In the world of internet streaming, it can sometimes be difficult to choose and device that suits your streaming needs the best. Streaming is supported by most devices nowadays. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all began incorporating this feature in their products. It’s become available on many brands of BluRay players as well as with the purchase of separate devices simply made for this, such as the Roku and Apple TV.
While I enjoyed the PS3, I wouldn’t want to plop down the $200-ish just to get one to use for streaming purposes (which is primarily what I used my old one for anyway). I decided to take a look at a much cheaper option: Google’s Chromecast. Is it maybe too cheap or would it suit both my budgets and my needs?
Once I got my Chromecast, I carefully opened the box and studied the small device. The instructions actually gave two options for powering the device. Since I was able to do it, I just plugged it into power directly (which is the recommended option). The directions were very clearly printed on the screen (once I switched my TV over to the correct input). They were very easy to follow, except for one small detail. The on-screen instructions said to go to google.com/chromecast/setup on my device. I was using my iPad to set it up, but when I got to that site, it just re-routed me to my Apple store to download the Chromecast app. Wouldn’t it have been easier to put an on-screen instruction that simply said to download and open the Chromecast app from my device’s appropriate store?
After that was completed, it was easy. Let the devices find each other, name my Chromecast whatever silly name I wanted, and then it was time to begin! I started out by testing out Hulu Plus. All I had to do was open the Hulu Plus app on my iPad, select the little Google Cast icon in the upper right corner, select my device’s name, and THEN select my episode. It would begin casting immediately. It glitched the first time, but I shut down the app on my iPad and re-opened it and it worked just fine then. Note: Don’t try to select your episode and then begin casting. For some reason, it has difficulty with this and won’t always cast correctly.
I spent my first episode getting everything set up on my iPhone then and testing pausing in the middle from the phone, even though I’d originally cast it with my iPad. Not a problem! I could get used to this. I borrowed a friend’s Netflix account for a little bit to test it as well before moving on to try out the music apps. I ran into that glitch the first time I tried each new app. This told me it wasn’t a new user error like I’d first assumed. However, it is something that perhaps Google should take a look at.
Some video services, like Netflix, use a sort of “autoplay” feature that allows a TV show to continue on to the next episode automatically unless otherwise stopped. At this time, the Chromcast doesn’t support this feature, so if you are used to allowing Netflix to run continuous episodes of “Phineas and Ferb” as you carry on your day, you will be disappointed because you’ll have to stop to select the next episode each time.
I tried Pandora and Songza. Both worked well. The only problem I’ve run into with these apps is that if I left the app for too long, I’d try to go into it on my device, and it wouldn’t sync up. It would begin playing on my device and I’d have to re-cast it to the TV, which would start the channel over on a different song. Not much of an issue, but if you’re grabbing your device solely for the purpose of “liking” or “disliking” a song that’s playing….well, you’re out of luck unless it starts playing some other time and you can catch it.
The pictures are clear and, while lag does happen, it doesn’t happen very frequently. I’m not even certain if that problem is due to my Chromecast or my ISP or even my router.
At this time, there aren’t very many apps, but the most popular ones are out there and even some other unfamiliar ones. Currently supported are: Netflix, HBO GO, Hulu Plus, Pandora, YouTube, Google Play TV & Movies, Google Play Music, VEVO, Red Bull.TV, Songza, Plex, PostTV, Viki, and RealPlayer Cloud. While this is quiet a variety of apps, there are still some that I think they’ll want to take a look into getting out there for the public, such as AmazonPrime. Even though people who have TV services like Verizon FiOS could benefit by their own app’s support for when they’re traveling (this is theoretical as I’ve had no chance yet to test swapping it to another TV).
All in all, I’m enjoying the one that I have. I’ve stopped using my BluRay player’s streaming services for the most part and am still enjoying playing around with the various apps that ARE currently supported by my Chromecast while eagerly awaiting the release of even more.