Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Google Chromecast short review

OK, so I broke down and bought a Google Chromecast. Early on, I figure I didn't have a need for it since all my TVs have some form of Netflix, Youtube playback. I also have an AppleTV for screen casting and iTunes movie playback. The Chromecast appeared to be redundant and un-necessary for my needs.

So why did I get one? Simple. They finally added PLEX support. Yep, the latest updates now support PLEX playback for PlexPass members which I happen to be. I figure I could cut my electricity usage even further. I was using a combination of HTPC, iPad, and GoogleTV to watch PLEX in my living room. With a HTPC, I was still burning un-necessary KwH of electricity leaving it on days and weeks at a time just for PLEX. I was also an inch away from picking up a refrurb ROKU unit for another room just for PLEX. However, the latest updates and recent holiday promos, I decided to just bite the bullet.

So how does it work. Brilliant. I configured everything from my iPhone, browsed PLEX on my iPhone and voila. PLEX via Chromecast. The whole process took less than 5 minutes.

Thats it.

Now, there are some issues. I can't seem to swap audio channels and have no way of knowing DTS or AC3 5.1 surround is enabled. There is no way to swap audio tracks. I figure there will be a future software update to fix this.

Right now, I'm pretty giddy.

Playing PLEX is pretty cool as you can go back on the app and pick up what you are watching and scrub (rewind/fast-forward) your position. With apps like youtube, once you initiate a playback, you can't control it if you end up doing something else.

Speaking of Youtube, the 1080p playback is flawless. I fired up some videos from my Macbook and was generally impressed. The only thing that bothered me was if I closed my browser or swap to my phone, there was no way to control the playback on the television.

Netflix from the phone worked pretty good as well. However, I can't seem to find a way to enable stuff like subtitles yet.

Screen Tab/sharing is pretty lame compared to Apple Airplay. The quality was generally to low and frame rates too slow for me to bother with. Apple's Airplay is brilliant, period.

Overall, I am impressed. Sure, it is a limited device. If you already own an AppleTV, getting a Chromecast was pretty redundant until they recently added PLEX support. I know you can get PLEX on AppleTV with some DNS hacks but I didn't want to go there. So how does the AppleTV vs Chromecast compare? It is hard to say because both devices do different things. AppleTV can be a stand-alone device. The in-laws can operate it without problem. The Chromecast requires a device to control it. If I told my dad to play Netflix on the Chromecast, he will never figure it out. Plus, I use my AppleTV to listen to music quite a bit off my 20,000 plus iTunes library along with iTunes Match/Radio.

I also happen to have a bunch of other Android/Google TV devices that can do Chromecasting using apps (MiiPC, Logitech Revue, a few Android sticks) but $30 or so for a plug-n-play solution was a bit of a no brainer for me.

However, the Chromecast is cheap that I plan to get another one for the nursery. It is that good of a device and in this household, there is no need to take sides.

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