If you keep up with digital-technology news, or even if you just check Twitter now and then, you’ve probably heard the hype about Google’s new Chromecast. It’s a relatively inexpensive ($ 35) answer to more established content streaming devices like Roku and Apple TV, and it sounds pretty sweet: You simply plug it into your TV’s HDMI outlet, and it lets you use any gadget — an Android or iOS phone, a tablet, a laptop — as a remote control to play Netflix videos, YouTube clips, and more on your TV.
The Chromecast hit online stores on Wednesday and immediately sold out (Best Buy will reportedly start stocking them in stores on Monday), but I got my hands on one and gave it a test-drive. Here’s how it went down:
I open the box. The instruction manual is just three steps printed on the inside flap of the (very Apple-ish looking) box. The Google reps weren’t lying when they said this was easy.
I plug the Chromecast into my TV’s HDMI connection and an electrical outlet. This thing’s idiot proof!
The setup screen is showing up on my TV, but the Chromecast website doesn’t seem to be cooperating. “That’s probably because you’re a woman attempting to use new technology,” my helpful friend tells me via Gchat. But the people at Google promised my vagina wouldn’t make this harder!
Okay, maybe my Wi-Fi connection was just slow. I’m connected now.
Chromecast supports four apps right now — Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies, and Google Play Music — but there’s also a workaround in beta that lets you watch a video playing in your Chrome browser. This works, but with a several-second delay. And when I check my e-mail in a different tab (one of the perks of Chromecast is that you can supposedly still dick around on your computer/smartphone/tablet while you’re streaming something to your TV), the video on the big screen freezes up completely even though it’s still running normally on my computer.
At this point, my boyfriend has connected his computer to the Chromecast and tells the TV to stop playing my WomensHealthMag.com videos and stream Archer instead (via Netflix). Once you’ve connected your computer to the Chromecast, a little icon shows up on the bottom right-hand corner of your Netflix screen that makes this super easy. Soon, we’re seeing who can identify the most Arrested Development actors voicing Archer characters.
I’m trying to (kind of) do some work while Archer is playing in the background. But even though my boyfriend’s computer is doing the actual streaming, my Internet connection is crawling. Granted, I don’t have the fastest wireless in my apartment, but I can’t help getting cranky that Chromecast might be slowing me down so much that pages are timing out.
Having given up on the idea of doing work, I decide to see how this translates to the apps on my iPhone. Thing is, the brief instructions are so brief that they don’t say anything about how to hook up my phone. I could poke around in the box to see if there’s more info, but instead I try to search for a Chromecast app in the app store. Nothing. So I Google “set up Chromecast on my phone.” I’m finding a lot of sites that say this is easy to do … but no details on how to actually do it. I try to update my Netflix and YouTube apps to see if the Chromecast icon will automatically show up when I’m connected to my wireless network. No dice — I can’t even update apps right now.
Netflix worked flawlessly, but there are definitely some glitches with Chromecast. The fact that you can control the volume from your device or do cool things like change what’s playing from another room is pretty awesome. Plus, other apps like Pandora are supposed to be available for streaming soon. And even if not everything works right away, who cares — it’s so effing cheap.