Of all the casting devices, this is one

I have been using the Google Chromecast 2 for about a month now.  I have really enjoyed it, once I figured out how to make it work.

Google Chromecast at the Google Store
Google Chromecast at Best Buy

Setup is not overly difficult, the Chromecast provides it’s own WiFi to connect to your device for the setup.  The first thing it does is ask for your home WiFi information.  This is where it gets weird.

Google Chromecast 2

Google Chromecast 2

So I got everything set up and running, or so I thought and I went about trying to stream something from my phone.  Netflix could not see my Chromecast and neither could Hulu.  YouTube kind of worked but not well and not in how I expected it to.  Turns out the Chromecast needs to be really close to your WiFi router in order to work.  It needs the strongest signal possible to pull down the content you request.

To solve this I moved my router from the office in the front of the house to the shelf behind my TV in the living room.  Now this had the added benefit of being able to now use an Ethernet connection to both my smart TV and Blu-Ray player.  Taking two things off the WiFi network.

Side note on the setup, I also finally set my dual band router to use both the 2.4GHz and the 5GHz bands.  I had always had the 5 setup as a type of “Guest” network.  I found that if you name both bands with the same SSID and password, your devices will switch to whichever band is better.  5 GHz does provide better speeds but the coverage is weaker.  Hence moving the router to the living room.

Back to the Chromecast.  Now that I had the network hardware setup in a way the Chromecast liked I started messing around with streaming my favorite shows.  This is where another little annoyance came up.  The Google Cast app can search the major streaming sites and let you know what show/movie you are looking for is available on which site (minus Amazon Prime, because they don’t want to play) Which is great.  Except you have to have the apps separately installed for each.  This in my view is kind of dumb.  I get the point is the Chromecast does not run the apps natively and relies on your phone/tablet to provide the software to work, but I don’t think I should have to install every app from every video source I want to use.

So I installed Netflix and brought up one of my favorite shows, “Turn” it looked amazing.  I never knew that the built in Netflix app on my TV throttled down the video stream to 720p, Chromecast pushes 1080p.  I thought it might be a flux so I tried a couple of others, everything looked better.

Now you may think that you will need a high end phone or Tablet to make this experience work, but that is not the case.  The Chromecast does not stream the content from your device, it actually goes and gets the content itself.  This is why not all video apps, looking at you XFinity/Comcast, are not “castable” The advantage of not streaming from my phone is that once the show gets going I can use my phone as normal, I just need to leave the associated app running in the background.  It pulls very little battery or processor so I don’t even notice.  I actually got a cheap tablet to run the Chromecast instead of my phone.

So what if you do want to stream something that can’t be cast?  The Google Cast App allows for you to mirror your screen to the TV.  I use this to watch streaming apps like CBSN to the TV.  The downside is that I have to leave my phone on the app and I can’t multitask with it.  This also has the added benefit of being able to show slideshows from my phone and laptop.  Did I mention you can Cast any tab from the Chrome browser?  I didn’t well you can.  I have given a couple of presentations from my Chromebook via the Chromecast.

If you have a smart TV the Chromecast is a little bit redundant, or to quote my wife “Why do we need another thing to do the thing the other thing already does?”  For the sake of my gadget obsession she deals with it.  I did win her over a little when I was able to stream the latest episode of Poldark from the PBS app in full HD vs. plugging the HDMI into her laptop.

You are probably not going to find to many apps beyond the standards that your TV doesn’t already come with.  If you do not have a smart TV then the Chromecast is great.  It doesn’t have the built limits that a normal streaming stick or game console might, depending on who the manufacturer worked out deals with.  The Chromecast gives you the flexibility to watch whatever you want.

There are other streaming devices on the market and I have tried a few of them.  I enjoy the freedom that the Chromecast gives me.  I don’t like how picky it is with network settings.  There is an optional ethernet adapter from the Google Store for $15 that can help with that.  I hope to be getting one soon.

PCMag: 20 Things You Didn’t Know Your Chromecast Could Do
TechRadar Chromecast Review
CNET Review of the Chromecast
DigitalTrends Chromecast Tricks

What has been your experience with the Chromecast?  Would you recommend it to your family and friends?

Buy a Chromecast at Best Buy