As I wrote on 7/25, I ordered a Google Chromecast to try Google’s newest foray into connecting the laptop/handheld screen with the TV screen. I’ve had a bit of time to try it, and it’s an interesting option, but I’m not sure it’s the “game changer” that some pundits have said. What is it? It looks like a fat USB memory stick that plugs into an HDMI port on your TV. It requires power either from a specialized HDMI port, or from a USB connection (or AC adapter). It runs ChromeOS but has a very simplistic UI. You can configure it from a Chromebook (I used my new Acer) or from a desktop/laptop running the Chrome browser, or from Android (iOS setup app coming).
It has two modes of operation:
- a few apps/websites can be “connected” directly to the Chromecast and run without your computer; today, it’s Netflix and Youtube, but the promise is more to come. Your phone/tablet is merely the remote.
- “casting” the screen/tab from a Chrome browser extension
The second is currently much more flexible in the content you can “cast.”
So why am I ambivalent? I think that while it’s intriguing, it’s still more interesting to geeks than boxes like an Apple TV or a Roku, both of which have much more functionality. However, today, I’ve got more seamless options for putting Netflix, Youtube and more on the TV screen. I’m glad I bought it, since with my Netflix credit (no longer available), it only cost about $15 including shipping. However, right now it’s more a curiosity. I may use it when I want to project wirelessly from my Chromebook, but that requires a configuration on the WiFi network to allow peer communication, something many enterprises disallow. Interesting, yes…killer product? No, the Chromebook/Chromebox itself is a much more compelling expression of ChromeOS.