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Google Chromecast Reviewed; Google Nixes Netflix Discount 128

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the nifty-if-limited dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "While it's more limited than the Roku 3 and by no means Google's answer to Airplay, Chromecast sets itself apart from other similar products simply based on its price and potential of bringing Internet HDTV streaming to many more people than before. Priced at only $35, it's a direct stick that plugs into your HDTV's HDMI port and lets you stream media from Netflix, YouTube, and Google Play through your smartphone, tablet, or notebook. Unlike the Roku Stick, it uses a separate micro-USB port instead of MHL to power it. This on one hand means you need to run a cable from the stick to a USB port, making it much less neat than it would seem. On the other hand, it means the stick works with any HDTV, whether it has an MHL-capable HDMI port or not. Once connected, the setup itself is fairly simple and entirely app-controlled. Past the setup, your streaming content choices are currently limited, though Google released an API for the Chromecast, so more apps could support it in the future. For now Android users can stream media from Google Play Movies and Music, as well as Netflix and YouTube whereas iOS users can watch Netflix and YouTube via the Chromecast. From a computer, users can stream media from Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, and Chrome. Unlike Apple TV and AirPlay, Chromecast doesn't let you stream your locally stored media. In fact Google Play Music gives an error message when you try to play music you loaded on your device yourself and not through the Google Play store. All in all, at $35 it's the most affordable way to access online media services on your HDTV." El Reg also got their hands on one. Alas, one perk of grabbing the Chromecast is gone: Google ended the free three month Netflix bundle that was worth almost as much as the cost of the Chromecast itself after sales were much higher than expected (so high it looks like they ran out of them after only a day). Update: 07/26 21:20 GMT by U L : iFixIt posted a teardown of the Chromecast.
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Google Chromecast Reviewed; Google Nixes Netflix Discount

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  • What makes this better than any of the countless similarly priced Android-based media players out there?

    • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:15PM (#44394351)

      When you can buy a full-featured Roku 3 for only $100, I don't really get it either.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:19PM (#44394403)

        I can buy an entire movie studio for a few million bucks, so I don't see why anyone would want something less than half the price.

        • I have no idea what the decoding capability is like(the product page is misleading and says f all), but for something that cheap it could possibly be very limited. Making it a very useless paper weight for everything but netflicks and youtube. This is just google pushing verticle integration.
          • > I have idea what the decoding capability is like ...
            > it could possibly be very limited

            Okay, you know nothing about it. I'm with you so far.

            > misleading ... useless paper weight for everything but netflicks and youtube. This is just google pushing verticle integration.

            And you go ahead and call it crap, and accuse them of false advertising (fraud).

            Let me guess - you vote democrat.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        When you can buy a full-featured Roku 3 for only $100, I don't really get it either.

        According to Wired.com [wired.com] "[I]f you’re running it in a browser, Amazon Instant video, Hulu, Rdio, and HBO Go all just work. As did video from Wired, Gawker media, and Flickr slideshows." I have a Roku and love it, but I also have Comcast. That means, in its infinite retardery, I can not watch HBO Go on my Roku. If this really does work as well as Wired says it does, I can watch it through the Chromecast Chrome browser, making my Roku a paperweight.

        • by jseale (691367)

          According to Wired.com [wired.com] "[I]f you’re running it in a browser, Amazon Instant video, Hulu, Rdio, and HBO Go all just work. As did video from Wired, Gawker media, and Flickr slideshows." I have a Roku and love it, but I also have Comcast. That means, in its infinite retardery, I can not watch HBO Go on my Roku. If this really does work as well as Wired says it does, I can watch it through the Chromecast Chrome browser, making my Roku a paperweight.

          Roku only makes sense if you're a Time Warner Cable customer and you buy one the nicest Roku models, which of course makes holding onto your first-gen/second-gen Roku (for who knows how long) a no-no becuase these don't support Time Warner Cable's app. Having a Roku is a must in most newer Time Warner Cable markets (such as Louisville KY, where I live) because the ability to offer more HD channels than what you'd get through the cable box.

      • by slaker (53818)

        Roku units are god-awful for playback of local content. They're only half a solution to the Smart TV problem.

        • Roku units are god-awful for playback of local content. They're only half a solution to the Smart TV problem.

          As far as I can tell, so is the Chromecast.

          Sure, I could drag a movie into a Chrome window to get it to work, but if I wanted to do something a bit more average like play a local album, and start a tv series stored on my computer WITHOUT having to get up and go to my computer, well... good luck with that.

          • by symbolset (646467) *
            Do you not know how to set up a webserver to stream your library from your local share?
            • by maccodemonkey (1438585) on Friday July 26, 2013 @05:02PM (#44394859)

              Do you not know how to set up a webserver to stream your library from your local share?

              Is there a reason I should have to do this?

              • by symbolset (646467) *

                Well, to be honest, you don't. You could just buy one [amazon.com] of the many models available at retail. And then your Chromecast could stream your home movies directly from your local media library in FullHD, you could watch all your media on any device that supports the codec even if it can't browse the network and local files, like an iThing. But if you don't have one of those NASflingers, any PC (or any number of PCs of any capacity) can be set up to do the same thing at no additional cost to you.

                And then this

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Roku units are god-awful for playback of local content.

          I'm running Plex on mine, which seems to work well. Gotta set the server up on a pc, but it seems pretty low impact.

          • by slaker (53818)

            Plex is pretty sweet but how many Roku user have the technical sophistication to set it or some DLNA A/V provider up?

          • by jseale (691367)

            Roku units are god-awful for playback of local content.

            I'm running Plex on mine, which seems to work well. Gotta set the server up on a pc, but it seems pretty low impact.

            Twonky is better for that kinda' thing. Just sayin'.

        • Roku units are god-awful for playback of local content. They're only half a solution to the Smart TV problem.

          With the Roku, there are at least two ways you can play local content:

          1. Play it directly from the Roku box by plugging a storage device containing H.264/MPG,MP3, or AAC into the USB port and using the USB channel.

          2. Using the free Plex server on your computer and the free app.

          With the Chromecast, I would still need the Plex server, and then use the Plex web client on Chrome and cast it to the TV. Th

        • by Zenin (266666)

          Clearly you haven't tried out Plex [plexapp.com] yet. The Roku is absolutely fantastic for playing back local content.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        When you can buy a full-featured Roku 3 for only $100, I don't really get it either.

        Especially since earlier versions of Roku will do the same thing as Chromecast and cost less than the Chromecast if you look around.

        And you can just plug them straight into your TV. No USB connector needed.

      • by Seumas (6865)

        Well, youtube doesn't work on the Roku.

    • by slaker (53818)

      Android Media Players tend to be a little bit sketchy. I have a Pivos Xios and I quite like it, but mine is running Linux. Under Android, there are a few too many drawbacks to make it worthwhile, starting with the limitations of a stock Android interface when using a remote control or some kind of mouse.
      The general problem that Android players have is that they tend to be under-powered, particularly compared to top-end phones and tablets. Developers are working hard, but for now there are still odd limitati

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      What makes this better than any of the countless similarly priced Android-based media players out there?

      It's made [with the name, not] by Google. Which still has a shiny effect of 1.025e10 Potrzebies, give or take a Veeblefetzer.

      I read earlier this morning that they were going for 8 times list price on eBay. Must be something of a Lemming moment seizing the masses. I admit to be slightly interested in one, but I have yet to get something HDMI 1.4 (so I don't need the power cord) and have to figure what the heck I need to watch so badly anyway.

      "Here come the zombies!"

      "ooo! shiny! waaaaannnt!"

    • by Anonymous Coward

      All the similarly priced Android media players are trash. They have under-powered hardware, patchy codec support, and never receive any kind of long term support from the manufacturers.

    • What makes this better than any of the countless similarly priced Android-based media players out there?

      There's a small chance the Google-branded device will get updates some day.

  • by symbolset (646467) * on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:10PM (#44394319) Homepage Journal

    From Wired's Dongle Style review [wired.com]:

    Yes, you can play local video. At least some of it. A not-strictly-speaking legitimate copy of Black Mirror in MKV file format played magnificently on our television when we dropped it in a Chrome browser window.

    Likewise, if you’re running it in a browser, Amazon Instant video, Hulu, Rdio, and HBO Go all just work. As did video from Wired, Gawker media, and Flickr slideshows. We ran photos from Facebook fullscreen. We watched a live Flash stream of a Braves game on an extremely shady bootleg site that spawned approximately a gazillion Chrome windows in the background.

    Good luck getting one though.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by earlzdotnet (2788729)
      Wow. Is it sad that it's significantly easier to play flash video on a $35 device than it is on my >$500 Linux machine?
      • Simply Mepis on my 8y/o laptop plays Flash vids in Firefox with no problem... Maybe it's your distro or the browser you're using?

        FWIW I don't recall whether I had to install the plugin manually or if it came OOTB, but it would've been no big deal if I did -- just a matter of either grabbing the .deb from Adobe & installing it or searching for and selecting it in Synaptic Package Manager. Shouldn't take more than five minutes, unless my cheapo DSL connection was being even slower than usual.

    • That is a very poor workaround, that plays the video locally then does some messy screen casting to give you compression artifacts/chop/stutter and lip sync issues:

      http://www.theverge.com/2013/7/24/4553368/hands-on-googles-35-chromecast-a-streaming-tv-stick [theverge.com]

      Perhaps most interesting of all, we got to try a new beta feature of Chrome that lets you stream the contents of a web browser tab itself to your TV via the Chromecast. It's not particularly impressive yet: scrolling doesn't come close to keeping up with your finger, and there's visible compression artifacts whenever there's rapid motion: it's a lot like streaming game services like OnLive and Gaikai, but with a lot more delay. ... Video plays with only a bit of chop and stutter, and lips don't quite sync up with the audio, which could be maddening for some.

      WD TV, Roku aren't that expensive and handle local streaming flawlessly.

      • From what I read at Ars Technica, the Verge article is inaccurate; evidently Wired & other reviewers didn't run into the same problems. The discussion at Ars Tech was quite interesting if you're like me and tempted to get one:
        http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/07/the-chromecast-has-a-netflix-promotion-and-its-gone/?comments=1&start=0 [arstechnica.com]

        I've been looking into WD TV lately, and it's one of the options I'm seriously considering getting for my mother, as we switched from cable to watching online & do

        • by guidryp (702488) on Friday July 26, 2013 @10:02PM (#44396699)

          I see nothing at your link which differs from information here.

          You just have people arguing about the same two Verge/Wired stories on the tab casting.

          Regardless that Wired didn't notice any issues with it, it is still a poor solution. Wired used it to play a TV show MKV, likely lower resolution so they may not have noticed the problems. They spent a whole 2 and half lines of text covering the feature.

          Verge has more extensive coverage, including how it works. It plays the video locally on your computer, then uses WebRTC to essentially send screen caps to the device.

          This is the critical part: it needs to recompress the video again in real time to send it to the chromecast.

          That is bound to destroy quality for most people and cause hiccup on higher resolution materials.

        • I can totally recommend the WDTV Live. I have one and so do my parents (in their late 50s). It works with SMB network shares so you don't even need to setup a DLNA server. Or you can go the old fashioned way and play stuff off a USB stick.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:16PM (#44394363)

    1. Make a splash with all the tech review sites by announcing your new $35 product comes with three free months of Netflix, guaranteeing that you'll get tons of press.
    2. Stop the offer after one day, without warning.
    3. Profit! By taking advantage of all the people that will only find the initial review when they check out your product, and so won't know the deal is off.

    4. Whisper "don't be evil" al the way to the bank...

    • Re:Clever strategy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Pope (17780) on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:34PM (#44394549)

      5. Only show pictures of the device itself plugged into the back of a TV, not with the required power adapter & cord, to make it seem smaller than it really is.

      • Re:Clever strategy (Score:4, Informative)

        by arnott (789715) on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:40PM (#44394599)
        If you have HDMI 1.4+, the power adapter is not needed.
        • by WilyCoder (736280)

          Brb, spending $1k+ on a new TV so I can use my $35 device without a cord

          • by Shados (741919)

            TVs with all the bells and whistles aren't all that expensive anymore, unless you want a 60+ inch or something and do a bit of research.

        • Re:Clever strategy (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 26, 2013 @05:36PM (#44395161)

          False. HDMI 1.4 did not add any additional power to the spec, and the 50mA that HDMI does require actually comes from the *source* - which would be the Chromecast.

          MHL does add power, which is what the Roku streaming stick uses, but it's not clear whether or not the Chromecast supports that.

          • by Curupira (1899458)

            False. HDMI 1.4 did not add any additional power to the spec, and the 50mA that HDMI does require actually comes from the *source* - which would be the Chromecast.

            I'm confused about this. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] has pointed to some sources that say that HDMI does have some power:

            An HDMI extender is a single device (or pair of devices) powered with an external power source or with the 5V DC from the HDMI source.

            Perhaps 5v DC is insufficient to power a device like a Chromecast?

      • You don't need the adapter if your TV has USB ports. But otherwise what's the big deal? You plug your tv into power after all.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LordLimecat (1103839)

      It seems like the most surefire way for Google to "be evil" in people's eyes is to have special offers and go the extra mile. Offer google reader for free for years with a cutoff date? Evil! Offer free netflix, with a cutoff date? Evil! Donate to charity-- but only SOME of your assets? Evil!

      Apparently the only way for them not to be evil is to only ever donate the entirety of their assets, offer services in perpetuity, and ever make any money whatsoever.

      • "Evil" is a subjective term...

      • I can't speak for the specifics of this particular deal, but it's quite common for some deals to be in limited supply, to encourage early adopters. "While stocks last" or "Free Netflix to first 500 customers" etc.

        I'm sure they had someone in legal draw up the proper wording for their advertisement to ensure that they could end it if demand was too high.

    • by Demoknight (66150)

      I'm fairly confident somewhere near 100% of the people who are the market for this device would have made the purchase without the Netflix voucher at that price point... please provide counterpoint.

  • Cute, But ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It's a cute device, but not really ready for public consumption. Its restricted (or incomplete?) support means you can only use what Google lets you rather than any video on the source device.

    I'm sure they'll improve the compatibility, but until then it's just a device that streams Google approved content.

    • by bjwest (14070)

      It's a cute device, but not really ready for public consumption. Its restricted (or incomplete?) support means you can only use what Google lets you rather than any video on the source device.

      I'm sure they'll improve the compatibility, but until then it's just a device that streams Google approved content.

      This makes it just as ready for public consumption as any 'i', Win8 or kindle device out there.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Proteus (1926)

        Your comment is either astonishingly ignorant or really bad trolling:

        • Apple iOS devices play whatever video and audio content you want, provided you supply it in a supported format (H.264 M4V, for example); the supported formats are open standards, and tools to create compatible files are ubiquitous, and many are free. Or you can just install VLC for iOS and use pretty much any format (though it does decoding in software for formats that i-Devices don't have hardware decoders for, which means battery life go
        • by bjwest (14070)

          Your comment is either astonishingly ignorant or really bad trolling:

          I'll go with ignorant, but not astonishingly ignorant. The GP stated "It's a cute device, but not really ready for public consumption. Its restricted (or incomplete?) support means you can only use what Google lets you rather than any video on the source device", and that's what I was respoinding to. Apple has the ability to kill apps you paid for, just because they disapprove of them. If they don't like an app, it doesn't get in the store, and, unless you've broken your device (which is of questionable l

          • by Proteus (1926)

            If they don't like an app, it doesn't get in the store, and, unless you've broken your device (which is of questionable legality), you're limited to Apple approved apps.

            You're limited to Apple-approved native apps. You can "install" HTML5-based apps (including ones with local storage that work offline) without any approval process from Apple. You won't have full access to all the device capabilities, but there you go.

            Besides, GP was using examples of media content, not application content. Apple doesn't res

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      google approved content??? no, its limited to those apps that have the ability to use the cast feature, right now netflix, some google services (youtube,play music, ect.) and through the chrome browser, are what have the ability, not because of some conspiracy of google approved content, but because the SDK was just released with it, so it a couple of months there will be an several video players that allow you to play whatever.

      Until then its just a device that works with apps that take advantage of the ca

  • by alen (225700) on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:25PM (#44394465)

    that's the only thing i can see using it for if i didn't have an apple tv and a Mac

    if you don't pay for cable you can stream live sports to your TV now instead of watching it on a computer

  • I want a cheep device that simply mirrors my screen (from whatever device, like a VNC viewer) to my TV over my LAN. Give me that and I'll be a happy camper.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by stigmato (843667)

      I want a cheep device that simply mirrors my screen (from whatever device, like a VNC viewer) to my TV over my LAN. Give me that and I'll be a happy camper.

      Using Chrome and the Chromecast Extension you can mirror your screen. Simply click the "Cast" button and select "Cast entire screen" under the arrow.

    • by Threni (635302)

      > I want a cheep device

      You'll be wanting a sparrow, then!

  • ...it would be one way to get NetFlix under Linux by plugging the ChromeCast into your Linux PC's HDMI port??
  • The main thing I see, stripping away all the hype, is the price point for this device. And as to the hype I actually did not know what this thing did before I happened to go on iFixit today and decided to actually see what it was.

    Because what it is is damn near nothing. It is a consumer grade Raspberry Pi that may or may not catch on fire at some point. Ok ok, Google has some damn fine engineers so I'm guessing that it won't but we've seen other titans struggle with such issues, coughapplecough.

    But actua

  • by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Friday July 26, 2013 @06:04PM (#44395321)
    I really hope the hacking community gets behind this thing. (At $35 I expect they will.) If someone can figure out how to get XBMC to run on it then my Christmas shopping is done.
  • by sootman (158191) on Friday July 26, 2013 @07:30PM (#44395787) Homepage Journal

    Even if most products are NOT hits, everyone HOPES for one, and an organization as big as Google should at least PLAN for the possibility of one -- and at this price, SOMEONE in the googleplex should have figured out that it had a good chance of actually being one. They should have either a) had an infinite number of Netflix discount codes available, or b) CLEARLY publicized "First N customers get 3 free months of Netflix!" And then be prepared to reach N in a matter of minutes.

    For as many PHDs as Google has, it's continually surprising how much stuff like this they screw up.

    (Sorry for the caps. I'm tired and don't feel like writing tags. Dear Slashdot, its 2013. Please get a rich text editor for comments -- bold, ital, underline, strikethrough, lists, blockquote, and link oughtta do it.)

  • Anyone else played with the Favi SmartStick? I got one last year and it seems to do about all that this does (albeit for about $15 more dollars) and more. It hast the play store so I can download many apps and it has internal storage for playing local files. Is there something I am missing about this that makes it even as good, much less better, than the SmartStick?
  • AppleTV and its tight hooks into anything iOS or OSX related will give you features not present in the ChromeCast stick.

    My AppleTV is connected to a flat screen via HDMI, but the audio is being AirPlay'd through my AirPort Express router, with a set of Klipsch speakers connected via the 3.5mm headphone jack on the back of the router. As with all things Apple, It Just Works.

    The process for displaying photos or video via AirPlay to an AppleTV, from OSX or iOS devices is tightly and seamlessly hooked into eve

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