Google promises easy connection with its new Chromecast dongle. And indeed, it is installed in minutes, if not seconds. Just plug the dongle in a HDMI slot of the TV set, connect the power supply, either to an USB port or directly to the mains with an adapter, and off you go.
After that, download the Chromecast app on any smartphone , tablet or computer (available for Android, iOS, Apple and Windows) and you are in business. After firing up the app on my iPhone, it automatically detects the Chromecast device and connects after typing in the identification code.
In order to see any content, one needs to download the various Chromecast-compatible apps on your phone or tablet. Unlike other streaming devices, Chromecast needs your mobile device (or computer) to act as a remote and host all the apps.
At this moment the number of apps is still very limited, especially in Europe. There is Netflix, YouTube, Red Bull, Viki and a few more, but so far most catch-up and on-demand services are lacking. In the UK, the BBC iPlayer is compatible, but not the international version, which can be used elsewhere in Europe.
Although choice is limited, performance is very good. After accessing, say, your Netflix account, you choose the movie or TV series you want to watch and the dingle automatically connects to the requested content – streaming it directly to the TV set in good quality.
Chromecast also offers the possibility to mirror any website to the TV set. The feature only works with Google’s Chrome browser and send the picture from the device to the TV screen. There is no direct streaming, so this results in a poor picture quality, but it does allow you to look at any website on the TV, including those with streaming video.
All in all, Chromecast is a neat little device, very cheap and cheerful, but limited in its possibilities. The choice of content is bound to grow as Google has launched a free development kit.
In comparison with other streaming devices, such as Apple TV, Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV, which are more expensive, Chromecast lags behind. But then, you can take along the dongle to anyone, stick it in another TV set and watch not only the streaming content, but also any content that is on the mobile device itself.