On Wednesday Google introduced Chromecast, a stick-like device that connects to oneof your TV's HDMI inputs and accepts video pushed from smartphones,tablets and the Chrome browser. It's available for just $35 startingtoday from the Google Play store in the US, with availability in other countries to follow.
The compact 2-inch device will work with Netflix, YouTube, GooglePlay Movies and TV, and Google Play Music at launch, with support forfuture services, including Pandora, coming soon. It's a cross-platformdevice, with support for both Android and iOS devices, as well as theChrome browser on both Windows and Mac computers. More details arecurrently available on the Google's Chrome blog.
Chromecast'sapproach is different than most devices on the market: it'shalf-remote, half-streaming media box. The idea is instead of designing aTV-optimized user interface, you'll be able to select and controlcontent from your smartphone or tablet. Browse the Netflix app, findyour content, then tell it to play in your living room. Chromecast evengoes one step further, by automatically switching your TV to the correctinput and giving you the ability to adjust the volume using your mobiledevices built-in volume controls. It's a slick implementation.
Assleek as the Chromecast device looks, Google's initial presentationskimmed over some of the rougher edges. The specs in the Google Playstore list both a USB power cable and a power adapter, which indicatethat the Chromecast will have some wires hanging off it -- it's nottruly "just a stick". It's the same method PLAiR used to power its similar HDMI-based streaming stick.
The hardware itself supports 2.4 GHz WiFi 802.11, which isn't quiteas nice as the dual-band Wi-Fi offered on Roku's Streaming Stick. Theinternal processor is capable of playing back full 1080p video with 5.1surround sound.
CNET hasn't had any hands-on time with the Chromecast yet, but from theinitial announcement, the biggest limitation appears to be app support.Supporting only four services out-of-the-gate puts Chromecast wellbehind established players like Roku and Apple TV, and limitedfunctionality was also one of the major knocks against the ill-fatedNexus Q.
However, the big difference with Chromecast ultralow $35price. It's a lot easier to accept those limitations when you haven'tpaid much upfront and the low price should also help spread adoption,which should encourage services to include Chromecast at a faster rate.