It seems most of us are looking for ways to cut the cord with our cable company or other TV provider and there is no lack of products that make it possible. From smart TVs to set top boxes such as Roku and Apple TV there are a myriad of solutions to pull TV programs off the Internet.
The latest entry into this crowded market place is the tiny Google Chromecast..a little gadget not much bigger than a USB memory stick that plugs into a HDMI port and allows you to stream video from pretty much any device to your TV. Setup takes a few minutes..plug the Chromecast into a HDMI port then plug the attached power cord into a USB port — either one on your TV or on the included wall wart. Some HDMI 1,4 ports on some TVs will power the Chromecast eliminating the need for external power. Fortunately the TV I used for testing has a side HDMI port as well as a USB port which I was able to use for power. If I wanted to use the HDMI port on the back there isn’t room for the Chromecast so Google thoughtfully included a little adapted for that situation.
The final setup can be completed in one of two ways: You can follow the instructions on your TV to open a specific Web URL or you can use the Chromecast Android or iOS app to do the configuration from your tablet or phone. It’s a quick and painless process that basically involves putting in your Wi-Fi password and then giving the Chromecast a name.
Now you are ready to start streaming. Unlike Bluetooth or Air Play support for Chromecast must be built in to the individual app so for now pickings are pretty slim. Out of the box Chromecast will stream from Android and iOS versions of YouTube, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, HBO Go, Pandora, Songza, Rdio, and a handful of other services..some of these are only available in the US. New services are being added but it has a long way to go to match the variety found on Roku or Apple TV.
However, in Canada at least the options are expanded to whatever the 4 major networks are offering online for free. This consists of many of the popular series the particular network airs. All it takes is to load the network website in Chrome, select the video of your choice and cast the tab to to your Chromecast. The quality is a bit less than full HD but still very viewable especially if you missed an episode of a favourite series. In some markets outside Canada this kind of content is blocked.
I was also able to stream local content using Videostream, a web app available on the Chrome Web Store. You can install it on your Chrome browser or Chromebook. And once you do, you can start playing your own locally stored movies and videos.It supports most video formats including mkv, avi, mp4, etc, and has a remote control app for your Android device.You’ll need to make sure your Chromecast is plugged into a television that’s turned on, naturally, and that your input is switched to Chromecast. Your movie should stream instantly from your computer to your big screen. You can pay $1.49 monthly for the premium Videostream subscription, which allow you to make a video playlist and then control what’s playing on that playlist with the Android app.
The Google Chromecast is a cool little gadget that will provide video streaming that will meet the needs of most users especially in Canada since TV network content is available. It is available from the Google Play Store and Amazon for $39.00