflix (more on Amazon Video later).

Hidden away, no wires, no box, not another clunky remote you use by looking up and down from the TV. What's not to like?

We got CC #1 last year from Amazon US, to add Netflix and Google Play Movies to our existing line up, and it does this brilliantly and discretely, on our BT connection via a Home Hub 4. So much so we got CC #2 when it launched in the UK, to get some smart services on the kitchen telly.

That's its main purpose, and it does it simply and well. For £30. You can spend nearly that on a bottle of wine in Pizza Express!

What it doesn't always do well:

BROWSER CASTING: (PC/Mac, android/iOS)

CC has a beta feature where you can cast a chrome browser on a computer, hence the reference to PC and Mac. You're looking on your laptop at, say, the M&S web-site, with a little video going. With the cast extension from Google Apps, you may be able to cast (mirror) that browser to the TV. In some instances, you can maximise the video so that it fills the TV screen.

The cast extension for the chrome browser is available here:

[...]

On a recommendation I've just installed the EZCast app on my mobile devices, and can now cast a browser from them. It is available for android and iOS.

More information on browser casting is available here from Chromecast Help, entitled "Casting a Tab":

[...]

with the difference between casting an optimized app, and casting a browser, here:

[...]

LOCAL CONTENT CASTING: (PC/Mac, android/iOS)

In addition, you may also be able to cast your local content from a computer or mobile device over to the big screen. I've dropped jpegs and mp3s into a blank chrome tab on my laptop and they cast fine. With mobile, people mention the Plex app a lot, also Allcast. EZCast also does local content as well as browsers. I can already show my stuff on the big screen using Samsung's Allshare DLNA style feature, so this is not a major need for me.

So, it can be done. It's a bit like dancing dogs. The wonder isn't that it's done with mixed results, the wonder is that it does it at all, given the main aim of chromecast.

Success with either beta feature, casting a browser, or your local content, depends on the material, your kit, and your network. Pushing video across is intensive, and users have reported varying results. Sites that use plug-ins such as as Silverlight, Quicktime & VLC are not supported, and may result in a lack of picture or sound. Sky is an example.

If this is your main requirement, in all honesty, look elsewhere. A cable connection will be less tidy, but likely to be more successful. A way round this would be to set up an account with YouTube, and upload videos/picture slideshows to that, setting them private as required. You'd then browse to them in YT from your phone, and cast from the internet.

What is doesn't do at all:

It doesn't work with Windows Phone.

It doesn't support Amazon Instant/Prime Video, as the listing page says. That's an Amazon decision, not a deficiency with Chromecast. AIV/APV does not work directly on any UK dedicated streaming box, nor on the world's biggest selling mobile OS (other than the forked version of android found on the Kindle Fire). So that rules out standard android phones and tablets. It only works on their mobile kit, or iDevices. An iDevice apparently can push it to Apple TV via Airplay.

Amazon list compatible devices here:
[...]
It would be reasonable to say that any of these is likely to cost significantly more than £30.

We have it via the original Lovefilm app on the TV, and the switchover has been poor. The result is that now we use Netflix far more.

If Amazon Video is important to you, don't expect it to work, probably ever, on Chromecast. Amazon have launched their own Amazon Fire TV in the US. It's a box solution. There's no UK launch date yet. If you don't already have and want this service, buy one of the other devices on the list, or wait to see if Fire TV comes out here.

Meanwhile, keep in mind they want you to watch their content, on their kit.

Chromecast doesn't include ITV Player, C4OD, and Demand 5, or Sky services. They might come, who knows. Apps are there in Google Play, and presumably iTunes, so if they wanted they could do a re-code and add a cast option, just as BT Sport did. You could spend a £1000 on a new TV, and still not get all the UK's catch-up services. If they can be viewed in a chrome browser, the browser *might* cast over. But as I said earlier, this is not the device's main purpose and isn't guaranteed to work.

The "Q&A" section has many posts about Cartoon HD. Bottom line, it's a mobile app which doesn't support CC. As a mobile app, it can't be viewed in a computer browser, so browser casting isn't an option either.

If you use Cartoon HD, bear this in mind. The original app was withdrawn from the two main app stores due to concerns. Various similarly named successors are popping up. If the service is free, how do they make money? Ads? I don't know, I've no cause to try it. If I had, I'd be carefully looking at the "permissions". What are they phoning home with from your device? Just a thought.

Summary:

That's it really. What it does well, it does well. What it doesn't do well, it doesn't do well.

And what it doesn't do at all, it doesn't do at all.

Please read the tin. Visit Google Play Devices and read their listing. Read the reviews on PC Pro, PC Advisor etc. Go to the Chromecast Help Centre and read that.

If you want a box with various connection options, another remote, more services, and non-domestic functions, pony up the extra cash.

If you want a simple, neat, cheap device to add some smart online services, with more to come, spend pocket money and buy a Chromecast. Some will say it provides a pocket money service. Fine. They will tend to support their own solution. That's human nature. Make up your own mind. If the Apple or Roku solutions do more, they should. They're more expensive. Even if the Roku Streaming Stick remote doesn't have a volume control. Apple TV makes sense if you want to mirror content from an iPhone. That's its USP. Worth nothing if you use android.

That they do more, and Chromecast does less, does not make Chromecast crap at what it is DESIGNED TO DO - easily add the specified online services, without a box and without wires. On the main TV at home. On other TV's in the home.

For that, as a value-for-money, neat solution, it is incomparable.

But please, do read the tin :-)
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Comments

Tracked by 6 customers

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-10 of 119 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 Mar 2014 19:55:07 GMT
D. Pugh says:
Lovely and clear, thank you. I found the ChromeCast app in the App Store, which was the last piece of the puzzle.
Much appreciated.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Mar 2014 19:56:41 GMT
Mike_Amazon says:
Enjoy it DP :-)

Posted on 28 Mar 2014 17:40:10 GMT
Top stuff, thanks. I use Plex at the mo to steam content from my devices to our TV through a PS3. Hopefully with CC I could miss out CC and Plex and it tends to be a little resource hungry.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Mar 2014 17:46:07 GMT
Mike_Amazon says:
Enjoy. I keep pondering Plex as it gets a lot of mentions, but I don't fully understand it and have a solution already. Also, my main reason for getting CC was to add the online optimized services.

Do you have to upload your stuff to Plex?

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Mar 2014 12:09:04 BDT
col says:
you install plex on the machine that stores your media (or your NAS if it's supported...i use a headerless debian server). you can then connect to that machine using the app (android in my case) and beam the media to the chromecast.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Mar 2014 12:57:59 BDT
Mike_Amazon says:
Cheers col. So if you don't have to upload your content to the Plex cloud, is it any different to what I get from Allcast on my android phone/tablet, or dropping in media to a blank chrome tab on my W7 laptop?

I'm thick, I know.

BTW, Michael_G and Mike_Amazon are both me ;-)

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Mar 2014 13:08:44 BDT
col says:
nope...you don't need to use the plex cloud...in fact is isn't available with a free account anyway. plex is quite useful for video and image slideshows...don't really use it for music...got subsonic for that. if the media isn't stored on the machine you've installed it on you can use a network share or whatever. afraid i'm a linux user so know little of media on a win7 machine.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Mar 2014 13:18:33 BDT
Mike_Amazon says:
That'll be the difference then between the free version and the Pass thing then. I'd got that far with it ;-)

Ah well, thanks.

I think Google are missing a trick here. We're all encouraged to back up, whether that's to a local solution, the cloud, or both. And Google have just reduced their Drive pricing to undercut Amazon's AWS. Assuming of course a user is comfortable backing up to Drive (I am, they can look at my garden pics all they want, and work out what plants I need and tell me), why don't they offer some free storage to chromecast buyers and do an "optimized" app to stream from it, just like Netflix etc.

I'd use that, but that's just me.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Mar 2014 13:23:49 BDT
Last edited by the author on 31 Mar 2014 13:24:09 BDT
col says:
i've got 3 backups of my home media. 2 local and one drive that i keep at work just in case. i backup remote servers to S3 but that's because they've got 10MB connections. it just isn't practical for me to do it at home with my 8Mb ADSL connection...it'd take months for the fist sync...measly upload rate...

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Mar 2014 14:18:40 BDT
Mike_Amazon says:
We're on Infinity 2 with no cap, but lethargy (read laziness) is still stopping me.

Actually, we've kind of got some back up on a local LaCie, and Dropbox.

Need to do something better and less bitty, though.
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