UPDATE: Chromecast is now on sale in the UK and at Â£30, it’s a steal.
– Original Review –
I bought a Chromecast.
Image via The Verge
What’s a Chromecast?
It’s like a USB dongle but with an HDMI port on the end [instead of a USB bit] which plugs into your TV and you can broadcast stuff to it, from Chrome. Chromecast, geddit?
Anyway, I’ve been umming and ah-ing about getting one for a good while now. When they were first announced, back in July 2013, I thought it was ace but I couldn’t really put my finger on why I’d need one. A few months later, in November, when I visited the ‘Google House‘, I spotted it again. And again my interest was piqued. This time I came so very close to purchasing one, and a good friend of mine even offered to send me one from the States.
Shipping fees happened, life happened… stuff happened.
Long story short, fast forward to February and I ended up picking one up off ebay for the grand total of Â£32.49, and I still didn’t know why I needed one.
But I’ve already got a Smart TV!
If you read the feature list for Chromecast you can see that it supports a number of [mainly USA-based] media services. Out of those relevant to my market (the UK) you can see that it does Netflix. But I already have Netflix, on my PS4, my Xbox 360, and as an app built into my TV. Chromecast also does Youtube, but I have a YouTube app available to me in the same ways listed above. There is a third feature that’s available too, but this one’s the clincher: screen mirroring from Chrome.
With the installation of one simple Chrome extension, sharing your browser to the TV is again, one click away. Which means any video, not just YouTube or Netflix, any video can play on the big screen. Tonight, for example, I wanted to watch the amazing hour long interview with Bill Murray that had been doing the rounds. I really wanted to watch it on my TV, but it was on Hulu. For some reason, this normally-restricted-to-the-US piece of content was available to watch in my browser so I opened a new tab, casted to my TV, and carried on internetting.
It really is a great interview, you should watch it.
Ever since getting my Chromecast I’ve used it pretty much every day. This isn’t about features and services, this is simply about ease of use/access. For the 2-screen generation, browsing the web and watching TV at the same time go hand in hand. When that awesome video appears in your stream limiting content to a small-to-tiny screen is rubbish.
If you want to watch it, nay, share it properly and it’s literally one click, and your content appears on the TV. Easy as.
Chromecast is awesome.
UPDATE: For those of you uncomfortable with importing a US version
(in case of any future region locking), rumours are afoot that Chromcast will be formally launching in the UK early next month. The UK version is available NOW.
9 thoughts on “On Chromecast”
So, if I wanted to do it the other way round. Watch iPlayer in the US through a browser? Could I beam it over from Chrome and carry on internetting while watching it in full screen? Or is this limited to major platforms like youtube, hulu etc?
Currently I just use airplay mirroring through an apple tv but need to ‘extend the screen’ if I want to do internetting at the same time.
James Whatley Reply:
February 18th, 2014 at 00:42
The freeing up of the geo-locking isn’t something the Chromecast has done, it’s something odd with the way Hulu has decided to enable embedding its video (normally, I can’t watch a darn thing on there – this Bill Murray video seems to have been unlocked somehow).
HOWEVER, if you’re set up through a proxy then yes, you can absolutely browse the internet while ‘casting.
Aces. I may well get one just for that sheer convenience of not using apple tv.
For geoblocking getaround, I use the free Mediahint plugin for Chrome (and firefox) which gets around all BBC/ITV and C4 restrictions. Also works the other way round for Netflix and Hulu in the UK.
https://mediahint.com/ << get it if you haven't already
Chromecast; going on to prove what I have been saying all along; that tv is the second screen because our mobile / laptop lives are where we want to project out from. Meanwhile if you want to talk good geo-unblocking I use a couple of services.
Unblock-us provides you a series of DNS server settings for your ipad/xbox/mac/PS3/4 etc which enables the US or UK content of Netflix for your Devices.
Mediahint ( as has already been mentioned ) provides access to US content through your browser by faking the user agent data to the provider.
Chromecast is working with Hulu in this instance because it is seeing a US Useragent client which it recognises. Meanwhile if you plug Unblock-us into the DNS for your chromecast then you should be able to run up netflix in the same way .
James Whatley Reply:
February 18th, 2014 at 08:36
Totally agree re TV IS second screen. 100%.
Not sure on the Hulu/Chromecast thing. The video played fine in my browser before I started ‘casting to my TV. It’s definitely something Hulu’s side, not mine. Check the video yourself! 🙂
Nik Butler Reply:
February 18th, 2014 at 09:01
I guess when we reach the point where trust relationships online enable u to grant access to project to our mobile screens from a friends mobile ( laptop/ipad/phone ) device then we will move to a world where screens are like multiple giant whiteboards on which we can share ourselves.
Interesting. I have a “Smart TV” from last year. It’s a slow, buggy Panasonic. Yet it has both YouTube and Vimeo “casting”. I can send any video from those services from my phone’s app directly to the TV.
The Panasonic remote app also lets me send any URL to the TV to be displayed via its internal browser. Sadly, that browser doesn’t include flash and has received zero updates or love from the manufacturer.
I like the idea of the ChromeCast getting past the attrocious “smart” features of most TVs – but I wish it didn’t need to exist.
James Whatley Reply:
February 18th, 2014 at 09:12
Even my uber super shiny new TV can take a while to boot it’s YouTube app, ‘casting just makes it so much easier (plus it has pretty wallpapers for when you’re not using it / watching TV).
It would be good if it didn’t exist, but Google are nailing it with the price point.
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