With this week’s announcement of the Amazon Fire TV, I thought it would be a good time to review our Chromecast. Though I don’t see myself purchasing a Fire TV box, as we already have a Roku, there are quite a few comparisons against the Chromecast and the Roku both, so I thought I’d share our experiences with the Chromecast.
So, right after Google announced the Chromecast, I purchased one. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do with it, but for $35, it was pretty hard to say no to, even if it was just for fiddling around with. It arrived and I plugged it in, it was easy enough that even my parents could do it (but I’ll get to that later). The allure was that it could cast Netflix in addition to Youtube and Google Music. We were having problems with our Sony SMP-200 player with Netflix while we were trying to watch House of Cards. It was barely watchable for us because of buffering and stuttering on the Sony. It worked fairly well, even though it seemed to “forget” it was streaming about 80% through. Once it “forgot”, there was no way to control the video, no pausing, no rewind or fast forward, etc. A minor irritation, but still better than the Sony.
Shortly after we got the Chromecast, we got a Roku 3 to replace the Sony SMP-200. After getting the Roku up and running, the Chromecast sat completely idle for months. Between the Roku and MythTV setup, there was no need to use the Chromecast.
Last week that changed. In January, we put our three year old into a private preschool part-time for a trial run. For various reasons, we took him out at the end of last month, opting instead to go with various summer camps and other community activities for right now. During preschool they started each day with songs and dancing, the typical Mother Goose songs and the like. Now during the mornings, Jessica has been trying to emulate the preschool environment since he loved the singing, dancing, craft projects and everything else. Enter Youtube. There are dozens of the Mother Goose Club videos on Youtube. By queuing them up and casting them to the Chromecast, she can now have the same type of “circle time” that he had in preschool with the same songs and dances. He absolutely loves it.
The software has also gotten better since the initial release. It drops less frequently and seems to better adapt to bandwidth fluctuations. In addition, there are now several more Android apps that support casting which is nice.
So now, the Chromecast gets used almost every day to play songs for our preschooler. The Roku gets used for watching Netflix or Amazon Instant Video, though.
The biggest downside to it is that its very “Google-centric”. By that I mean that it excels at playing content controlled by Google. Music, movies, videos, etc. If you’re tied into another infrastructure, such as Amazon, this won’t work for you. If you have Kindle Fire devices they can’t cast to the Chromecast, either, since they don’t have the necessary Google API’s on them.
This device really doesn’t do anything the Roku can’t do, but since its controlled by Android, its a lot easier to do things like search. Since we always have a phone or tablet within arm’s reach, its awfully convenient. Its also convenient that you can control it from any device on the same network. So if my wife starts a video from her phone, I can pause it from mine.
Setup was a breeze: Plug it in, follow the directions on screen. This involves going to a URL in your phone, tablet or laptop’s browser to setup the wireless. It takes just a few minutes.
In short, I’m glad we have it. Its a nice addition to our Roku and MythTV setup, but it might not be for everyone, especially if you are using a competing infrastructure such as Amazon’s.
You can buy it straight from Google’s Play Store for $35. I bought mine from Amazon since I subscribe to Amazon Prime I got free two day shipping. At the time I wrote this review, Amazon was also selling it for $30, so you can save a few dollars that way.