The Nexus Q successor that debuted at one tenth of the price of its predecessor has certainly been a hit. It’s completely sold out almost everywhere. For those of you who were lucky enough to get one you’ve probably been enjoying it immensely. Even with its early boom in sales it’s not without its shortcomings. However the question is, are these shortcomings big enough to consider looking elsewhere for your internet TV connection? In short, no but you’ll have to find out in detail as to why I feel this way after the break.
The moment that the Chromecast went live I had one purchased. I patiently waited the two days it took to get here, and the moment I got home, I ripped it open. You’re greeted by a simple package with the dongle, HDMI extender, and power cord. For those that think it doesn’t need a power cable or power to run you’re quite mistaken. It’s quite a simple set up: plug the HDMI end into the tv or AV receiver, plug the power cord into the back of the Chromecast and either plug the USB 2.0 end into an available slot on your TV or AV receiver (if it provides power) or into the wall with the AC adapter.
As you’ll read everywhere, set up is really painless. With either the Play Store app or from your Chrome browser setup only takes all of two minutes.
Google has really outdone themselves with this $35 dongle. They have done something that I feel that most companies need to do: take the user interface out of the, well, user interface. Instead you will use the various apps on your tablet or phone. Select the video or music you want to play, press one little button, select which Chromecast device you want it beamed to, and bingo, it’s on your screen in a few seconds. By using the apps you are used to, there is no need to try to learn some other clunky interface. You can will be able to easily pause and stop the playback and other people in the house can do the same. Time to go out, hit pause and continue watching or listening from where you left off. It’s seamless and it just plain works.
I’ve been streaming from it non-stop since I’ve plugged in this little dongle and both my Roku 3 and Xbox haven’t been accessed. I say accessed rather than turned on because the Roku is always on. Speaking of which, Google takes a page out of that playbook as Chromecast is always on. You’re greeted with an HD picture and minimal information on the screen telling you that it’s ready.
Streaming works as you would normally expect. There is a little lag between hitting pause and play but it’s barely noticeable. I’ve noticed that streaming quality over WiFi is better than that of my Xbox and even my Roku 3 that’s wire connected. My experiences with Netflix, Play Movies and Play Music have been great for the most part. I have noticed some situations where the video and sound are off but those are rare.
The biggest annoyance I have with the device is the fact that you have to keep moving on to the next episode of a tv show. That’s right, as of yet, there is no way for Netflix to automatically move to the next episode. This is more tedious than a problem and I’m sure it will be fixed in the near future. From the mobile device aspect everything is great however, the computer experience is somewhat lacking.
If you don’t know, Google threw up an official Chromecast extension for Chrome in the web store. Now I preface this with the fact that this extension is beta so my I assume my complaints will eventually be worked out. You have the ability to stream in 720p extreme, high and 480p standard. In most cases anything above 480p causes video to stutter. The sound will continue but video will skip. On the plus side, if you use Hulu and you’re stuck with having to stream certain content from the web, this extension is your work around. I found that I was able to stream shows like The Simpsons, among others, without an error or warning but I digress.
When I dropped the bit rate down this stuttering went away for the most part but video had minor hiccups here and there. One other qualm I have, albeit very small, is that if you do stream content from the browser, and say want to watch a show full screen, you’ve incapacitated your laptop or computer. It displays full screen on both. As mentioned, this is a beta extension and I’m sure capable people over at Google are working on making this experience better.
My favorite part about the Chromecast is the fact that I have All Access on my home entertainment system. One tap of a button (noticing a pattern here) and I have any station I can think of playing in seconds. Once it’s sent to the screen you’re greeted with a nicely rendered display of the Album Art, time remaining and song time. After a few seconds it jumps to screensaver mode with the album art moving across the screen. While I would prefer the non-screen saver function, it still serves it’s purpose.
My biggest complaint is that in order for your music to stream, your device has to be connected to WiFi at all times. What I mean by this is I can’t use my Nexus 10 to start the radio streaming and walk away. As my Nexus 10 is set to disconnect from the WiFi when not in use, I can’t really just set it and forget it. This again, is more of a minor annoyance.
There are those that complain that when streaming, music quality is of a sub-par nature. I can normally hear the variations of lower bitrate music and have yet to hear it on the music I stream. Maybe I’m lucky or maybe it has something to do with streaming quality options. I really don’t know and am perfectly content with the quality I hear.
If Google continues its current trend, and more companies jump on board, it will be hard to recommend anything else for bringing the internet to the living room. With the search giant taking the interface out of the equation they are putting our focus on what really matters; the content. With high quality visuals and high quality audio streaming abilities, the Chromecast is a premium quality device packed in a low budget frame. While it does come with its own set of shortcomings, they’re more comparable to growing pains. With an update or two they may even be a distant memory.
The bottom line is, Google set out to put themselves in everyone’s living room with the Nexus Q. While it was a complete flop, the Chromecast is everything Google wanted the Nexus Q to be. I can’t recommend any other web entertainment device, not even my fuller experience Roku 3, as wholeheartedly as I can the Chromecast. It’s small, compact, priced right without sacrificing design, and will eventually put the entire internet at your fingertips. If you see one available, do yourself a favor and pick it up. You won’t be sorry. Even if you’re a die hard Apple fan, you’d be hard pressed to find something better.
- The user interface, or lack thereof, puts content at the forefront. Rather than fumbling around with a clumsy interface you’re one button away from streaming.
- The Chromecast Extension makes it easy to put your tabs on your big screen. The ability to stream web only Hulu content on my tv is something I’ve longed for.
- For $35 you’ll be hard pressed to find a way to bring the internet and your content to your screen.
- Play Music works well. While some have noticed sound quality and volume issues, I haven’t.
- Works with multiple devices across multiple operating systems. It’s neither Pro-Android or Anti-Apple.
- The Chromecast extension has a hard time with video streaming with a bit rate higher than 480p. Video stutters and locks up with audio still playing.
- A lack of compatible apps. This isn’t really a con, at least from my perspective. It’s a new device and it will take some time for developers to catch up.
- You can’t just set an app and forget it. You continually have to select a new episode and the device doesn’t automatically continue streaming tv episodes.
- For Play Music to continue a stream WiFi has to be always on, on your device. My Nexus 10 which is set to turn off WiFi after a short time meant that the music would stop playing after that time.