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The Chromecast simplifies connectivity
The Chromecast simplifies connectivity

Google Chromecast | Simplified streaming

Google's Web-video streamer is well designed, and delightfully simple to use

The Google Chromecast is a cheap and easy way to turn your old TV into a smart TV. If you’re looking for a way to watch videos from YouTube, or if you buy or rent movies on Google Play, then the Chromecast works beautifully.

While there are some limitations that keep it from being a must-have gadget, it’s so cheap that it’s hard to come up with a reason not to buy it, just to see how it works. Available in the US for $35, or around 2,100, the Chromecast can also be bought in India via sites like Shopyourworld.com and Amazon.in for 3,600. In comparison, most of the solutions available in India which add similar features to your television, start at around 5,000, and the good ones are around 10,000.

So in terms of value, the Chromecast is definitely a winner. But what exactly does it do? The Chromecast is a beautifully designed piece of hardware that looks a little bigger than the average pen drive, and can be plugged directly into the HDMI slot of your television. It connects to your home Wi-Fi, and then, using a smartphone, tablet or computer, you can share Web-based video and music content that the Chromecast will stream on your television, as long as the device “sending" the content is on the same Wi-Fi network.

The device (which includes Android phones and tablets, iOS devices, Windows PCs and Macs) that sends files isn’t actually being used to stream media; instead, it merely triggers the Chromecast to stream that content from the Internet. This works well for YouTube and Google Play videos, and Chromecast also supports Netflix and HBO Go, though these aren’t available in India. You can also load Web pages in the Chrome browser, so the Chromecast adds a lot of functionality to a basic television, without the hassle of connecting a full-fledged computer to it.

Instead of watching a video on your laptop, with its tinny speakers, or having to tether your device to the TV with an HDMI cable, the Chromecast simplifies connectivity—if you have surround-sound speakers at home, you could use this to get the full cinema experience simply by activating a movie on Google Play from your phone.

When your phone or tablet isn’t directly streaming content, you can still use it to control playback, browse or skip tracks, change the volume or pause—all this works the way it always did. You don’t need to keep and charge an extra remote or controller either.

Set-up is as simple as plugging the Chromecast into your HDTV, and then going to the appropriate HDMI input. The screen should show the Wi-Fi connectivity options; log in, and you can send videos from other supported devices on the same network right away.

As mentioned earlier, the design and build quality of the Chromecast are well above similar products, which are twice as expensive. Only the Apple TV (priced at 8,295) has the same feeling of being a premium product at under 10,000.

There are a couple of downsides though—first, the Chromecast doesn’t let you stream local media from your devices. So if you’ve legally downloaded a movie, or have a DVD in your laptop, that still can’t be shared to the TV using a Chromecast. Second, the number of compatible apps is pretty limited, but this is growing.

The other issue, of course, is that if you have an Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 already plugged into your TV, then the Chromecast doesn’t really add anything to the equation. Similarly, people with an HTPC set-up also have far more functional devices for the same role. Chromecast is clearly meant for people who don’t already have these far more expensive devices. Given that, it’s an amazing product.

Chromecast, priced at 3,600, is available online at www.shopyourworld.com

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