January 5, 2014
It’s been a few weeks now since I picked up a Google Chromecast, at that time the apps Du jour were Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Pandora, Google Play Movies & TV, Google Play Music and tab cast (Chromecast’s method of streaming a browser window). While these features were nice all of them were replicated elsewhere in my system and I was happy enough just to use Chromecast as a silent, fanless YouTube streamer, imagine my surprise when a week later Plex Media Center, Songza and others were added to the supported list of services.
Plex support was a huge bonus for me, I now have an alternative to my Boxee Box for streaming movies. While I can’t say the Chromecast is as robust as the Boxee Box for all applications, it does get the job done. In doing some side-by-side comparisons with the Chromecast and the Boxee box, I may see a subtle difference in quality favoring the Boxee Box but in all honesty the difference is so subtle I’m almost inclined to lean toward the Chromecast simply for the fact it doesn’t have a fan, making it silent and that it’s always on. (the Boxee Box doesn’t do IR commands which means I have to turn it on separately, via the Boxee remote).
My biggest gripe with the playback of movies on Chromecast is actually with Plex, not the Chromecast itself, the omission of a pause button on the Plex app is a big oversight in my opinion and hopefully one that can be corrected with an update.
Getting back to the Chromecast for a moment, the real beauty of the device is the way it integrates with Google apps. I’ve actually found myself watching more YouTube video than I have in the past simply because of the way Chromecast integrates with the YouTube app on my iPad. All I have to do is queue up some videos under Watch Later and then when I’m in front of the television with my iPad, I can just play them back to back.
Depending upon who you believe, Google may be selling the Chromecast a loss but pardon the pun, I’m at a loss for why would even matter. I picked up my first Chromecast for $35, later I bought a second as a gift from Amazon for $29, at these prices Netflix and seamless, integrated YouTube playback alone is worth the price nevermind all the other apps already supported and the promise of more to come.
In my opinion the Google Chromecast is probably the biggest no-brainer in home theater at the moment. if you don’t have a media streamer of any kind run, don’t walk to get one of these. If you have an older media streamer lacking in features, the Chromecast may be still be a worthy upgrade.
I think the supported services and features alone should make the Chromecast appealing to a wide range of home theater enthusiasts. Now that the bar has been set for low-cost media streamers, I’m interested to see what other devices could bring to the table in the $99 to $150 range. No matter how you look at it the Chromecast is a game changer in streaming media players.