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Eye on Demand | December 16, 2017

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Chromecast (Video) 2015 Review

Chromecast (Video) 2015 Review

Review Overview

Value For Money
9
User Interface
6
Availability of Services
7
7.3

Fantastic Value

If you’re looking for a streaming device on a budget, one of the best out there is the Chromecast from Google. This fantastic, low-cost dongle will stream Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Zattoo and loads more for less than $35 to a big-screen TV near you. But is it as easy to use as a normal set-top-box? 

What is it?

The Google Chromecast is a tiny HDMI dongle that sits behind your television – for the most part out of sight – allowing you to stream local area network, catch-up, on-demand, or even live television from the Internet, on your main TV via your home WiFi – all for around US$35, £30 or €35.

For the most part, it will use your existing smart phone or tablet as the controlling device, via apps already installed on them (or a laptop/computer’s Chrome browser) to create a great, sofa-friendly way to watch Internet television in the comfort of your living room.

Note: This review is for the Chromecast that supports video. Google make two versions of this device, one for video and the other for audio, and we’ll be reviewing the audio version at a later date.

How does this differ from a standard streaming device?

Most streaming devices come in either a set-top-box or dongle form, but almost all of them have one major difference to the Chromecast – they employ a User Interface. As odd as it may sound, the Chromecast has no such UI as everything is effectively controlled by separate devices such as your smart phone. In some ways this makes life quite easy, as theoretically all people need to do, is to master their existing streaming apps or navigate the broadcaster’s website.

However, in reality it can cause a bit of confusion for many people, especially those not so savvy with tech. This is mainly because it can become a little confusing at times which device may be controlling the Chromecast, especially if there are a number of people in the room.

 

What do you need?

For basic access to content streamed from within your own country, all you need is:

  • A modern enough TV (that has a spare HDMI socket), although a proper HD television will make the most use of this dongle. (This doesn’t need to be a Smart TV!)
  • A spare wall power socket, in case your TV does not have a spare powered USB port. (We have been able to get away with just plugging this into a USB port in our reference television. This also has the advantage of switching off the device when we power down the TV).
  • A home WiFi network, with good reception as streaming video can tax poor WiFi signals.
  • A good Internet connection, generally speaking with a stable 3MB per second or faster service (the faster the better).
  • A smart phone/tablet for accessing streaming services as well as setting the device up in the first place.
  • Alternatively, you can also stream from the Chrome browser installed on a Windows PC, Linux, Mac or Chrome OS laptop.

If you want to access content from outside your country, you may need some extra kit, but this will described in the global section of this review.

Note: This review is for the latest model “Video” Chromecast dongle that launched in October 2015. If you are looking for a review of the previous model, head here.

 

  • Physical

    Dongles are not exactly new, in fact they date back several decades. As far as connected-TV devices go, various companies have been pawning unofficial Android loaded dongles for a while now, and even Roku and Amazon have produced models of their popular streaming boxes contained entirely within one. So what exactly is a streaming dongle anyway?

    As technology continuously miniaturizes everything, we have reached a stage where a set-top-box (which incidentally these days usually sits under a television rather than on top) can be squeezed into a device so small, it has become little more than the enlarged plug socket itself.

    And this is exactly what the Chromecast is. It’s a set-top-box so tiny, it has effectively been squeezed inside a small disc that hangs off the HDMI cable. The whole thing just sits in the back of your television, never to be seen again.

    The new Chromecast differs considerably in physical shape from the original model. Instead of a traditional stick that plugs directly into the HDMI port, the new Chromecast is a circular disc with a short flexible cable that makes it possible to connect easily to most televisions. This time around, it comes in three colours; black, red and yellow.

    Chrome3

    At one end of the dongle is an HDMI connector that plugs directly into a spare socket in the back or side of your television set, with a micro USB port at the other end used primarily at this stage for supplying power. This can be connected directly to a spare USB port on some TVs if it supplies enough juice, or plugged into a wall socket with the supplied adapter. Once the Chromecast is configured, sending content to the big-screen is as easy as selecting the casting button on your controlling device.

    Chrome TV

    And this is pretty much all there is to it. The Chromecast does not come with a remote, although some TV and universal remotes will still pause/play the stream if properly configured.

    Setting up the device is relatively easy, but you will also need a computer or smart phone/tablet during the process, so it is wise to install the Chromecast app before you begin.

     

    Unblocking geographic restrictions on this device is supported by the following Smart DNS providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

  • Media Services

    At the end of the day, it all comes down to which streaming services are available that will decide whether €35 is still worth the money, and at the time of this publication, the Chromecast sits in the middle league in regards to native app support.

    In the US region, supported apps include Netflix, HBO Go, and Hulu Plus amongst a few more, with the UK also offering Netflix, Now TV and the BBC iPlayer whilst Watchever, Zattoo and Maxdome are included in the German basket. But there are of course many notable services missing.

    The UK lacks other television network’s catch-up services such as ITV Player, Demand 5 and All 4(4oD), although it is likely these will eventually be added to the fold.

    And although Netflix is present on all regions where both the Chromecast and the big red streaming service are available, its biggest rival Amazon Prime Instant Video is nowhere to be seen.

    Check here for reviews of services that offer Chromecast when they become available.

    BBC iPlayerNetflixHulu

     

     

    FilmOnZattooStan

    PrestoQuickflixNowTV2

    FanPass

     

     

     

     

    All4
    Willow

     

     

     

     

    Unblocking geographic restrictions on this device is supported by the following Smart DNS providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

  • User Interface

    How on earth do you rate the UI of a device that technically has no user interface?

    And this really does sort of run true for the Chromecast. When not in use, the only information displayed on the TV is the time and the device name in front of a rather nice slideshow (or other personally configured backdrops). There are no settings or any other options available.

    Samsung TV

    The closest you can get to a UI with the Chromecast is their accompanying mobile apps.

    As far as the Chrome app goes, there are a couple of nifty features. My clear favourite is the “What’s On” section which displays a complete rundown of Chromecast-compatible apps currently installed on your device.

    Smart DNSers who have apps installed from all over the world will be happy to read that the list includes all Chromecast-compatible apps, regardless of where they originate.

    WhatsOn

    The “Devices” tab will bring up your current casting show where you can pause or adjust the volume (although little else), as well as displaying system properties for the Chromecast device itself.

    You can’t do a lot in the system properties, but you can change the language, backdrop, time zone etc. But before you get too excited, network settings are very dumbed down, so there is no way to actually configure details like DNS or VPNs (For DNS you will need an Android TV device like the Nexus Player that also supports Chromecasting, otherwise you will have to set it at your router level).

    Devices

    Finally, the “Get Apps” section will help you find additional Chromecast-compatible apps that are not already installed on your device. This is a handy place to go, but keep in mind it is restricted to apps only found in your region.

    GetApps

    So what about the much discussed Global Search that was highlighted at the launch-event? Well, Google have chosen to only support this in the US at the time of publication. This means we were not able to test this ourselves. This is a huge disappointment, as so often American companies ignore large markets outside their own country. Google are not the only ones to do this, with Amazon and Roku also limiting their best search features only to within the US. Hopefully Apple are different when their new ATV arrives on the scene,

    Outside of the odd bit of maintenance or searching for a particular app, you probably won’t spend a lot of time in the Chromecast app itself.

    So the UI is in effect, completely in the hands of third party developers and their own mobile apps or web pages (e.g. Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer etc). When they get it right it works well, but if they botch it up, it’s not the fault of the Chromecast dongle.

    In most cases, the only change most people will see when Chromecast is supported on an app or webpage, is the casting button at the main screen and/or the video playback window.

    Chromecast Selection

    Select your Chromecast device from the dropdown list and your video will happily play back on your main TV instead of the computer or mobile device. What could be easier?

    For the most part it works really well. Although this appears similar to how AirPlay on iOS functions, it is actually quite different under the hood. AirPlay first streams the video to the mobile device, and then re-streams it across to the Apple TV, whereas Chromecast really just acts as a controlling device with all the streaming occurring directly from the Chromecast itself and never actually from the mobile device.

    This has the advantage of low power and WiFi overheads for your mobile device and the fact that the streaming service knows you plan to watch on the main TV and provide a decent quality stream. (As some streaming services force a lower quality stream to mobile devices presuming you will always be watching on the small screen).

    But this method isn’t without its flaws either.

    One of the biggest problems is managing the stream after it begins playing. This is all pretty easy if you keep the main app running all the time, as the pause/stop and other controlling buttons will be at the front of your mobile device.

    But you don’t need to keep this running at all. Once your stream begins on the Chromecast, you can use your mobile device for anything you like, including closing the apps and switching it off. Once this happens, it can become a little confusing on how to stop the stream playing back on your TV, especially if someone else wants to take over.

    Example: Imagine if someone else in your home used their smart phone to start a programme or live stream, then left the home completely while you are still watching. It wouldn’t matter if their phone is now halfway across town, the stream will continue on the Chromecast. Sure, you could just switch off the TV, but playback may still continue on the Chromecast itself, eating up valuable data allowance, not to mention if the remaining viewer just wants to pause the show to go to the bathroom.

     

    Unblocking geographic restrictions on this device is supported by the following Smart DNS providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

  • Chrome Browser Tab Mirroring

    One of the most exciting features of the new Chromecast, at least on paper, is the ability to cast a Chrome browser’s tab to your main TV screen. In theory, this means any streaming service you can access on your computer (even those via VPN or Smart DNS), can be played back on your main TV in full-screen.

    The original implementation of Chrome-tab browsing was full of so many issues, it was effectively useless, but it seems Google have finally got it right.

    I’ve been testing tab mirroring from a 5 year-old iMac via the Chrome browser, and to be honest, it has been working so impressively, this really makes for a realistic way to watch streaming television on your main TV if no native chromecast support is available.

    Let’s be honest here though, although the video quality is an enormous improvement over previous attempts by Google, it is still not as good as what a native app can pull off, but it certainly seems to suffice in most cases – at least in my tests.

    Pros to Chrome-tab mirroring:

    • Send video streams from virtually any website over to your main TV in good quality. This means services like ITV Player, Demand 5, TVNZ On Demand, Plus7 etc which do not have native Chomecast support can be viewed on the big-screen TV.
    • Works from any reasonable computer/laptop with a compatible Chrome browser.
    • Computer can be used for other purposes when the tab is mirroring.
    • Video can be played back in full-screen.
    • Audio is synced on the TV side, and muted on the computer.

    Cons to Chrome-tab mirroring:

    • Chrome browser is required.
    • Video quality is acceptable, but not as good as native casting (casting directly from an app).
    • You can’t sleep the computer or laptop during casting.

    Tab Mirroring

    Entire Screen Casting

    It is also possible to cast your entire screen or other apps, not the just browser tab to the Chromecast dongle, although this feature is again found in the Chrome browser itself.

    The main differences between basic tab casting and entire screen mirroring are as follows:

    • If your entire screen is mirrored to the Chromecast, whatever you are using or viewing on the computer will be transmitted to the TV.
    • You can limit the casting to a specific app.
    • Audio is synced on the computer and muted on the TV, making it not suitable for watching television streams.
    • Video quality is not good enough for streaming television.

    Chromecasting entire screens is described by Google as “experimental” which also sits on top of the general “beta” label so don’t expect perfection here. To be honest, it works pretty good for presentations, but probably little else.

    Unblocking geographic restrictions on this device is supported by the following Smart DNS providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

  • Global

    If your goal is simply to access Chromecast apps from your own country, you can pretty much skip this tab. Everything is designed to work pretty easy for basic set-up using Chromecast within your local region and no complicated wizzardry is required at all.

    However, if you want to squeeze a little more out of your US$35 dongle, it is possible via Smart DNS or a VPN to access content from around the world.

    Unfortunately, to make the Chromecast as easy-to-use for the average consumer, Google have provided almost zero network configuration options, and encourage the use of their own DNS servers. For some people, where their Smart DNS servers are quicker to reach than the Google ones, this is not a problem, but for others, it may seem at first impossible.

    However, where there is a will, there is a way.

    First of all, the easiest way is to buy something else such as the Nexus Player which runs Android TV. This is also a Chromecast device but with many more features including a proper UI and the ability to set up manual DNS servers and no forced Google DNS. However, all this does come at a price as the box is larger and costs more than a simple Chromecast.

    So presuming you want to find a solution for a Chromecast, below are two modifications that can be made on various routers to allow Smart DNS to work. Of course, you could just connect it always through a VPN which will work as well, but since Smart DNS works far better than VPNs, we’ll be concentrating on that.

    In all methods you will require a Smart DNS service configured on your router. This is as easy as signing up with one and placing their two DNS servers in the correct field of your router (we’ve used Getflix for this test here at Eye on-Demand, and we can confirm that it works perfectly with the BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Hulu and many more).

    You will also need to install apps from different regions onto your smart phone or tablet. Google Play may require a VPN service to achieve this, but for Apple, this is as easy as creating a new iTunes account for that region, as described here.

     

    Method A: Configuring a router which allows Static IP Tables

    This is probably the easiest method to achieve this task, but only works on a handful of routers. If your router allows this, by all means give it a go.

    Unfortunately if you are a Fritz.box owner, this method will not work with you, despite the option in the Networking category that looks like it should, but we have a guide for Fritz.box routers here.

    Reason to use this method:
    You have a compatible router (Many Asus, Netgear, D-link, TP-Link and Trendnet routers, amongst others will allow this in their advanced settings).

    Warning: This configuration is for intermediate users who know their way at least a bit around a router’s user interface. It is possible to mess things up on your router which could completely block the Internet – but this can be easily remedied by resetting the router. However, make sure you keep a record of all your required settings and login passwords for your ISP.

    Because every router is different, these are only basic instructions. Check your routers manual for more details.

    1. Make note of your routers IP address (This is usually located somewhere on or near the routers front page)
    2. Locate the part of the router’s configuration where you can add static routes. This could be called Route orStatic Routes and it may be hidden behind an advanced layer.
    3. If required, set enable static routes to yes, or add a static route or route list.
    4. Add the following in the available fields for two separate static routes.
      • Network/Host IP: 8.8.8.8
      • Netmask: 255.255.255.255
      • Gateway: your router IP address
      • Metric: 2 (If required)
      • Interface: WAN, LAN or LAN & Wireless (if required)

       

      • Network/Host IP: 8.8.4.4
      • Netmask: 255.255.255.255
      • Gateway: your router IP address
      • Metric: 2 (If required)
      • Interface: WAN, LAN or LAN & Wireless (if required)

       

    5. Additionally, if you are using Netflix on Android, you may need to add these: 208.67.222.222 & 209.244.0.3
    6. Test by pinging 8.8.8.8 as well as 8.8.4.4. If it fails, then the configurations are correct.
    7. Powercycle the router by switching it off and then on again.

    Method B: Adding a routing table to a DD-WRT Router.

    An alternative way to achieve a similar result is via a routing (NAT) table on a DD-WRT router. This is the most complex of all methods, so is recommended for advanced users.

    Warning: This configuration is for advanced users who know their way at least a bit around a router’s user interface. It is possible to mess things up on your router which could completely block the Internet – but this can be easily remedied by resetting the router. However, make sure you keep a record of all your required settings and login passwords for your ISP.

    • Log into your DD-WRT Router.
    • Navigate to Administration > Commands.
    • Add the following new Firewall rules:
      iptables -I PREROUTING -t nat -p udp -d 8.8.4.4 –dport 53 -j DNAT –to-destination [Smart DNS address 1]
      iptables -I PREROUTING -t nat -p udp -d 8.8.8.8 –dport 53 -j DNAT –to-destination [Smart DNS address 2]

    Additionally, if you are using Netflix on Android, you may need to add these: 208.67.222.222 & 209.244.0.3

     

    To remove at a later stage, navigate back to this page on the router’s configuration and remove the above tables.

    Unblocking geographic restrictions on this device is supported by the following Smart DNS providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

  • What’s Missing?

    For US$35, you get a lot of streaming goodness in a tiny package, but that doesn’t mean everything is all great.

    Virtual remote

    For a start, I would have liked to have seen some sort of virtual remote on the Chromecast mobile app. This could be used to pause, start and stop currently playing streams, which can be useful if someone else starts using the mobile device which initiated the stream.

    This could have been expanded to include last played videos, regardless of the app or device used to initiate them, for quick returning to where you left off, which of course leads to a favourites section as well.

    More apps

    What we see is only the beginning for Chromecast in regards to apps, but I am somewhat surprised at how many are still missing. Considering that this device has been available since mid 2013, it is remarkable that not one other broadcaster in the UK followed the BBC with native support. If Netflix is on, but Amazon Prime Instant Video isn’t, it also doesn’t bring a warm, fuzzy feeling to Amazon subscribers, who dished out nearly eighty dollars with no get-out clause – maybe Amazon should stick to online books if it finds Chromecast too complicated?

     

    Unblocking geographic restrictions on this device is supported by the following Smart DNS providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

  • Compared To…

    There are a lot of streaming platforms available these days, with hubs built directly in smart TVs, gaming consoles and traditional set-top-boxes, but we’re going to concentrate for the most part of direct competitors to the Chromecast, which in this case looks at alternative dongles and budget conscious devices.

    Roku Stick: Roku’s tiny dongle sits somewhere between a Roku 1 and Roku 2 as far as features go, whilst retaining the price tag of the lower end model. One big advantage of the Roku Stick is the huge range of channels for American and British content. In the UK, the Roku Stick covers every major streaming service, with apps for the BBC iPlayer + BBC Sport, ITV Player, All 4 (4oD), Demand 5, Netflix and Now TV, with only Amazon Prime and UKTV Play missing. The US version includes Amazon Prime and has a wide range of American catch-up apps along with Hulu. But there is a big catch for Smart DNS users – you can’t mix apps from different regions. It is either set to the US, or the UK but not both.

    There are casting opportunities as well, but it is a far cry from the options available in this respect to the Chromecast which is dedicated to casting technology. On the other hand, the Roku Stick sports a proper user interface that many people will find more comfortable to use.

    The Roku Stick officially retails for $50 and can be bought usually cheaper from Amazon US here, or from Amazon UK here.

    Amazon Fire TV Stick: This is the budget version of the Amazon Fire TV box, and although it provides a significant drop in processing power over the more expensive model (and lacks the 4K output as well), it is still a very versatile streaming device and offers a few nifty features that may make it seem even more interesting.

    Unlike the Chromecast, the AFTV Stick sports a proper UI, and it is a pleasure to use. Unfortunately, it is very heavily aimed towards Amazon Prime content, so users who do not have a Prime subscription may find a good deal of the screen real-estate wasted.

    As far as apps go, there are not quite as many as the Roku for US and UK content, but it does have a couple of added bonuses in that there are also German and Japanese apps available, and a really nifty backdoor way to mix them altogether onto the single hub (so you can have the BBC iPlayer sit next to Hulu or HBO Now and Zattoo).

    At the time of publication, UK apps included the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, Demand 5, Netflix, Amazon Prime and TVPlayer (missing All 4, Now TV and UKTV Play), with US apps including HBO Now, Hulu, Netflix, Prime, PBS, Lifetime, Sling TV, A&E, History and Crackle, with German apps including Zattoo (live streams only), ARD1, ZDF, Arte, BR Mediathek, Servus TV & DW.

    Amazon are also about to launch a casting protocol to try and compete with Chromecast on that front, but there is not a lot of news regarding that at this stage.

    One last really good feature with this device is that it is easily possible to add your own DNS servers to the network configuration – a task which is impossible with all the other devices on this page (outside of doing this at the router level in your home). This, combined with the fact you can mix apps onto a single hub, makes the AFTV stick a great platform for Smart DNS users.

    The Amazon Fire TV Stick can be bough for around $40 with the voice remote from Amazon US here, or $30 with a much crappier remote here.

    British buyers can order from Amazon UK for the version with the Voice Remote here, or the basic remote here.

    German customers can get the voice remote version from Amazon DE here, or the standard version from here.

    Now TV Box: Finally we’ll look at this amazing little box from Now TV. Although this is not a dongle, it is actually the cheapest streaming set-top-box on the planet at £15, and this certainly makes it worth while to mention.

    On the plus side, this is a white-labled Roku 3 which normally retails for £100 or so, and it covers nearly every major streaming service in the UK, from the BBC iPlayer (+BBC Sport), ITV Player, All 4 (4oD), Demand 5 and Now TV (for Sky TV). The only free to air service missing is UKTV Play.

    But there is a reason it costs £15 instead of £100, and that’s because Sky (who sell this box) don’t allow any direct competitors on board such as Netflix (Amazon Prime are also missing, but that is just as much their choice as it is Sky’s restriction). Also, unlike a normal Roku 3, this box can not be switched to the US for Roku’s American content.

    Still, if you want to watch just UK catch-up, for £15 you really can’t go wrong, so head straight to Sky UK’s Now TV page here to grab it. (Note, they have free UK delivery, but will not ship outside the country – also, don’t worry about signing up to Sky, they will not bill you for any of their packages unless you want them, and Now TV packages are contract-free).

    The box can also be bought from Amazon UK with a three month Now TV Entertainment Pass attached for £25 here, or with a 2 month Sky Movie Pass for £25 here.

     

     

  • Tricks and Tips

    Here are a couple of tricks and tips you may find nifty to consider about the new Chromecast:

    Automatically turn on your TV from your Chromecast button.

    One of the coolest things you can do is to automatically turn on your television directly from the Chromecast or Play button on your mobile device. If your TV is off, and you choose to send a video from say the BBC iPlayer, Netflix or any other app on your mobile device to your TV, your TV will automatically switch itself on, and select the required input. Magic!

    Gotcha? You bet. This requires a CEC or AnyNet+ compatible television, which is quite a few of the later models these days, but sadly not all.

    The other catch is that it doesn’t work the other way around. There is no way to switch off the TV without your normal remote, so don’t throw it out just yet!

    CEC (or HDMI-CEC) usually needs to be switched on in your TV’s settings. While it would be logical for every TV manufacturer to call CEC by its actual name, their cocaine-filled marketing departments always seem to think otherwise. In a move guaranteed to confuse 99% of humans around the world, each TV manufacturer gives CEC a completely different name (with the exception of the wise folk at Hitachi). Here is what you should look for on your set:

    Samsung – Anynet+
    Sony – BRAVIA Link or BRAVIA Sync
    Sharp – Aquos Link
    Hitachi – HDMI-CEC
    AOC – E-link
    Pioneer – Kuro Link
    Toshiba – Regza Link or CE-Link
    Onkyo – RIHD (Remote Interactive over HDMI)
    LG – SimpLink
    Panasonic – VIERA Link or HDAVI Control or EZ-Sync
    Philips – EasyLink
    Mitsubishi – NetCommand for HDMI
    Runco International – RuncoLink

     

    Artistic slideshows on your television.

    Want your TV to work as a cool slideshow in the background, or perhaps one of those horrible and tacky virtual fireplaces? It’s not only television streaming that Chromecast can handle, as many other apps are making use of this little device as well. Artkick is one of our favourite slideshow apps, but there are plenty more.

     

    Using with a Plex Server.

    Plex have now allowed full, free access to the Chromecast from within their mobile apps. This is a great feature from Plex which then allows you to easily stream your own network based video files directly on to a TV. Plex already offers many ways to do this, but the Chromecast is one of the cheapest devices that can attach to a non-smart television to facilitate this.

     

    Guest Mode

    If security is not high on your agenda, or you are a really sharing sort of person, you can switch your Chromecast to Guest Mode, allowing anyone within 25 feet of the device to connect and cast with their own devices.

    Your Chromecast will generate a random 4-digit PIN that is required to cast to it using guest mode. When a device nearby tries to connect, the Chromecast automatically transfers that PIN using short, inaudible audio tones. If the audio tone pairing fails, your guest will be given the option to connect manually by entering the 4-digit PIN found on your Chromecast backdrop and in the Chromecast app.

     

    Ethernet Adaptor

    If you have bad WiFi reception, but access to Ethernet, the Chromecast itself doesn’t sport any Ethernet ports. However, there is an official Ethernet Adaptor available that also acts as a power supply.

    ChromecastEth2

     

  • Where to Buy

    The Chromecast can be bought from a wide range of brick & mortar and online stores in selected countries around the world, but sadly Amazon have barred it.

    This is most likely because Amazon see it as a serious threat to their own Amazon Fire TV stick, and since they began planning their own device, Amazon have not only stopped adding their app to competing platforms, but they are now beginning to stop selling other platforms altogether.

     

    Probably the best way then is to head straight to Google and grab one there.

    (Just make sure you order the Video version, and not the Audio-specific one unless you are after that)

  • Conclusion

    When the Chromecast was first launched in 2013, it sent shockwaves around the online streaming world, thanks to its low price and small footprint. Here was a great little device that was cheap enough for an offhand purchase that could bring Netflix, Hulu, the BBC and more to any TV with an HDMI port.

    And as far as sales go, it really took off.

    Unfortunately native app support has been a little slower than expected, despite the huge sales, and while a reasonable amount of streaming services officially support Chromecast, there are still a notable number missing.

    All that aside though, the new Chromecast launched in October 2015 has improved on the original in a number of ways without increasing the price; with a better physical design, improved WiFi and far better tab mirroring – the 2015 Chromecast is really an amazing little device worth having, even if it is just for the spare room TV – or mirroring content across which you don’t have access to from any other device.

    It is both incredibly easy to use, and yet confusing at the same time, because of the lack of any dedicated and centralized remote control – so if someone else starts your stream for you, it may become a little confusing to know exactly how to pause or even stop it. But the fact it already uses the same apps you may be familiar with on your mobile phone or tablet, gives it an advantage when looking at it from a different perspective.

    All in all, this is a US$35 dongle which has enormous potential. It is still a little rough around the edges – even in its second incarnation, and it would be nice if Google allowed us to manually set our own DNS servers (which can be done on the Nexus Player), but overall, you get a lot of streaming for so little cash!

    Pros:

    • Fantastic price.
    • Incredibly small in size.
    • Enormous potential.
    • Can handle 1080p HD with ease.
    • Already works with BBC iPlayer, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Plex, YouTube, Google Play and more.
    • Can mirror a Chrome browser tab, or even the whole computer screen.
    • Works with Apple, Android and Windows Phone.
    • Great sofa-friendly environment.
    • One of the best ways to turn a dumb TV smart.

    Cons:

    • Can not set DNS internally (maybe a bit fiddly to get working with Smart DNS).
    • No remote control.
    • Requires a Smart Phone or Tablet for the majority of usage.
    • Possible for user to get lost if initializing playback device is removed from the scene.
    • No Ethernet.
    • No Audio out (from video model).
    • Global Search only available in US.

     

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    Log:

    08.10.2015: Review published. Score 6 – Fantastic Value.

    14.10.2015: Updated in regards to global search and Chrome app.

    09.02.2016: Updated with new tips and services.

     

Comments

  1. James

    A quick tip for people in Europe. Google has now enabled the option to run the device at 50hz. Would seem that up until now both versions 1 & 2 of Chromecast have been running by default at 60hz which is the standard for TV output in the US.

    I’ve found that enabling 50hz support has eliminated any slight juddering, or flickering that used to sometimes be recognisable.

    The option is found under the device settings in the chromecast app.

    • Brilliant tip James!

  2. Ken Ellison

    What is IP 8.8.8.8.8 and can it be used as a dns for USA?