Chromecast In India : An Honest Review

India is full of tech savvy netizens and is widely considered to be a good market for gadgets and gizmos. In such a market when Google hits you with a device that promises to turn your seemingly dumb TV into a smart TV, people jump at it and it becomes a craze! Wait! But that didn’t happen with the Chromecast! Why? Let’s try and look at the answers for that and review the Chromecast from an Indian Angle. Unlike other blogs, we would like do an honest review and not just a review

Yes, it looks like a USB drive! We’ve heard that so many times that we thought we will say it in the start and get it out of the way! Looks apart, it is a nifty piece of hardware. Chromecast is a device that you plug into your TV’s HDMI port, powered by a USB cable (included). Using your smartphone or computer as a remote control, you can use Chromecast to access video content from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, the Google Play Store and other services. You can also use it to stream almost any kind of content from the Chrome browser on a computer. The case in point here being the fact that other than YouTube, in India you can pretty much say bye-bye to the other services, so we have a device that play mostly YouTube videos on your TV with the HDMI input. The pictures are vivid and the sound is crystal clear, but then all HD streams are and it is more of a TV feature and not a Chromecast feature.

Chromecast

The question of the hour is, how does the Chromecast work? Let’s try to answer that one. Chromecast acts as a transmitter between your TV and your streaming video provider, like a cable box or an antenna. Netflix (or YouTube, or Hulu Plus, or Google Play) broadcasts content to your Chromecast, which then displays on your TV. So, in India, when you cast something, you are sending the data to your WiFi router and then the router in-turn sends it to the Chromecast device. If you are casting Youtube from the mobile device, the streaming is directly to the device and even when you switch off the phone streaming continues, but to stop streaming, you need to switch on the phone again. Also because of the way this works, there is a lag between the browser/mobile screen and the TV screen.

If you live in India or if you prefer to watch TV the old-fashioned way (via network television, cable or DVR), Chromecast won’t do you much good. Similarly, if you don’t subscribe any streaming video services, Chromecast may be of limited utility. If you own a Roku, Apple TV, PS3, Xbox 360 or Wii U, your device already gives you access to the same things you get via Chromecast, and more. So in India, not a big deal. Also note that most Indians are looking for a device to plug their HDD or SSD into and play local content, sorry guys! The Chromecast cannot do that. We will get to that later. Now the installation

Just plug it into your TV, have a smartphone or computer handy, and follow the instructions. As soon as Chromecast and your controller device connect to the same Wi-Fi, they should recognize each other and walk you through the rest of the process. I was up and running in five minutes flat! That is again because I am in India and there really isn’t much to configure in terms of online services! Again a feature of the country and not the Chromecast! On the laptop you add a Chrome plugin and on the mobile you add a Chromecast app. After Installation is through, on your laptop you will see a new icon on the top right corner of the Chrome browser

Chromecast 2

Now you cast any ONE of your chrome tabs to the TV and ideally it is good to have the youtube tab casted, that way you get the video on the TV. There are very few options available on the UI to configure, I found one option useful. There is an option to cast your entire laptop screen to the TV. Now remember that when you are doing this and playing a video on your laptop which is being cast, you HAVE TO watch the video on both screens! Pretty lame, an LCD projector does a better job!

Coming to the mobile, the number of apps that support casting are limited. And you have to wait for developers to take the API and use it to get more apps onboard the Chromecast platform. Till then, go to the IMAX and watch Iron Man! Seriously!!

There is an app called localcast that can be used to cast local files from the mobile and that saves the grace and prevents the Chromecast from being a total waste of money!

If you are a parent and want to control your kid’s Youtube time, this is a brilliant option. You can control the casting time and also see what they are watching on the large screen. I used it a lot as a learning tool for my child using youtube videos. That was a very good idea. Visually engaging the child!

Now let’s summarize

Good points

  • Portable
  • Easy to set up
  • Easy to use
  • Helps in presentations as a visual aid
  • Good tool for parents to visually educating a child

Not So Good points

  • Not enough apps
  • Supports only Chrome browser
  • Laptop screen sharing is experimental and unstable
  • Does not support Windows phones
  • No supported services in India
  • Lot of cheaper media streaming devices available that can actually stream from an external drive without the hassles of the Chromecast
  • Not useful for bachelor boys, don’t misunderstand me, double electricity bill for the TV and the Laptop at the same time

Conclusion : Let’s not run and get all excited about this one, not everything that Google makes is great! Remember the Buzz and the Wave? What do you think? We say, not upto the mark!

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