I used to own a multimedia PC until fall last year and when it broke, I replaced it with a raspberry pi. This thing is still great when it comes to playing files from a connected hard disk but for streaming things off the web, it is not that good (mainly because it’s really slow). So, since it is finally officially available in germany, I got myself a Chromecast …
Descriptions say the Chomecast can stream audio and video content from platforms that implement the google cast architecture but streaming “local” content or the entire smartphone or tablet screen directly to the device is not what it is made for (though reportedly not impossible). The other use case is displaying a tab from a connected chrome browser.
The Chromecast is about as big as your old USB memory stick and will plug into any HDMI input of your TV. It seems especially made for older, “non-smart”-TVs, in order to bring “the internet” to those devices. The stick itself is rather bulky so it likely won’t fit into any TV, but it comes with a short extension cable in order to handle that. I consider that a good thing, since it will avoid running to the shop again for a lot of people. The device also needs a power supply. It can either be plugged into your TV’s USB port or, if it does not have one, can be connected to the power supply unit it comes with. So there should really be no need to get anything extra to this complete package. Well done in my opinion and way more than I expected.
Once connected to an HDMI port and the power supply, the device interactively guides you through the setup of connecting it to your wifi. After installing the Chromecast app and the compulsive system update, the Chromecast was ready for streaming after about 10 minutes from opening the box. It practically went effortless like you’d expect.
So what can it do?
Right, it can stream youtube, google play movies, google play music, redbull.tv and whatchever. Searching the play store for ‘chromecast’ reveals several apps like allcast for example that also allow streaming local (like on your smartphone or tablet) media. Some apps also make streaming from a local mediaserver (some NAS for example) but since I don’t own anything like that, I’ll leave it to someone else to describe that.
I’ve tested the mentioned services with several movies and audio streams and it works really, really well (even with my “slowish” 6Mbit DSL downstream bandwidth. Playing a video from youtube on the ole TV set is as easy as clicking one extra button compared to watching it on the tablet. Awesome! Casting local media does not work too well for me. The videos I cut in h.264 won’t play in any of the apps I tried but that never was the reason for me buying the chromecast. Got the pi for that…
What’s also really nice about the Chromecast is that your smartphone or tablet is just used for controls but can be turned off or used otherwise while the media is being casted. That’s not a very obvious feature but it sure keeps you from charging those devices even more than you do anyways.
To sum up: The Chromecast offers a killer bang for the buck and I’m confident it will only get better once more and more apps will implement the google cast feature. If your goal is streaming content from a local source then there might be better devices for you.