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I'm an early adapter of Google's new $35 Chromecast product.

I ordered it as soon as I read about it, but not because I wanted the product. I wanted to test my powers of pattern recognition. I do that sometimes. If you live long enough, you can predict which sorts of things won't work even before you try them. In this case, it seemed unlikely to me that I could scroll through content on my phone and tell the Internet to send it seamlessly to my Chromecast dongle so it could display on my TV. Too many hand-offs and synchronization problems, I thought. It just feels like the sort of thing that looks good on paper but never works when you get it home.

So here's my review of the Chromecast:

1.       Looks good on paper.

2.       Doesn't work when you get it home.

Okay, some details.

The set-up only has a few steps, but the on-screen directions for one of the steps was so oddly worded that I predict no more than 20% of the general public would be able to decipher it. I stared at it for a few minutes and considered quitting. Eventually I took a guess at what the directions meant and it worked out. Most of the readers of this blog would have guessed right too. To put it in perspective, if you are the type who can buy a wireless router and set it up without help, Chromecast would be easy enough to set up. Otherwise you might need to ask for help.

To be fair, the setup is just one poorly-worded instruction away from being genius. And I'm sure by now someone has posted a YouTube video of how to do it.

Once Chromecast was up and running, I couldn't immediately adjust the TV volume because my universal remote didn't have the TV's internal speaker volume on its top menu screen. In my house, that means I would be the only one who could figure out how to drill down to the internal speakers menu on the universal remote to adjust volume. If your TV doesn't have external surround sound speakers, it's not an issue.

I downloaded apps for Netflix and YouTube - which is about all I can do with Chromecast and my iPhone - and waited for the system to not work, because that's how this sort of thing goes. And sure enough, the pattern held. The apps would lock up on a regular basis. Sometimes the video and the sound didn't sync. Overall, it didn't work well enough to trust it for an entire movie.

In the few minutes of uninterrupted video and sound I was able to produce through Netflix, I could see the potential of the thing. If it ever worked, it would be fantastic, especially for the price.

I was also impressed that I could move the device to another TV and it retained its setup programming, at least within the house where it has the same WiFi. That was handy.

Your experience with Chromecast might be different. And I would expect some of the bugs to shake out soon. I like the promise of it. And if you have a teen who likes to watch YouTube clips on a big screen, it could be a great gift. It works well enough for that if you don't mind the occasional technical problems and freeze-ups.

 
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Aug 25, 2013
Took me a while to get mine, but... setup couldn't be much simpler. Seriously.

However, it is ultimately a pretty limited device for now. and it's not powered by the HDMI port (which was something I was pretty incredulous about to begin with). It is powered either by a USB port or a USB AC adapter.

Still, for $35, it's pretty incredible, and I look forward to seeing how future updates change its capabilities.
 
 
Aug 14, 2013
I recently finished building a raspbmc (Raspbian's XBMC) setup using a Model B pi, a 1TB 2.5" hdd, USB wifi adaptor, powered USB hub and enclosing it in a poorly constructed (but cute) wooden case.. bit more expensive since it was my first time and I didn't exactly shop around, but it's been working perfectly, for both stored movies and watching hi-res youtube clips or movie trailers on a big screen. Also lets you use the remote via HDMI-CEC.

So for the hobbyists out there, this is a more fun solution than Apple TV or Chromecast!

usual disclaimer: I'm a moron and maybe I'm responding to some elaborate Adamsian troll, if so, I apologise and withdraw.
 
 
Aug 12, 2013
Didn't see anything about Apple TV, which has many of the same features and works great. Plus, with your iPhone your pretty much set. My favorite is watching hob through the iOS app then going out and still being able to use my iPad while hob plays on my tv. I think it's $75 refurb on apple.com. Totally worth the little extra.
 
 
Aug 11, 2013
So let me get this straight. You couldn't understand the instructions. So you put it together your way. Now it doesn't work. And it is the device's fault. Hmmm.

On the other hand, for years I played with TV Tuners for the computer. PCI cards, USB dongles etc. None worked well. But they sold well enough. Mostly to kids who played with them for a while, then junked them.

But technology works from both sides. When I first got my Nexus 7, a fair number of videos didn't work on it. Now they do. Nothing much has changed on the device, so I can only conclude that when it reached critical mass, they "optimised" their videos to work with it. I'm no techie, but I assume that means they changed codecs etc.

I suspect the same will happen here. When Netflix works out that there are millions of Chromecasts out there and this is an opportunity for them, they'll optimise to suit it. I'll bet the guys at YouTube are working on it right now. And the guys everywhere else are working out how they get to these people and having something that works well could be their edge.

As an early adopter, these are the problems you face. Give it 6-18 months and I bet it will work.
PS: I'll wait under version 3.
 
 
Aug 11, 2013
It took me quite a while to embrace the concept of email and GPS in a phone. I held onto my just-a-phone, duct-tape-over-battery-cover Nokia until it died, then went to iPhone. And I picked an iPhone 3G although the lines for #4 had dispersed and they had it in stock. Still have the 3G.

Wondering how long it will take to get excited about using a phone as my TV remote. Never mind watching YouTube on the big screen ("FUNNIEST KITTEN EVER IN HD!" "See the sweat stains on the sleazy investment guy!").

What would be fun would be a product that puts your choice of video on every screen in your proximity. You could walk through a sports bar and each TV would display the same Laurel & Hardy film as you passed. At Starbucks every tablet and laptop using the WiFi would do the same. People standing in line with you for anything would be unable to clear it from their phone screens. Those video ads in the mall . . .

Trouble is, you'd have to limit it to one incredibly wealthy and sociopathic subscriber in each large geographic area. But somehow I think the demand would be there.
 
 
Aug 10, 2013
I wonder if the Chromecast performs differently when different devices are communicating with it?

I recently saw specs showing the latest iPhone only has half the computing speed of the fastest Android phones. And in the Android tablet world there is a broad range of processing speed - with some tablets sporting 4 cores based on ARM A9 or A15 while others are dual core - all running at different frequencies from 1 GHz to 2 GHz. There are differences in the GPU's associated with these devices as well. I would expect Chromecast to choke when the device that's streaming video to it can't handle 1080P - and you need a fairly beefy device to do that, at least dual core A9 at 1.5 GHz with a decent GPU. Many tablets are still not up to that spec although any tablet comparable to the second generation Nexus 7 (just released) should be able to do it.

So it's possible Chromecast needs better devices and optimized software to perform without any kinks at the highest settings.

The problem here might not be Chromecast: it might be the iPhone. And although it does support 1080p maybe it shouldn't be used at that setting unless you have a fast tablet running the show.
 
 
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Aug 9, 2013
I have a PS3, and used to have an Xbox 360. Both of them do everything this doingle does and play games, movies, etc. as well.
For anyone who uses game systems, this product is completely redundant. How will that affect sales do you think, given the overlap between early adapters and game system owners?
 
 
Aug 8, 2013
Early adopters need to be more adept regarding the adapters they purchase. (And early adapters always need to be replaced by later adapters [and spell-check updates].)
 
 
Aug 8, 2013
This is why we won't have to worry about the intelligence explosion (singularity) for the first year or two after it happens. You know there are going to be some snafus that keep it from working right in the beginning. As long as it doesn't accidentally the internet, we'll all be fine.
 
 
Aug 8, 2013
As the guy with two betamaxs in my attic, these seems to me the perfect product! I am also fully committed to the Wii platform and am still hopeful the full size key board Verizon sold me for my Droid will work any day now.
 
 
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Aug 8, 2013
Scott,

Can you share the wording ? I am curious. I think that's the problem with technical people writing these messages.

My wife is about as non-technical as it gets and I learn so much watching her interact with technology. For example, she was flying yesterday and I gave her my us/pw for the gogo wifi. Before taking off, she messaged me and asked me if she has to sign to aa.com (american airlines). To me that seemed very logical. But in the past 2 years I have been using gogo, it has never even occurred to me.

Anyway, back to chromecast, the experience you want would be appleTV. If you have an iphone, you'll be amazed at how stunningly simple they made the process. Any (nonDRM) video you watch can be sent seamlessly. It's about $65 more than the chromecast bdoes not work with netflix or amazon.
 
 
Aug 8, 2013
Another quick, simple review, not necessarily in that order.

0) I saw some news article saying that it had been released but was sold out. That's useful news! I Googled for how to buy it (funny that), found it and ordered 2 of them. No sweat required. You may ask why I ordered 2--it's because they were supposed to be backordered.

1) I received the dongle before the website said it was even going to ship. 1 for Google for going back in time to ship it. Must be nice to have a spare TARDIS at GooglePlex.

2) I plugged it into the back of the nearest TV. It didn't light up or show up on the ChromeCast setup. I plugged the extra USB cable lying around in the packaging to a USB port on the TV and, viola! it's alive.

3) The rest of the set up was painless. Note that I did not bother to even find out if it had any instructions included.

4) Using my HTC One X, Nexus 7 original series, iPad, etc. I've had no problem with anything. Netflix works just like it does on my Tivo except the controls are nicer. I didn't even need to install anything on any of my devices--it was already there.

5) This TV is not all that close to an WiFi access point, but the ChromeCast doesn't seem to notice or care. Everything just works.

So for me this is a no-brainer. It's more responsive that my Tivo Premier and has more options, and I can go upstairs or downstairs and still continue watching whatever I was playing. Google Play Music even works, which I hardly ever use. But then again, I am the antithesis of Scott and technology loves me; most everything works whenever I'm around.
 
 
Aug 8, 2013
This is exactly why I, as a general rule, never buy the newest technology. I wait until other people test it. That way, either I find out that it is irredeemably awful without ever having to pay for it myself, or I buy it after the manufacturer has had the benefit of thousands of hate-filled tech support calls to help them design out the worst of the flaws. Your error is in being an early adopter; but, of course, my method doesn't work unless someone else IS an early adopter, so, thanks.
 
 
Aug 8, 2013
I've wanted this kind of technology for ten years at least because I despise cables. I can plug my Android tablet into my TV with an HDMI cable and that's sort of spiffy but it falls a long way short of elegant. Chromecast looks like it comes close to solving that but it's not there yet.

I'm hoping that in 6 months it will be.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 8, 2013
I probably won't try it. Mainly because I can't imagine having enough time to mess with it. I can set up a wireless router, no sweat. But for entertainment, if I can't screw in a thingie, click a button and it works, I've moved on. YMMV.
 
 
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 7, 2013
I want to add my own review. I received my Chromecast about a week ago, and the experience varies based on where I use it in the house and what device I try controlling it with. First off, setup was simple enough for the device itself. The trickiest part was getting it to work on my Windows 8 desktop, and that wasn't the Chromecast's fault - I just needed to figure out which firewall was blocking the GoogleUpdate.exe process from running and let it through. My only complaint as far as Google is that their installer was even needed, rather than letting me just download the software onto my machine directly.

That aside, the Windows 8 installation was pointless anyway. Trying to cast a Chrome tab from my desktop over to my TV right next to it is an exercise in frustration. Technically I guess you could say it works, but if I try watching video in the Chrome tab, the experience is unwatchable. Sometimes the sound will keep going while the picture is frozen, but most of the time it just does this horrible buffering every fraction of a second.

But that's with Windows 8. Using my Macbook Pro, it's a completely different story. On the same TV, with MBP casting a tab, it looks great. The TV will permanently be a second or two behind the computer, but the sound only comes from the TV, and syncs well with the picture. I used it over the weekend to take an online class.

Netflix is a different case too. From my phone, I can't turn the TV on like I'd expected to be able to, but I think that's just because my TV doesn't support that ability. But I can control the volume, pause, switch shows and all the rest. I'm very happy with it. I haven't experienced any problems with Netflix at all on the TV downstairs. And just for the heck of it, I also tried Youtube and Google Play Movies. These all work great. However, I was very disappointed to realize that Google Play Music (which has a little cast icon too and I expected to work with Chromecast), can't play any of the songs stored on my phone itself. Theoretically, you can pay for a Google Music Unlimited service and play songs in your cloud library, but I'm not going to spend $10 per month to do that.

Another thing I've noticed with Netflix, once I've used my phone to get the Netflix app running on the Chromecast, my wife's iPad can control it too. The iPad just can't start the Chromecast app, and it can't control the volume. I think they must be 90% of the way there for getting the iPad and iPhone app fully integrated with Chromecast.

I also have a projector TV, but it's mounted upstairs. This is important because my wireless router is downstairs, next to the TV. In the case of the projector, Netflix works pretty well, and casting a tab works pretty well, but neither work as well as downstairs. In the case of Netflix, it will occasionally, maybe twice in an hour-long episode, buffer for a few seconds while casting. It's annoying, but not to the point that I'd give up on viewing this way.

In the case of casting a Chrome tab to the projector, most of the time it will work fine, but occasionally the picture will become grainy and low-res, or even freeze altogether. In these cases it doesn't buffer, it just keeps playing the sound whether the picture moves at all or not. I believe both of these problems stem from the fact that it's further from the router, meaning the signal strength may ebb from time to time.

But, on the projector, unlike the TV, I can turn it on by activating one of the casting apps. If I just had a way to also turn off the projector from Chromecast, that'd be really cool and I wouldn't need to touch the projector or use its remote at all.

All in all, I'm very happy with my new Chromecast. I thought it was a great deal, and I got in early enough to get the 3 months of Netflix with it, so at the price it was almost a no-brainer.
 
 
Aug 7, 2013
My Chromecast is on back-order.

I've tried many, many products of this general type. Of them, the D-Link DSM-520 (but nothing else in the product line) was very reliable until the h.264 codec started replacing XVID and DIVX media. Now, the Western Digital WDTV (this one model and not the "Live" variant) is pretty awesome -- it understands everything. I have a Sony Bravia TV with these features built-in that mostly works, but with very poor codec support -- pretty much just h.264-encoded MP4. And my Sony Playstation 3 (first version) was very tolerable, but not perfect.

Everything else I've used was just crap. Virtually every streaming media TV technology I've bought, used, or seen in action is junk. But I keep looking. I'm really, really hoping that the ChromeCast is going to be awesome, but I'm not holding my breath. And the main feature I want DLNA UPNP video streaming isn't actually listed as a supported feature, so I'm sure I'll have to wait.
 
 
Aug 7, 2013
I suspect most of your issue is the use of iCrap tech. Being a Google device I bet it works way better with real technology.
 
 
Aug 7, 2013
Scott, your experience with Chromecast sounds similar to my experience with wireless routers. Usually, when setting up a new router, I just plug it in and manually configure it. The last time, I decided to try the "e-z setup" instructions - which involved plugging in the cables in a specific sequence, pressing a special button and running software from a CD. After 45 minutes of failure, I gave up, started over and did the manual configuration in 5 minutes.

I expect the Chromecast engineers devised what they thought was a simple process and wrote instructions to follow. But an engineer with a 140 IQ is too smart to realize that a 'regular' person with a 90-110 IQ will not understand what is obvious to the engineer.

Even an engineer like Scott will be baffled by the 'simple' instructions, and will be better off just plugging it in and guessing.
 
 
Aug 7, 2013
I recently ordered Apple TV as a gift for my fiancee, sight unseen and without technically knowing what it even does. My reasoning was: it's inexpensive, a friend of a friend said it was kind of cool, and I needed a birthday gift immediately because I have the long-term memory of an autistic bison and forgot her birthday was coming up.
Results: Me = "meh." Her = "Awesome!"
However, now she can watch even more drivel even more of the time, which frees me up to post inane ramblings on other people's blogs. I'm calling it a win-win. Viva technology.
 
 
 
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