Google have finally launched their Google Chromecast in the UK. It’s been available in America for some time, but what is it and is it actually worth it?
The Google Chromecast is a small HDMI-based device which plugs into your tv, and allows you to stream tv, films and other media through to your tv. It couldn’t be easier to set up, according to the instructions supplied:
Powered by a mains adapter which is supplied in the box, it’s also possible to run the device straight from your tv. As soon as you plug the Chromecast into your tv, it will automatically switch to the correct channel (HDMI2 for me, as HDMI1 is for the Sky box) and will ask you to visit the Google Chromecast setup page to complete proceedings.
As the screen says, the next step was to jump online via phone, tablet or PC. I had all three to hand but decided to use the laptop for ease. Sneakily, Google Chromecast gets you to use Google Chrome to operate via your laptop, but, fortunately, that’s what I tend to use anyway.
The extension that you download then walks you through the setup completion one step at a time and makes it as easy as possible. Even for a relative incompetent like myself, I managed to do it the first time without screwing it up, so it’s definitely idiot-proof.
Choose a name for your Chromecast (I went with the spectacularly boring “Dan Living Room”), confirm that the laptop has picked up the correct identifying numbers displayed on the tv, and connect to your WiFi and it’s pretty much there. It does all of the hard work for you.
Once you’ve got through the setup, which took about ten minutes from start to finish, you are set to “cast”. There aren’t many apps available at the moment, but the immediate ones that jump out are BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube though there are a few others that may be of interest.
I tried it out with YouTube at first, and then with Netflix, both working quickly and easily. I did notice that the Netflix cast only allows you to access UK Netflix, no matter what set up you have elsewhere. I have my laptop set up with a handy little extension called Media Hint which allows me to play US Netflix in the UK which allows me to play US Netflix in the UK. This doesn’t translate through to the Chromecast though, which is a shame though I dare say that there will be a workaround soon.
It takes a few seconds for the Chromecast to catch up with your request once you push the cast button, but it’s quicker than loading a DVD or booting up Netflix. It’s also worth noting, as per the photo above, that once cast, the footage isn’t being played by your laptop, which means you can do two things at once.
In my case, I can throw something on for the kids whilst still doing what I want to do on the laptop. There’s now no need for me to connect the laptop with a cable and lose access to it as their film plays out.
Once I’d tried the normal stuff, I turned my attention to something else. There’s an application available on Android called “Show Box”. It’s not available on the Play Store, but can easily be found by Googling. It’s an app which allows you to view up to date films and tv shows, primarily ones that aren’t available in the UK yet.
Chromecast promises that it can cast most things direct from an open Chrome tab. This isn’t strictly true (see the Netflix explanation above). However, by downloading an app called Avia, and then updating it (£1.86 one-off in-app purchase) you can cast things from Show Box straight to the tv, even changing the channel for you.
So how does Show Box and Avia work? Again, it’s fairly easy. Assuming you’ve set up your ChromeCast without a problem, and you’ve successfully Googled where to get the Show Box apk file from. You can get Avia via the Google Play store. All you then need to do is as follows:
The Google Chromecast is only £30, which quite frankly seems a bargain. It offers reliability and ease, and I dare say I will be using mine a lot. That said, I can well imagine quite a few of these being bought as a fad and then not being used, but given that the speed it offers and the convenience, it’s a definite thumbs up from me.