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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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