While watching the press event late last month announcing Google’s Chromecast, a new gadget for streaming content from mobile devices to HDTVs, we knew it was going to be big, but we had no idea it would be this big. Nobody, not even the folks at Google, imagined that, within less than an hour after the announcement, Chromecasts would be on back order by more than a week. Or that the day after Google unveiled the device, people were paying as much as three times the suggested retail price of $35 on eBay. Or that, also a day after Chromecast’s debut, Google’s withdrawing a bonus offer for three free months of Netflix would have no effect on the sales stampede.
What’s all this tumult about? After all, aren’t there already several solutions out there, such as HDMI, Intel’s Wireless Display (WiDi), and Miracast, for pushing content from smartphones, tablets, and laptops to televisions? Well, yes there are, but Google’s little dongle offers several advantages over other technologies—starting with its exceptionally low price, which we suspect had a lot to do with it selling out in the first hour.
Granted, you can connect your mobile device to an HDTV with an HDMI cable for less than $35, but this solution is fraught with inconveniences—even if your device has an HDMI-out port, and many don’t. If yours doesn’t, you’re stuck shopping around for an adapter, which raises the expense and frustration factors. But even so, cost isn’t really the drawback to HDMI cabling.
As with any wired solution, when you tether your laptop, tablet, or smartphone to your television with an HDMI cable, your movement is restricted by the length of the cable, not to mention that mobile devices in general are much more cumbersome to use with wires dangling off them. Then, too, there are those situations where your sofa is located 15 or 20 feet across the room from your TV. Sure, sufficiently long HDMI cables are available, but hardly elegant.
Yep. A wireless solution is much more practical. And there are some good ones, such as Miracast, which runs over the Wi-Fi Direct protocol. However, unless your device comes Miracast-enabled, you’re out of luck. Only recently, on products such as Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 and 8.0 and Asus’ MeMO Pad HD 7, have we begun to see support for the Miracast standard. Furthermore, even fewer TVs support Miracast, meaning that, even if your mobile device can broadcast the Miracast signal, you’ll still need a $50-or-so adapter for your television.
Furthermore, when you use Miracast (and similar broadcast technologies) to push data from your smartphone or tablet to your television, you can’t use the mobile device for anything else—not without stopping the broadcast, anyway. As you’ll see in the How it Works section a little later in this review, Google has found a way around that limitation with Chromecast.
Perhaps that is what makes this little dongle such a hit? Or perhaps it’s that Chromecast works with any operating system, mobile or otherwise. In any case, we’ve been testing Chromecast on several different mobile devices for the last three weeks or so, and overall, we’re impressed—it’s well worth the $35 price tag, and innovative and clever enough to deserve our Editors’ Choice nod.
That said, nothing’s perfect. Currently, for instance, Chromecast supports only a handful of apps, such as Netflix, YouTube, and a few others, and during our testing, we discovered a few quirks, but nothing we couldn’t live with. What impressed most was the little gadget’s potential.
See entire review at Computer Shopper.