Google Chromecast User Review

In my last post, I reviewed my online shopping experience with IPMart.com.my (read about it here). What I bought on the site is the Google Chromecast HDMI dongle, that allows you to stream multimedia from your smartphone or tablet to your HDMI TV.

Google Chromecast (*Image Source : Google)

Google Chromecast is a simple HDMI dongle, that is about the size of a big thumb drive, but with a HDMI connection instead. Released by Google in July 2013, the device is retailed at USD$ 35 only! But was made available only to the US market, until today.

Because of the low, low price of this device at USD$35 (approx RM 115), it was sold out in less than 2 hours when it went on sale on Google Play Store in US! Over time, the device also went on sale on Amazon, Best Buy and other sites in US, but still not available outside the country. Although, you are able to get it grey imported to other countries, like Malaysia, at a high markup.

 

What is Google Chromecast?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKG5HDyTW8o

Essentially, the Chromecast is a little dongle that allows you to connect your smart devices with your HDMI TV to allow you to stream content to the big screen. This includes YouTube videos, online movie streaming sites (Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go), online radio streaming (Pandora) and sharing screen from Google Chrome browser.

One of the downside of getting a grey imported version of the Google Chromecast is the limited availability of supported service. Unless you’re one of the smarter geeks with a VPN (or DNS) with a US based Netflix subscription, in Malaysia, the Google Chromecast only limits you to 2 use at the moment.

In Malaysia, your Chromecast can only stream YouTube videos and share screen from your desktop (or mobile) Chrome browser.

Of course, there are other 3rd party workarounds apps as well, but that would require the hands of the geeky who knows what they’re doing with this hack. Like this and this.

I could have ordered my Chromecast from Amazon, because I managed the workaround to get myself an Amazon US account with a US shipping address through VPost Asia. However, for some bizarre reason, I didn’t want to wait for the shipment to take the usual 2 weeks plus to get to me. So, I ended up ordering it, at a high markup, from IPMart.com.my instead.

 

Unboxing Google Chromecast

Chromecast - IPmart packaging
My IPMart packaging and 2 Google Chromecast I ordered

Yes, I ordered 2 units. One for me, one for Hubby. Hubby wanted one to bring along with him for his business travels, so he can hook up his movies, etc to the hotel HDMI TV.

Chromecast - Box
Box packaging of Google Chromecast

The box is a rather simple square, shallow box that has the image of the Chromecast in the front, and basic feature of the HDMI dongle at the back.

Google Chromecast - Open box
Simple box with instructions and the dongle

Open the box and you’ll see a cut out foam with the Chromecast sitting in the middle. On the left side on the flap, there’s a “Quick Start” guide with 3 easy steps to setup your Chromecast.

Minimalist. Nothing else. Because it is supposed to the THAT EASY to setup your Google Chromecast!!!

Google Chromecast - Unboxing
Unboxing the Google Chromecast

Inside the bottom of the box are the other stuff – (L-R), User Manual, HDMI adapter connector, USB to microUSB charging cable, 2-pin charger and the Chromecast dongle itself.

Google Chromecast in hand
Google Chromecast in hand

As mentioned, the Chromecast is about the size of a big thumb drive. Which is very small indeed.

Chromecast - Hardware
Hardware overview of the Google Chromecast

Looking around the HDMI dongle, you’ll find the microUSB charging port on the head end of the device. On the other end, is the HDMI connector that you plug in to your HDMI port on your TV.

 

Setting up Google Chromecast

As highlighted in the inside of the Chromecast box, there’s only 3 easy-peasy steps to setup your Google Chromecast.

Chromecast - Step 1 Plug it in
STEP ONE – Plug it in

STEP ONE – Plug it in – the HDMI connector to the HDMI port on your TV, USB charger to the power point (it needs to be permanently connected to work)

Chromecast - TV Input

STEP TWO – Switch your TV input – Use your TV remote and switch your TV input / source until you see the Google Chromecast setup screen

Chromecast - Browser setup - Download app
STEP THREE (A) – Set it up on browser
Chromecast - PlayStore App
STEP THREE (B) – Or setup on your Android device

STEP THREE – Set it up – Pairing is as easy as going to Google.com/chromecast/setup and following the instructions online. You can choose to set this up with your mobile device (Androiod smartphone or tablet, and even iOS device) or on your desktop / laptop.

Chromecast - Setup Browser
Option 1 : Browser Setup

On desktop / laptop – From the website, click to download the Chromecast app. Which will launch the above setup screen. Just follow the instructions online to pair your device (desktop/laptop) to your Chromecast dongle connected on your HDMI TV.

Chromecast - Setup Android
Option 2 : Smartphone setup

Alternatively, you can connect your Chromecast with your smart device (smartphone or tablet). Similarly with the setup on your desktop/laptop, just follow the instructions on screen.

Basically, Google Chromecast is connected to your devices (desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet) as long as they’re connected on the same WiFi connection. In this case, I had all the devices connected via my home WiFi.

Technically, if friends or guests come to our house, connect to our WiFi and has Chromecast app installed on their device, they can stream content from their smartphone to our Chromecast connected TV as well.

And that’s it. The steps for setup are seriously that simple!

 

Performance and First Impression

To cast your screen from your mobile device to your Chromecast connected HDMI TV, all you need to do is look for the “Cast” icon on YouTube or Chrome browser.

Chromecast - Casting YouTube
Casting YouTube from Android smartphone to my TV

As you can see from the screenshot above, there’s a simple tutorial to show you which icon to tap to “cast” your mobile phone screen to your TV.

At home, because both me and Hubby watch quite a lot of YouTube videos, this was a very handy hardware indeed.

I was really happy to know that I can so easily stream my YouTube workout video to the TV, instead of traditionally looking at my laptop screen. Yeay!

Of course, you can control the video from your device, such as Play, Pause, Rewind and Forward.

If you can see from the casting screenshot above (Far right), you can add more YouTube videos to queue. Which means, you don’t have to wait for one video to finish before you stream another video. Just click on the “Cast” icon and it will automatically add the video to the queue. Once the current video ends, the next one plays. Nice!

Chromecast - Supported apps
Chromecast supported apps

While there are really not many apps that currently support the Google Chromecast (even for the US market), Google promised that they’ve opened the SDK to more developers and we will see more supported apps soon.

There were also rumours that Chromecast will be made available to more countries, which also means more non-US specific apps will be supported.

For those of us in Malaysia, however, I have a feeling that it will take a long time until the Chromecast is officially available and supported in Malaysia. Which means it will definitely take a long time to have more local apps and proper support for early adopters like me with a Chromecast already.

Meanwhile, just being able to stream my YouTube videos that I subscribe to on the big TV screen is a good enough justification already, for this inexpensive HDMI dongle.

The other additional use, is when I need to show a webpage to someone, I can also choose to stream (or share screen) of an opened website from my Chrome browser, to the big screen HDMI TV. However, it would be awesome news once Google introduces more apps support!!! And officially comes to Malaysia.

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