Last week Google’s Chromecast device was made available in Canada, a little hesitant I decided to purchase one. At just some $40 it seemed like even if it didn’t do everything I hoped, it would probably still be worth it.
After receiving the device just today I have to say I felt a little bit mislead. Myself, and others, were under the impression that the device would be powered directly from the HDMI port. This however is not the case, and isn’t even possible given the HDMI specification. Something I didn’t even think to question given the description on the Chromecast page (“Plug Chromecast into your TV and connect it to WiFi”), and the photos provided certainly didn’t help. Unless you hovered over one specific part of an image, you’d never have received any hint whatsoever that the device required external power. More over, there’s a WiFi symbol next to the mouse over icon, which to me would indicate the hover over was going to explain something about how it uses WiFi, not display an image of how the device is to be powered. (Note: This description is when viewed from a desktop browser, from my phone the image is displayed by default, but still near the bottom.)
So in light of the above I’ll make it exceedingly obvious, Chromecast does indeed require external power. Inside the 12.4×12.4×4.1 cm box you’ll find the Chromecast device itself and some instructions printed on the cardboard door. Behind the tray Chromecast is resting on you’ll find the required USB cable and AC->USB adaptor to power the device, as well as an HDMI extender if the Chromecast device itself doesn’t fit in the location of your HDMI port.
Using Chromecast is quite simple, though also somewhat limited. The applications on your Android or iOS (or side loaded BlackBerry 10) device must support the Chromecast function. This works well and supports some useful applications like Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, and Plex, among others. Where this falls apart is in how Chromecast functions to accomplish this. For the everyday user the way Chromecast works is actually quite awesome. When you choose to watch a video from say YouTube on your Chromecast, it offloads the streaming and playing to the Chromecast itself and frees up your phone to do whatever else you want. However, if you were say, using a VPN on your phone to access certain geo-restricted content, when the stream is passed to Chromecast it’ll be using your normal network to access to the content and will fail to do so. The work around for this is to redirect DNS requests to 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52 to another DNS provider, however to do this you need a router capable of intercepting and redirecting DNS requests. None of mine are capable of this currently.
Another flaw I found in Chromecast I encountered while trying to stream Crunchyroll off my PC to the device for the first time. The sound was working fine, however my TV was pink with just some edges of objects showing up if at all. The fix for this was to disable the Hardware Acceleration option in Chrome, then restart the stream to the Chromecast. After making that change it seemed to work just fine, though I didn’t stream for long enough to really test it, just to see that it worked at all.
In the end, the Chromecast isn’t for me, it’s a small gift for my father and he wont use it in the same way I would want to. He enjoys watching television, and he enjoys watching Netflix, but he’s always had to watch Netflix on his PC. Chromecast will allow him to watch Netflix on the big screen as it was meant to be seen, as well as stream Russian dashcam and funny cat videos on YouTube. And for that, $40 is well worth it, in fact, he was enjoying the device from the moment I showed him how simple it was to send YouTube videos to the TV, and that was a couple hours ago.
So all in all, I think this little device is good value for money, but it does depend on what you hope to use it for.
PS: Why is Chromecast all in lowercase on the box, as well as chrome on the device. Yet, if you visit their page, they capitalize Chromecast?