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Google Chromecast: Problems and Verdict

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

Chromecast – Two problems to consider

On these subjects of audio and video quality there are two obvious criticisms of the Google Chromecast – it doesn’t support 4K and there is no optical audio output to let you separately route the audio to a surround system. However, it’s not hard to counter these arguments.

In its current state Chromecast offers little attraction to 4K TV owners. All its features are built into 4K TVs. And if you have a 5.1 system that doesn’t have a receiver-style HDMI interface it’s either incredibly old or rubbish.

Sadly, lots of these kinds of surround systems are still on sale – those £100-150 systems that incorporate a DVD/Blu-ray player and speakers the size of cigarette packs. They tend to feature a single optical input rather than an HDMI, or no aux input at all. We haven’t reviewed many of them as companies generally aren’t keen to have eyes as critical as ours gaze upon them.

Read: Best Surround Sound Systems

If you have one of these systems, we recommend checking whether your TV has an optical audio output. It if doesn’t you won’t be able to get surround sound from the Chromecast.

There's no audio output here

Chromecast – A lounge-friendly guest

When not streaming video or audio, the Chromecast displays an array of slowly-changing photos, and there’s a clock to the bottom-right. A 50-inch LED TV is a pretty pricey-to-run photo frame, but it is something that makes this dongle all the more lounge-friendly.

Here's the Chromecast 'resting' screen

However, the Chromecast has one big problem. It doesn’t switch off – ever (as far as we can tell). As long as it is connected to a power socket it stays on.

Not only is this a waste, it can result in burn-in with older TVs. While the picture changes, the clock display stays in the same spot, and high-contrast images like these are the worst causers of burn-in.

It seems odd that there’s no power-off function in the Chromecast too. It is CEC-compliant, meaning that it can ‘talk to’ the TV to turn it on and automatically switch your TV to the right input whenever you start steaming (a very neat feature). This should also mean it knows then the TV has been turned off, but the Chromecast stays running belligerently.

This very useful feature could also prove to be very annoying. What if you accidentally enabled the Chromecast on the downstairs TV while you were upstairs in bed? If you have an older TV it will probably mean you have to go downstairs just to turn the thing off. There's three obvious options to counter this. Either switch your TV off at the wall at night, disable the wake feature via your TV's menu or, if you have the luxury to do so, use a powered USB port attached to your TV.

Never switching of is not a particular safety issue as the Chromecast hasn't got more than warm in our testing, but a manual or auto standby mode is something we imagine many buyers would like.

Netflix playback running off Chromecast looks just like... normal Netflix

Chromecast – Setup

The Google Chromecast is pretty easy to setup. With an iPhone, iPad or Android you install the Chromecast app, then connect to a Wi-Fi network the dongle pumps out when it’s not already connected to a device.

You then teach the dongle your home Wi-Fi security code within the app. And then you’re connected.

A couple of screens from the iPhone setup process

In the various apps that support Chromecast, you invariably do so by clicking on an icon that looks like a Wi-Fi logo. It’s all pretty easy, and much less fiddly than setting up a DLNA streaming solution.

Should I buy the Google Chromecast dongle?

As it was released so much earlier in the US than the UK, we had feared that few of the Google Chromecast’s features would work in the UK. However, the only real restriction is that some Chromecast-compatible services are not available in the UK, yet.

There is a long way to go until Chromecast realises its potential, but there is enough here to make the small outlay worthwhile for some already. However, if you're not interested in the tech and you don’t have a Netflix subscription, you might want to wait until we hear from more UK-centric services about their Chromecast intentions.

Also, if streaming direct from a phone or tablet is what you’re really after, consider an MHL adapter (if your device is MHL-compatible) or a Wi-Fi Direct/Miracast HDMI dongle.

Verdict

It’s a work-in-progress project, but the Google Chromecast offers simple, reliable, cheap streaming that is 100 per cent in line with the trend for more mobile-centric control.

Next, read our best Netflix TV series feature

Overall Score

8

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?

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.

Evan

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.

Andrew_TR

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.

ElectricSheep

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.

wagz

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

Ryan

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).

Andrew_TR

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.

Evan

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.

Minga

February 14, 2014, 1:52 pm

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

Minga

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.

Andrew_TR

February 14, 2014, 2:12 pm

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

Tom

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.

Jordan

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.

Terry

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?

Neil

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'?

sadly_no_tablet

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

Graham

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!

BenSinger

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.

Martin

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?

Evan

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)

Evan

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

BenSinger

April 5, 2014, 10:56 am

I imagine it was marked as such because of the essay-like length and utter banality of what you posted. Hah!

Even the spam-bot considers your comments ridiculous.

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