Google Chromecast review: Google's £30 streamer is nearly great

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Google Chromecast

(Part #: H2G2-42) Released: 19 Mar 2014
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars 43 user reviews

The Good Google's Chromecast is cheap and streams iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube and Google content to your TV using phones, tablets or computers as remotes. It's easy to setup and use, and the video quality is great.

The Bad Not enough services are supported yet and screen-mirroring sucks for video. The lack of a dedicated remote also means you always need a smartphone or tablet nearby, plus for £20 less, you can get a re-badged Roku box from Now TV that includes iPlayer.

The Bottom Line Technically, the Chromecast is a wonder to behold. If all you want is a cheap way to get iPlayer and Netflix, it's a good choice, but it needs more content before it becomes a must-buy for most.

7.5 Overall
  • Performance 7.5
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 6.5
  • Value 8.5
  • Ecosystem 6.0

Google's Chromecast went down a storm when it was released in the US last year, and now it's available to buy from official channels in the UK for just £30. A simple 2-inch stick that plugs into an HDMI port on your TV, Chromecast is a cheap way of streaming video onto your telly.

Purely on a technical level, it's ingenious. Google has worked out a way to cram in the sorts of electronics that normally require much larger boxes into something very small. Unlike rivals, like Apple TV or Roku's boxes, there is no on-screen interface, which means there's no need for an extra remote control.

Instead, you need a phone, tablet or computer to control it: it supports anything running Windows 7 or above, Mac OS 10.7, Android 2.3, iOS 6 and Chromebooks. The main advantage of this is that when you're searching for a movie or TV show, you can use the keyboard on your computer or phone, rather than using direction keys on a remote to click around an on-screen keyboard.

Once you've plugged it into your HDMI port, you'll need to power it somehow. The easiest way is to connect the provided USB cable to a port on your TV, if you have one. Otherwise, you'll need to plug in the power brick.

If you have a USB port built into your TV, you can use it to power the Chromecast. Jason Jenkins/CNET

Once that's done, setup is very easy. Initially, the Chromecast creates its own Wi-Fi network you need to connect to: follow the instructions you see here for the device you're using. Then you select the wireless network you would normally use, input the wireless password, wait for a software update to download, and that's it.

Setup is easy, even on a phone. Screenshots: Jason Jenkins/CNET

After that, you switch to a supported app or Web service and click the "cast" icon if you want to watch a video on your TV. At this point, the Chromecast streams the video directly from the Internet, rather than bouncing it via the computer or phone you're using. That should mean better video quality, fewer video freezes and better battery life for your mobile devices.

The phone, tablet or computer you're using then acts as a basic remote control. You can skip forwards and backwards and adjust the volume, although only within the limits of what you already have set on the TV.

More than one device can connect to a Chromecast at one time, so if a few friends want to show each other their favourite YouTube videos, that's easy to do. Once they've found the video they want to show, they push the cast icon to see a list of Chromecasts that are in range. Selecting the one you want changes what's showing to the new video.

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