Because building driverless cars, futuristic porn glasses and inundating themselves with Stormtroopers wasn’t enough, Google announced their latest foray into the home entertainment space today with Chromecast, a $35 HDMI dongle that detects and mirrors video content being played on a nearby tablet, laptop or PC and displays it on your television.
The two-inch adapter requires separate USB power, connects to your local WiFi network and runs “a simplified version of Chrome OS.” The device is currently available online on Google Play and seems to be US-only for the moment. According to Engadget, their UK colleagues are getting a “not available in your country” warning. Although no official specs were given during Google’s presentation, the Google Play page lists it as using 2.4GHz 801.11 b/g/n WiFi and is HDMI-CEC compatible.
Just what will your $35 get you? You’ll receive the Chromecast device, HDMI extender, USB power cable, and a separate power adapter. According to Google reps, “Once Chromecast is plugged in, you just go to YouTube on your smartphone. You’ll see the cast button in your UI and you press it — Chromecast will pull the info you requested from the cloud and play it on your TV.” Chromecast allows you to control volume using your mobile device and will even switch your television to the correct inputs so you don’t have to waste precious calories hitting the button on your remote. So far, Netflix, YouTube, Google Play television and movies have all been shown to work with the device and the ability to control Google Chrome remotely using a “standard $500 Windows 8 laptop” is currently in beta.
While the world may have no shortage of ways to beam streaming video content into their LCD-glazed eyes, Chromecast offers a convenient, affordable alternative for those who don’t want to commit to a video game console or set-top alternative like Roku and those who like the simplicity of using their smartphone or tablet to control their media. How does it stack up to the competition? For all intents and purposes, this seems like the Android equivalent of AirPlay, which is prized for its ease of use rather than its robust features, making it an ideal solution for consumers looking to simply plug and play without paying a subscription or for those who just want the kind of one-device functionality that the dongle offers.
Still, for consumers who want their streaming video content player to be able to do a bit more than just play Netflix, it’s hard to beat an all-in-one media device like PS3 or Xbox 360. Chromecast’s connection speed suffers a bit compared to Roku’s Streaming Stick’s dual-band WiFi, and also noteworthy is the fact that it only supports four services, which puts it further behind more robust services like Roku and Apple TV. Some of you may remember that limited functionality was one of the primary grievances with the now-defunct Nexus Q, so it’s a definite cause for concern. It’s a good start, to be certain, but for now it’s going to be an uphill climb for Chromecast to catch up to the competition.
Now, having unveiled their dongle, maybe Google can get back to the important work of making those computers from Minority Report a reality. What do you think of Google Chromecast? Is this a necessary product? Will you be picking it up? Let us know in the comments below.