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David Poland

By David Poland

Chromecast: The $35 Dongle

The new Google Chromecast dongle is pictured on an electronic screen as it is announced during a Google event at Dogpatch Studio in San Francisco

Okay… so I got the Chromecast.

1. I plugged it in, twice, as you need not only to plug it into your HDMI, but it needs either a USB port or a regular plug for power.
2. You can’t turn the thing on from your phone. You’ll need a laptop or desktop, though you only need to use it for that first sign-in and connection to your wi-fi.
3. You’ll need to download Chrome to your desktop if you haven’t… which is pretty smart. I didn’t have Chrome on my laptop or my iPad or iPhone. Now I do. Don’t know if I’ll use them, but they are now onboard and usable.
4. I’m set up.
5. Opened a movie on my iPad. Nope. Doesn’t connect to the Chromecast.
6. There’s not remote or anything. You basically click in and out via the associates programs/apps or via the Chrome desktop.
7. YouTube does connect from my iPad. The first moving image I get from my Chromecast is the latest DP/30. Looks pretty good.
8. Netflix does connect. I’ve already read complaints that it’s not great, but it’s as good as your wi-fi connection, it seems.
9. I read that you can connect via your Chrome browser window. I open Hulu (not plus) and run a clip. Works pretty well.
10. That’s about it. Not much more to squeeze out of this thing.

I live in a home with four televisions, two of which have an alternate web-based hardware (an Apple TV and a Roku 3). My only real problem with Apple TV is that it doesn’t offer Amazon Prime. The only real problems I have with the Roku is that, 1) it doesn’t stream from my pads/phones, and 2. that its HBOGo via DirecTV doesn’t work. The Chromecast solves neither of those problems for me.

For 11 bucks, Chromecast is a nice extra toy for one of the secondary TVs, adding Netflix access where there had been none. Ooops… wait… just realized that one of those 2 “secondary” TVs has a Blu-ray player that does link to Netflix. So the value of this thing becomes even more limited.

And that is the state of things these days. I bet a lot of people have tools they aren’t using because they either don’t realize or find them inconvenient. Even DirecTV offers YouTube access. It’s hard to buy a Blu-ray player these days that doesn’t have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Pandora, etc, built in and more to come via firmware. One of our TVs is a “smart” TV, which has Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, MLB.TV, and many other “apps” built in.

I think if I had spent the full $35 I would have felt stupid about not spending the extra $60 on an Apple TV or Roku. Maybe Chromecast will add services. And if I was in a Chrome-driven household, perhaps I would feel differently. But right now, this feels like a step backwards or an extremely entry-level way to achieve a few small goals.

Note: The reason I am only effectively paying $11 for this thing is that I bought it on Amazon when there was a promotion with Netflix for three free months of the service, whether a new or existing customer. After reading in the paper that the promotion had been ended, seemingly prematurely, I tried to figure out how my purchase fit in.

On Amazon, there was this note:

Netflix Promotion No Longer Available
Please note that the Netflix promotional offer (which was available in limited supply) has now ended. Customers who ordered their Chromecast prior to 5:31 PM PST on July 24, 2013 will receive a Netflix gift code via email within 5 days of their product’s ship date.

When did I buy? Wednesday, I think. Didn’t bother to pay extra for overnight. But did I buy before 5:31p?

I looked up my order. I did order on Wednesday, but there is no time on the order. Do I need to check my credit card record?

No. I realized that Amazon sends out a confirmation with each purchase. 2:47pm.

Why 5:31p? Maybe that is when they ran out of their first order of Chromecasts. The Google site had already been sold out at around 2p. Maybe that’s their line.

They claim there will be an e-mail with a code for my 3 free months of Netflix in the next week. Fingers crossed.

Anyway… would I suggest a Roku or an Apple TV? Depends what your priorities are. I am stuck between them. I want to stream from my iPad… but we are also happy consumers of And i doubt either side will give in on those limitations anytime soon.

One last point. One reason I won’t prefer a dongle over the box that is Roku or Apple TV anytime soon is that the dongle doesn’t plug into ethernet. And when I watching via online, the quality of wi-fi can be pretty great, but now and again, not so much. I don’t really want to have to worry about the difference between my 99.99% reliable satellite signal and the internet stream. And by plugging in a hard Ethernet line, I don’t.

6 Responses to “Chromecast: The $35 Dongle”

  1. Matty says:

    I think you’re missing the whole point of this device. It isn’t meant to replace Roku or Apple TV. It is a very simple device that quickly and easily allows you to share video. It’s also in beta testing still I believe. More apps will be compatible with time. And to correct your article, you can set it up with a smartphone, just not an iPhone (yet). This will really appeal to a lo of people who already use Chrome browser and are in the android ecosystem. For the apple lover, probably not so much. Sounds like you jumped on the bandwagon without knowing where it was going.

  2. scooterzz says:

    well, i let the bandwagon completely pass me by… despite not being able to access amazon prime (which i really love), i’m perfectly happy with apple tv… can see no reason for anyone with apple tv or roku to waste time with chromecast… at this moment, chromecast seems like a fisher-price entry level gadget (but that could change with time)…..

  3. David Poland says:

    Matty – If you read the press the day of the announcement and then look at what the reviews were once people got their hands on the device, I think you will see a disconnect from pretty much everyone. No one knew what the thing really was.

    Yes, clearly there is a Chrome lean. But bullshit on the “this was only meant for Chrome people.” The pitch specifically opened the door to Apple people. This is, as it turns out, a wannabe tool of conversion, not a Chrome tool that some Apple assholes tried to glom onto.

    Lastly, bullshit on “it isn’t meant to replace Roku or Apple TV.” It’s clearly meant to replace Roku or Apple TV. It just isn’t close to being ready for that at this point… mostly because they haven’t secured enough partners.

    As you note, it IS Apple TV for Chrome/Android people, in terms of pushing to the TV. And is they add Hulu and Amazon and a few others to the mix on this dongle, it will be doing what 90%+ of people use their ATV and Roku for.

    The attraction to a simple dongle is clear, even compared to the small boxes of ATV & Roku. But the lack of a box, at this point – and true of Roku’s dongle too – turns out to make this lite version of the others into something as complex as either of the fully-packed hardware devices. You need a free HDMI slot and you need either a USB plug-in or an electrical one. So if I wanted to use Chromecast on a TV that already has a Blu-ray player and a Roku or ATV already attached, I would have to choose between those units or this… or use a switcher, which is a functionally terrible solution at this point.

    So congrats on having a way onto the TV from your Chrome device. You are right. That is what this tool is most effective at doing at this point. That is not what was being sold 4 days ago.

    As for my bandwagoning… I cover this for a living. I need to know this stuff. I owned red-ray HD as well. I’ve paid for streaming services that have gone away. Etc, etc. If I had spent a full $35 on this, I would have been a victim of that oversell. For $11, it’s fine. And maybe, for you as a Chrome user, it’s a great new tool well worth the 35 bucks. That’s why Baskin-Robbins has so many flavors

  4. Mike says:

    Really? I read like two pieces of press on this thing and nothing directly from Google and knew that it would only work for content played through Chrome on a desktop. If I had an ipad or iphone and it was important to play content from those, I would have made sure those worked before I bought it.

    For a third of the cost of an AppleTv or Roku, sounds like it has about 1/3 of the usefulness. It’ll find its place in the market.

  5. I’m pretty set with Apple TV, with Amazon Prime on the PS3 (usually available on Sony Bu-ray players, too, so there’s that). I didn’t even know about Chromecast. Sounds like a nice try…

  6. mike says:

    to avoid this problem you should learn before buy, maybe in that way youll kno whats the point of every device 😉

    and yes, im also a google tv, and smart tv user 😉

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