Google Chromecast Is the Cheapest Media Streaming Player Yet


On Wednesday morning during a breakfast get-together with reporters, Google announced Chromecast. Both a software service and a hardware device, this USB drive-looking device has the potential to change the way we stream media on an HDTV. (That is, unless you're familiar with Apple's AirPlay; then it's a lot like something you've used before.) All this, and it will only cost a mere $35.

Chromecast Is a Lot Like AirPlay

Like AirPlay, Chromecast easily allows a user to send video content from a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to a TV. Unlike Apple's service, however, the Chromecast is compatible with devices from every manufacturer, since it is integrated with Google's Chrome browser as well as YouTube smartphone apps. It's also extremely simple to use. Just plug in the dongle to an HDMI port, load the content you want to play on the remote device, and then select the in-app or in-browser "Cast" button to start the mirroring. (Pop Sci calls this process "slinging," which is a helpful visualization.) And since Chromecast is also compatible with Google Play Movies, TV, Music, and Pandora, as well as Netflix via in-browser streaming, it may be possible to also send Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, or any other streaming web content straight to a big-screen TV. (Update: Since getting our hands on one, we now know that casting of Hulu and Amazon Instant Video tabs from a Chrome browser is not currently supported; check out our Chromecast review for more details.)

What's more, the content that is cast from the remote device to the TV doesn't depend on the user or the device itself being present after initiation. The Chromecast user is free to walk away or browse other websites, as no content is actually being streamed from the device; the device merely sends a signal to the dongle, which in turn accesses the content from the cloud. You could easily start up a Netflix movie, send it to your TV, and then be free to peruse IMDB and see what else your favorite actor has starred in (or re-think watching it at all, based on the RottenTomatoes ratings).

Chromecasting can even be a shared event, since friends only need to be connected to the same WiFi network to use it; Chromecast doesn't require a separate login or registration process, so anyone invited over can easily queue up videos to the "now playing" list. Think of all the "Did You See THIS?!" parties you could have!

Chromecast Is $64 Cheaper than AirPlay

Where Chromecast really innovates is in its price point; unlike the failed Nexus Q, which was priced at an eye-popping $299, the Chromecast only costs $35. That diminutive price tag nets users a tiny, 2" HDMI dongle that completely hides itself behind the TV. Compared to the $99 Apple TV, which is a set-top-box (albeit a small one), Google's offering is less noticeable and almost a third of the price. However, what the promotional materials for Chromecast seem to gloss over is that it's not self-powered, so it does requires a separate USB power cable. But, really, what's one more cord, amongst the squid ink pasta-looking mess you already have hanging back there?

As of press time, Chromecast was available at BestBuy for $35 with free shipping; Amazon charges the same, but is currently sold out; and the Chromecast is currently on backorder and comes with a shipping fee.

Chromecast: For Everyone Without a Smart TV

Chromecast is ideal for folks who don't already own a Smart TV (with WiFi and apps) and who have been hemming and hawing over buying an Apple TV, Roku box, or similar device. The Chromecast is obviously cheap, and it comes with three months of free Netflix, which even existing customers can use, effectively knocking the Chromecast price to $11 for those who already pay for Netflix service. (Update: Google has since cancelled the Netflix offer; a representative told CNET that the company ran out of promo codes within hours.)

Sure, only a handful of apps support Chromecasting right now, but the SDK (software development kit) is available to developers looking to integrate it into more services. Plus, since Chromecast allows users to send just about any web content to any TV, it could just be the device that finally allows you to "cut the cord" on cable.

Readers, what do you think of Chromecast? At just $35, will you give it a try, or will instead opt for a full-fledged streaming set-top box? Let us know in the comments below.

Update: We got our hands on the Google Chromecast... and it's not quite what it's described to be. Watch out Google Chromecast review to find out more.
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Jeff Somogyi
Contributing Writer

Jeff Somogyi is constantly trying to come up with ways to surprise and delight audiences the world over. He takes humor seriously ... too seriously. (Honestly, we've never seen him laugh ... it's kinda creepy.)
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Can I stream content (audio and Video) from my phone Galaxy s4) to my TV with this?
Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
@rampo Yeah what a bummer! The Netflix offer made it almost a no-brainer if you're already paying for that subscription. We'll update the feature.
Writer should do his research. It is not like airplay. It does not sling. It does pull video direct from the cloud with supported platforms such as YouTube or Netflix. But it is different from AirPlay or slinging.
Oops, Google is killing the Netflix deal. I doubt my order will be grandfathered in, so although $35 is still pretty cheap, time to reconsider.
I'm another Roku owner who has ordered one, mostly out of curiosity as I am totally happy with my Rokus. As amoszz noted, the 3 months of free Netflix streaming - which brings the ultimate cost of the device to about $11 - makes it awfully hard to resist.
It improves dramatically their prior Q idea. And I think most people are more comfortable with sending things from a tablet or phone than they are fumbling with another remote. And it appears to be about the simplest device of it's type. And the cheapest. All in all, a good option that will become a GREAT option once more apps support it AND once it supports sending local files to it a la Plex.
This isn't a streaming media's a wireless cable.
Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
@fostina1 That's fair, although what's the likelihood that someone who is interested in the Chromecast (or media streaming on their TV in general) doesn't actually already have at least one of those things at home?
I ordered one as soon as the announcement. Both of my TV's are "smart" and I already own a Roku but for $35 and 3 months of Netflix how could I not order one?
i wouldnt say it was the cheapest yet since it really wont work on its own. you still need a phone, tablet or pc.
LOVE IT! I am an Apple fan and have more iDevices than I care to admit, but AppleTV just missed the mark for me. I think this is a fantastic device and I can't wait to get one

I wonder though if certain content will be blocked though, like HULU.