Chromecast: Doing More with Less

Google’s TV Dongle Is Ideal for Those on a Budget

Currently the market’s flooded with smart TVs and devices to make your TV “smart.” Several months ago, I was curious to try out Google’s Chromecast,

which is priced relatively low compared with its most-direct competitors — Apple TV and Roku. I felt Chromecast was in a justifiable price range for an impulse buy when I found it on sale on Amazon for $30 (normally it’s $35).

There are some very strong points to this device aside from its low price. It’s a simple and (mostly) easy way to add streaming functionality to an older HD TV. I did have problems trying to use it on some Wi-Fi networks, but on my home network it was pretty seamless. Chromecast supports some of the essential apps people like to use for streaming television in the US, like Netflix, HBO Go and Hulu Plus. My biggest disappointment is the limited number of sports apps it currently supports, especially the lack of NHL GameCenter.

Despite missing some key apps, Chromecast is a practical solution for cord-cutters, especially as the quality and quantity of content available for streaming continues to improve. The main thing missing is certain live content such as news and sports. Although for some people this is a deal-breaker, I can see many others who care more about lower prices than premium content.

I think it’s important to emphasize how good the Chromecast interface is. Recently I had to replace the AV receiver for my entertainment system and I choose a midrange unit from Pioneer. I was mainly interested in this unit as an upgrade for my previous receiver, although I was also somewhat curious to try out the iOS and Android compatibility of the unit. After getting the unit home, I discovered that you had to either plug in an Ethernet cable or purchase a proprietary card that retailed for roughly $100 in order to use the iOS and Android functionality of the receiver. After I plugged in an Ethernet cable, I tried the Android app and found that the user interface was dated-looking, sluggish and it crashed frequently. It’s interesting that a $400 box that’s intended to be the centre of home theatre systems struggled to do some of the things a cheap little Chromecast dongle can do. Additionally I found Chromecast to be much faster at loading apps like Netflix than a TiVo box typically loads them.

For console gamers like me, who already own multiple devices that are capable of streaming TV apps, a Chromecast perhaps makes less sense. However, it’s still useful for me since there are multiple TV sets in my house, and Chromecast is a way for me to cheaply and easily get Netflix and HBO Go on every screen. In my experience, it’s a great option for people on a budget or those who want a simple TV set-up.