Google Chromecast allows you to wirelessly watch almost anything that you can bring up on your computer’s Chrome browser on your TV.
It doesn’t work for showing Power Point presentations or watching video stored on your laptop’s hard drive on your TV though.
With phones and tablets, Chromecast works with certain compatible apps like the YouTube player.
Chromecast is significantly cheaper than Roku or Apple TV, at only $35! That’s because it uses your existing laptop to do much of the work. Chromecast is only concerned with mirroring what is in your computer’s browser through Wi-Fi (you can purchase a wired Ethernet adapter separately for $15 from the Google Play Store). There is no remote control because your laptop is the “remote”.
DISCLOSURE: This is a professional review site that receives compensation from the retailer or manufacturer when you purchase through the affiliate links such as the ones on this page. I test and/or research each product or service thoroughly before endorsing it. This site is independently owned and the opinions expressed here are my own.
Chromecast plugs into an HDMI port on your TV, so you will need a modern TV to use it (i.e., it won’t work with an old tube-type of TV without an expensive converter).
You can power it using the included AC adapter, or plug the power cable into a USB port on your TV. Although slightly less convenient, you might get better results when using the AC adapter, since the power coming out of many TV’s is poor quality. For my testing, I used the AC adapter.
If you know how to select Wi-Fi networks on your computer, phone, or laptop, you should have no problem setting up Chromecast. The startup instructions are printed on the inside of the box, then the website or app takes you through the rest of the steps.
Plug in the Chromecast, then open a Chrome browser on your computer and go to the URL specified in the instructions.
During setup, the Chromecast acts as its own Wi-Fi network, which allows you to connect to it from your computer and to enter your Wi-Fi password. This much easier to do using your laptop than using a remote ala Apple TV or Roku!
After setup, my Chromecast required a firmware update, which took a few minutes, but was not difficult.
Next, install the Chromecast pluign in your browser and you’ll be ready to go.
The first thing I tried was to watch video from the CBS.com website. Once I got there, I pressed the “Chromecast” icon in my Chrome browser, and the video appeared on my TV screen! I was watching “The Big Bang Theory” in no time! Picture quality was excellent, in full HD.
Next, I tried YouTube with no problems. After that, I watched some Amazon Instant Videos I had purchased previously. It worked great!
That is why I like Chromecast so much. It lets you watch almost anything that you can see in a computer’s browser window (but not a phone or tablet, more later). You don’t have to worry about whether there is an app provided by Roku or Apple. You can watch almost anything from the Internet on your TV, if you are using a laptop or desktop computer. A lot of video content (for example, the network sites and the free Hulu Plus site) are blocked for phones and tablets, so if you mirror your iPad to your TV using Apple TV, you don’t get that content.
Oh, and I should mention that while you are using Chromecast with your laptop, you can still use your laptop to do other things. You can open other browser windows, surf the Internet, or do whatever you would normally do on your laptop. You just sacrifice one browser window for Chromecast.
While you’ll get access to the most content using a laptop or desktop with Chromecast, I also wanted to make sure it worked with and Apple iPad.
For an iPad or iPhone, you have to install the Chromecast app. After I did that, I was able to watch YouTube video using Chromecast, but not much else. I was not able to watch stuff from my Chrome browser on my TV. It seems that only apps specifically designed for Chromecast will work (such as Netflix and Google Play).
This is a big limitation for mobile users. Chromecast works best with a computer, where you are not limited to “apps”. You have the whole Internet available. I would probably not recommend Chromecast to those who want to use it only with a mobile device. It’s best with a computer.
Android Phone/Tablet Compatibility
Certain Android devices will let you “cast” the device’s screen to your Chromecast. Check out this list to see if your device qualifies. I verified that this works on my HTC One M7 phone. It casts both in portrait and landscape mode. Pretty cool!
My original Chromecast had some flaky behavior, and some friends and readers reported that as well. But so far, the new Chromecast has been flawless for me! I really think the hardware and software have improved.
Should You Upgrade?
If you have the original Chromecast, and it’s working well for you, no need to upgrade if you don’t want to. If, however, your Chromecast is flaky, loses connection occasionally, etc., it is worth upgrading. The new Chromecast offers better Wi-Fi antenna for more reliable streaming, faster processor for faster load times, and some other cosmetic features like more color choices.
Chromecast is good at doing one thing: mirroring content from a computer’s browser to your TV. You have almost unlimited access to the Internet on your TV and you’re not limited to “apps” (unless you’re using a mobile device).
But, Chromecast requires that you use your computer or mobile device to watch TV, which might be inconvenient. If you want a more classic TV viewing experience (i.e., with a real remote control instead of a laptop), I would recommend Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV.
If you are more “techy” and don’t mind using your laptop to watch TV, Chromecast is great.
Chromecast won’t work with an old tube TV; you need HDMI.
I don’t really recommend Chromecast if you want to use it exclusively with your phone or tablet (instead of a computer), because you are limited to apps.
Click the image below to buy the new Chromecast now on Best Buy:
What was your experience with Google Chromecast like? Any questions? Please leave a comment below! – Brian