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Google Chromecast review

Andrew Williams



Our Score


User Score


  • Fairly cheap
  • Fairly easy to use
  • Reliable Netflix streaming


  • No direct streaming from phones/tablets

Review Price £30.00

Key Features: Integrated Wi-Fi; Included HDMI extender; 1080p support

Manufacturer: Google

What is Chromecast?

Chromecast is a new Google product, and one that’s a whole lot more mainstream than Google Glass and a totally different proposition to the Nexus 5 or Nexus 7.

It’s a little dongle that ends in an HDMI port rather than the usual USB socket. You plug it into your TV and it lets you stream Netflix, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, and a growing selection of other sources, from your mobile and desktop devices on to your TV screen. And for around £30-40 it’s an efficient way to turn an older TV into one with modern features.

It's been on sale in the US for a while now, and has more recently landed in the UK. Our verdict? It's still needs a little work, but it's £35 worth spending for any Android devotee and is a sure footed competitor to the Apple TV and Roku streaming Stick.

Google Chromecast – Design

The Google Chromecast dongle is a bit larger than a USB flash memory stick. The reasons why are pretty obvious – not only does it have to incorporate a chunky full-size HDMI socket, it also crams in a Marvell Armada 1500-Mini 88DE3005 processor. This isn’t a dumb stick, it’s a little computer.

However, Chromecast is not about getting Android – or even Chrome – on your TV. It’s much simpler, and more useful for the average person.

Jam it into your TV or home cinema receiver, get it hooked up to your home network and your non-smart TV or home cinema setup will suddenly get streaming abilities.

SEE ALSO: Chromecast tips and tricks

Google Chromecast 8

The button is used to factory reset the Chromecast

There are some little design elements to account for, though. The Chromecast needs its own power supply. It’s a 5.1V 850mA supply so is a bit too much for non-powered USB ports on computers or home cinema receivers. It can be powered by some TVs, though. Check your model to make sure. You do get a power supply in the box in case your TV can't power it, but you’ll need to set aside a socket.

The dongle itself is also a bit chunky – more so than an HDMI cable – so it will clutter up busy home cinema receivers a bit. However, both the US and UK versions also come with a little cable extender to help out. Not only does the extender provide a way of folding the dongle out of the way if space behind your TV is a tight it can, in some cases, help improve the Chromecasts connection to your Wi-Fi network. Google Chromecast 9

Google Chromecast – Apps and Streaming Performance

Google Chromecast does not come with a remote control at all. Instead, you use a phone or tablet to act as the middle man between streaming services like Netflix and your TV. Although this is a Google product and therefore plays well with Android, it does work perfectly well with Apple products like the iPhone 5S, iPad Mini and iPad Air too.

In use, Chromecast works a lot like AirPlay. You stream whatever you’re watching – or listening to – on your device from within supported apps. Once your chosen TV episode or film is playing on the TV, many of these apps will allow you to go off an browse the in app directories. Some even run in the background so you can leave the app itself and read, for example, your emails or surf the internet.

Here’s how the interface works in Netflix on an iPhone. It is currently the most useful Chromecast app.

SEE ALSO: Best Chromecast apps to download first

Google Chromecast 11

Press the 'transmit' button and you'll see your Chromecast pop-up

The iPhone and Android apps are a little different from each other too – the Android version offers a bit more content, and suggestions of Chromecast-compatible apps:

Google Chromecast 1

Android phones and tablets used to offer better app support than iPhones and iPads but iOS devices have come a long way since our initial review with Chromecast support for lots of apps. Both mobile operating systems now support Netflix, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Google Play movie player, Google Play music player, BT Sport, Vevo, Plex, Blinkbox, Red Bull TV, Deezer, RealPlayer Cloud and a handful of small-fry picks we can’t imagine many people wanting.

Anyone for the VikiTV Korean movie portal? Didn’t think so.

The app list is growing every day so it's worth checking out the official list of supported Chromecast apps over on the Chromecast site, but if you're strapped for time you can check out our round up of favourite Chromecast apps.

There are obviously dozens of apps we’d like to see get Chromecast support, especially things like 4OD, LoveFilm, Now TV, Spotify, Amazon MP3 and MX Player. Part of investing in Chromecast is having faith that support will come but, going by the adoption rate for many of the big names, we are sure the rest will follow.

We found Netflix streaming to be rock-solid with a good connection, and once you’re hooked up with a film there’s no need to keep your phone or tablet on. Although it seems like Chromecast is streaming from your mobile, it actually makes a direct connection with streaming services over Wi-Fi.

The exceptions are when you’re streaming from one device directly to another – these are some of the Chromecast’s most interesting, and least talked-about skills. With a Chrome browser plugin on your laptop or PC you can beam your browser window straight to your TV. At the moment it’s quite flaky, but it does work (don’t rely on it for presentations just yet though).

Google Chromecast 3

The Chrome plug-in in action

What you can't do is stream content directly from the phone’s internal memory to the Chromecast. While the Google Play Movies app works with the dongle, when you head to the Personal videos section you need to use the ‘Videos’ app to play them, not Google Play Movies. This doesn't offer Chromecast support. The closest you can get are with the Plex app (currently £1.52), which creates a media server from your PC media library, and Avia. This is an app that lets you stream a limited array of video stored locally - but not many kinds of MKV files work perfectly. Plex, on the other hand, supports a vast array of media formats. We've been using it in cinjuction with the Chromecast for a couple of months now and have found it to be the perfect way to enjoy a personal media collection via the TV. Gone are the days or connecting up dedicated media machines to the Tele via bulky cables.

We are, however, a little way off limitation-free pure, direct streaming, it seems. And that’s bad news for media pirates or those with smartphone photos and videos they want to see on the big screen. It also means you can’t stream any locally stored music to Chromecast. If you try it using the Google Play Music app you get this error message:

Google Chromecast 4

However, Chromecast will happily deliver 1080p video where available, and can deal with surround sound. There’s no discernible loss of quality unless you’re using the Chrome browser streaming, where the image becomes quite artefact-ridden when there’s lots of movement on-screen.

Next page

kevin mulholland

February 13, 2014, 9:36 am

It does not have 4K, but then nor do most TVs and at £35 what do you expect.
It does not do surround sound unless your TV has optical out, this is a failing of your TV not the chromecast.

Please get a grip of reality.

Apparrently it has android on it but cannot make phone calls, is this also a failure?


February 13, 2014, 10:51 am

The discussion about 4k and surround sound were in a section headed "Two problems to consider" and gives information about the product and how it may, or may not, work effectively in an existing home cinema configuration. The discussion honestly states "it’s not hard to counter these arguments" and gives more background information.
I can't see how TR have lost their grip on reality, maybe you need to step back from the keyboard and rethink your argument?

Brian O'Neill

February 13, 2014, 1:07 pm

One note of concern is you can not customise the dns servers. A lot of people use services like unblock-us etc to watch Netflix USA, you can not do this with chromecast, it is tied to the google dns.


February 13, 2014, 1:42 pm

Thanks (maybe not so evil) EvilPaul! Yes we wanted to be comprehensive for readers who would likely ask these questions had we not covered them but it didn't affect the scoring much, if at all.


February 13, 2014, 7:21 pm

Good point! We're likely to give the review an update when the Chromecast launches in the UK. That'd be a good extra to add in.


February 13, 2014, 7:24 pm

Had one of these for a few months after Amazon sold them to the UK by mistake. I've used it every day and it's easily the best value gadget I've used in years and years, especially at $35. I do wish it could remember different networks when travelling about and it would be very nice if it could mirror my laptop screen. (not just Chrome Browser).

It's had its share of crashes and silly bugs but it's worth it. Works well with Plex too.


February 14, 2014, 2:47 am

Actually you can stream from your phone or tablet internet memory on Android using apps like avia. Mainly mp4, but I like to do it on hotel tv's while travelling


February 14, 2014, 9:45 am

Hi - I noticed that the dongle requires a "powered" HDMi socket. How would you find out if your HDMi socket is a powered one? Most people would prefer not to plug it into the wall (ie: Have the TV power the dongle).


February 14, 2014, 11:12 am

We gave Avia quick mention in the review, but we're looking at doing a more in-depth article on Chromecast apps soon.


February 14, 2014, 12:18 pm

It doesn't require a powered HDMI socket so don't worry about that. If you want to use it without having to plug it into a power socket you will have to use the USB connector cable that is included. Some TVs have a full-powered USB connection, some do not. You will need a full-powered USB port to power the Chromecast as it's a little thirsty. You might be able to check if you have an external USB-only powered hard drive. If this gets powered on by your TV port the likelihood is that the Chromecast will also be powered.


February 14, 2014, 1:52 pm

True. The only way around is to modify the iptables in your router. Not a straight forward task.


February 14, 2014, 1:54 pm

Allcast is now officially available for chromecast. This can stream everything from your Android device. The free version works fine for audio and photos, but video streaming is limited to 1 minute.


February 14, 2014, 2:12 pm

Cheers for the tip. We'll check this out.


February 14, 2014, 2:20 pm

you can steam most media stored on your mobile devices direct from your phone or tablet using the Avia app. You can also stream music direct from play music app on android. Podcasts can be streamed directly using the BeyondPod app on android. The chromecast is really good value for money.


February 14, 2014, 4:18 pm

Kevin, I think you might be a little too emotionally attached to the Google product yourself here. What TR have done is what any review site worth their salt must do consistently: present a balanced overview that provides the reader with all the positive and negative points of a product to allow the reader to make up their own mind, as every users' requirements are different.

They mention these two points as this may be an issue/drawback to some users and it would be poor form to just ignore them as some might find them insignificant. At the same time they don't labour the points at all and it isn't even repeated in the summary so it obviously wasn't considered a massive drawback given the price.


February 14, 2014, 6:19 pm

I've no need of things like Netflix, or other media that no doubt wants to grab my cash, nor social media that besots the younger generation, so what use is it?


February 15, 2014, 1:09 pm

Thanks for that Terry. Ever heard of the saying 'wise men speak when they have something to say, fools speak because they need to say something'?


February 24, 2014, 7:42 pm

Will it enable us to stream BTSport from PC to our TV, so that we can watch the football without sitting in fron of the TV


March 20, 2014, 10:12 am

Notice that the review has been updated to say the Chromecast is now available in the UK but that it hasn't been updated to say that BBC iPlayer is supported (and works very well) - in fact it is still listed as no 1 in the list of Cons!


March 29, 2014, 11:44 am

Millions of other people have a use for it. Just because you've resigned yourself to being a philistine doesn't mean that everyone else should.


April 1, 2014, 12:20 pm

I've no need to go to the moon, so I haven't yet bought a space rocket! Is there really any point to a comment like this?


April 1, 2014, 1:03 pm

Thanks Graham when we reviewed it the iPlayer app was not available. We've updated the review.

Dark Drumz

April 2, 2014, 2:26 pm

Terry, I completely understand what you mean. Martin BenSinger and Neil my have a limited view on what you said. are consumers. I'll address each of them as I find it very sad that their understanding of the human environment and behavior is so limited.

Dark Drumz

April 2, 2014, 2:38 pm

Martin, don't cut down someone because you think there is no point to his comment. Would you like me to cut you down because I 'think' your comment has no point or isn't relevant?

Do you understand that speaking of the moon and rockets and purchases does not require you to understand the entirety of the related industries. If you are going to challenge someone in this area It would be good to have a grasp of the varying degrees of all you mention.

your species hardly goes to the moon yet you attempt an analogy of sorts that isn't relevant. I can continue. I can dissect so much about you from your simple sentence to reveal your atrocious simplicity. I just did that, this just happened.

Think, many humans don't before they speak. Just because you say random words that make up a sentence doesn't give you a right to cut someone else down. now to BenSinger...

(ps, I don't like what you guys did to someone highlighting that this is unneccessary PR for Chromecast)


April 3, 2014, 2:10 pm

Just had a look and can't find your comment. Our comments are auto-moderated and automatically appear if you are a disqus user and have not sworn or added a link. Looks like it might be a gremlin

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