Product: Chromecast (link to Wikipedia article)
Apps supported at time of posting
Purchased in Oct 2013
I have an older plasma HD television (Panasonic 51″) that was highly rated by Consumer Reports at the time I purchased it (early 2008). However, it was not a ‘smart’ TV and didn’t come with WiFi. My AV Receiver is also showing its age (a Denon AVR 1508). My biggest hangup with the Denon is the lack of HDMI inputs (only two) and the fact that it doesn’t repeat the audio signal supplied via the HDMI cable. Next year I plan on upgrading to a better AV receiver with more inputs and functionality.
I am also a DirecTV subscriber, and have been for nearly as long as I’ve owned my plasma. But I find myself watching less and less shows and channels provided by the hefty subscription cost (over $100 per month). Too much crap and not enough quality. I am also a Netflix subscriber (both DVD and streaming). I decided a couple of weeks ago that I’d had enough and decided to risk some pocket change (less than $40) and purchase the Chromecast.
I could have plugged the Chromecast dongle directly into one of the two HDMI inputs on the back of my Denon, but since the Denon just forwards on the audio to the HDMI out (i.e. to the Panasonic’s speakers … which we’ve rarely ever used), I decided against that option. I did spend several fruitless minutes re-reading the printed manuals to both the Denon and the Panasonic, though, in the vain hope that something might have magically changed since I purchased them.
The Chromecast came with a short (less than 3″ long) extension cable, which I managed to insert into the Panasonic’s second HDMI input. I had to do this by feel, since the heavy plasma is mounted on my wall and rests only a couple of inches away from it I then inserted the Chromecast into the extension and plugged its power supply into my Monster surge protector.
I spent most of a Sunday morning watching Netflix movies and a couple of YouTube videos. I had some trouble with YouTube or at least my Samsung smartphone (Galaxy Note II) lost connection to the Chromecast, leaving the video running but no way for me to pause or stop it. I eventually had to pull the plug on the Chromecast (hard restart).
I introduced my husband to the Chromecast a few days later. He loves it. He much prefers using his smartphone (identical to mine) to search for YouTube videos or watch movies or TV shows from Netflix. It beats using the DirecTV remote hands down (or the remote to our LG Blu-Ray player, which is also NetFlix and YouTube ready).
I of course was not happy with only hearing the sound from the Panasonic’s speakers. So I disconnected the digital optical cable from the Blu-Ray player and reconnected it to the digital optical output on the back of the Panasonic. It renders my Blu-Ray player completely mute, but it does allow the streamed audio to take full advantage of my Denon home theater sound system.
Pros: Extremely easy to setup and use. Inexpensive. Few wires (only the power supply) needed.
Cons: Very limited app compatibility and availability. As of the writing of this review, only six (6) apps allowed you to cast to Chromecast: Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, HuluPlus, Google Play Music and Movies. Seriously needs the ability to cast or mirror your screen (smartphone, tablet or laptop … non-Chrome preferably). Also needs the ability to cast your photos and videos from your devices. I would really like to see an extension or addin for Firefox as well.
One tangential side quibble: The Netflix app available from Google Play does not yet support profiles. So my husband and I are forced to deal with recommendations based on both of our viewing habits even though we stream from separate devices. I was disappointed that the recent update released by Netflix did not include support for profiles.
In conclusion, I’m excited about Chromecast and the possibilities for the future. I think it was money well spent. Perhaps, sometime in the next couple of years, I’ll be able to cut the cord, finally, and tell my satellite provider to take a flying leap (and save a hundred bucks or more a month).