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Hands On With The Google Chromecast

The $35 Chromecast sold out in the Play Store, Amazon, and Best Buy in only a matter of hours. As the response from eager early adopters trickles in, we go hands on to give you a glimpse at what works and what could use another layer of polish.

The Chromecast head on.

The Chromecast head on.

What Actually Works

You’ve undoubtedly seen unboxing videos and a slew of demos by now, but one of the odder points is Google’s list of system requirements.

The Chromecast site lists Android 2.3+, iOS 6+, Chrome for OS X and Windows, and the Chromebook Pixel as requirements for using the device, leaving two notable omissions: other Chromebook devices and Linux.

Rest assured, both my ARM Samsung Chromebook and a laptop running Lubuntu 13.04 worked just fine, though with some caveats mentioned below.

Getting Started

Setting up the Chromecast is a fairly simple process involving either the recently released Android app or visiting Google’s setup site and downloading the appropriate desktop application.

Set up with the Android app takes under a minute

Setup with the Android app takes under a minute.

Once you see a screen like the one above, Chromecast is set up and ready to accept content. Android apps that support Chromecast will have a button to toggle playback on your local device or any Chromecast devices on the network. As long as you’re on the same local network as a Chromecast, it should show up as an option in a compatible app.

One of the coolest features demoed was the ability to turn on the television and switch inputs automatically when you connect to a Chromecast device. This works through HDMI-CEC though it probably won’t be advertised as HDMI-CEC on your television. Indeed, the forever unpressed Anynet+ button on our Samsung TV’s remote searches for and connects to any HDMI-CEC devices and the functionality works perfectly with the Chromecast.

Pushing Content

‘…both Lubuntu 13.04 and my Chromebook could [Chromecast].’ 

We tested the Chromecast whilst it was connected to several different platforms, including devices with Android versions from 2.3 to 4.2, Lubuntu 13.04, Chrome OS stable, and OS X Mountain Lion. All devices successfully sent content to the Chromecast, be it through Android app integration or the Chrome extension.

Though Linux and Chromebooks other than the Pixel weren’t listed in Google’s system requirements, both Lubuntu 13.04 and my ARM Chromebook could add content to the Chromecast and cast a tab.

Though the lag associated with casting a tab with static content is more-or-less negligible, the issues with casting audiovisual content from these lower-end devices is not. A video from Vimeo on a fairly dated MacBook running Lubuntu 13.04 wouldn’t play video or audio from the television. The Chrome extension noted performance issues as the culprit.

On the other hand, casting Vimeo audio and video from the ARM Chromebook to the Chromecast worked, but the Chromebook couldn’t keep up with the workload and the video stuttered and was ultimately unwatchable. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Casting a tab from my desktop worked perfectly. Video was smooth and the audio was in sync.

Your mileage will most definitely vary and even with a high end device to cast a tab from, it’s still a subpar solution for audiovisual content compared to full integration via the various APIs for Android, iOS, and Chrome.


‘…anyone can obliterate your playlist from halfway across the room without you noticing.’ 

Google wants the Chromecast to “just work”, and whilst adding your Chromecast to the local network and watching apps automagically present a cast button all in under a minute is magical, it soon wears off when you start sharing the telly with friends and family.

Just like the awkward couch demo of the Nexus Q at Google I/O 2012, anyone can obliterate your carefully crafted playlist from halfway across the room without you noticing and preempt any content queued up the moment they decide to play a song or video immediately rather than adding it to the queue.

Along with Google’s increased attention to education with Google Play for Education, the Chromecast also offers significant potential for students, teachers, and even guest lecturers to bring richer and more interactive experiences into the classroom.

But open access to the Chromecast from any device connected to the local network restricts these possibilities – be they dinner parties with friends or a classroom environment. Something as simple as a password is more than enough to keep any interruptions at bay and, indeed, works well for Apple’s AirPlay.

Buy or Wait?

The $35 price tag isn’t exactly a tough sell. If you’re concerned about roommates or family members disrupting your content, it may be best to wait until access restrictions are added.

Furthermore, if your main channels for content are Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, or iTunes, a Roku box or Apple TV will still be your best bet – at least in the short term.

But if you rely on Netflix, YouTube, or Google Play content, a Chromecast will serve you well.

Learn More About The Chromecast

Chromecast on

  • Mathias Lindberg

    For schools, most have a network for students and a network for teachers. Our school even has 3 different networks with a 3rd one for guests.

    • My school just has one network :(

      • Keegan Choffat

        My highschool had one… Lan connection.

  • I am glad Sam you tested the Chromecast extension on your Chromebook, I was interested to know how my Series 5 Chromebook will handle casting. If performance was poor on your ARM Chromebook, it will also be bad on my Series 5. Though, Google has said that they will be supporting more Chromebooks in the future, so performance may improved.

  • Aleksander H

    I just discovered that you don’t actually need the chromecast dongle to use this feature. I was browsing youtube on my Android phone today when I noticed the cast button was there, I pressed it and suddenly my blu-ray player (Samsung BD-F7500) was playing the video for me. The same worked with Netflix. It would seem Samsung and Google have been working together on this, but I’ve not seen this mentioned in a press release anywhere. Here are some screenshots.

    Has this been mentioned anywhere? Does anyone else have a samsung tv or blu-ray player they can test this on?

    • Aleksander H

      Quick update. For some reason this doesn’t work the the Chrome extension. So far only youtube and netflix work. Chrome simply tells me there is no cast device available, despite the fact that I’m using netflix right now through my android phone. Seems it only works with apps that are already built into the samsung blu-ray player

  • G. Steve Arnold

    So I’m confused, then. Does the ChromeCast download the streaming traffic directly from the Internet, or does it bounce through your control device? What happens if you start a movie and then pull the battery in your phone or drive away in your car and leave the network?

    Also – how do multiple users keep their different google accounts straight? Do they all share one or can you have multiple users without giving others access to things like email?

    Google needs to invent a new kind of account for this sort of thing that represents the family as an authentication user so that access can be shared and managed among any of the members of the family without being tied strictly to individuals. (We also need this for our gas bill account, etc…)

    Maybe a special kind of G+ circle would be a good model ?

    • Sam Tran

      If it’s coming from an app integrated with Chromecast (YouTube, Netflix, etc.), the Chromecast grabs content on its own. One of the things they brought up at the press conference was a situation where the person starting a movie from the Netflix app leaves, but as long as you have another device connected to the network, you can take control without any fuss (which leads to the access issues I brought up when anyone can take control at any time).

      If I’m not mistaken, there weren’t any account-specific settings during setup and casting a tab won’t make your tab controllable by other folks on the network by any means – it’s just a screencast. So account controls (be it a simple password or a solution integrated with Google Accounts, G+, etc.) would be useful in terms of restricting access to the device, but there isn’t a way to access other individuals’ data aside from the Chromecast’s content queue and whatever the individual app sends to the device anyway.

      • IamTheFij

        Just to confirm. There is nothing account specific. It’s all based on your wifi network. Secure your wifi, secure your Chromecast. That’s part of the “magic” of it working so seamlessly.

        I set it up on my Nexus 4 and started a movie playing. Then my wife opened Netflix on her iPhone and she was able to pause, rewind and/or change the movie. Pretty awesome. For this to work too, the content has to be streaming straight from the internet and not the mobile device.

        In the short time I’ve had with it, I’m impressed. Would be nice if you could stream content to multiple rooms in sync though. Especially with Audio only content. Also, Google needs a good way to stream local content as well. Perhaps through UPNP or DLNA. An app could set the device up as a DLNA server and then tell Chromecast to stream it.

  • This is going to be problematic for me. I have a cable box, a Playstation 3 and a Raspberry Pi connected to a 3 port HDMI Switcher which then passes through my soundbar. If I connect Chromecast directly to TV then I will have to run another cable from TV to soundbar and every time I want to play something on TV I will have to switch HDMI port on TV and turn soundbar to TV mode.

    • Mr Honest

      Too bad no1 gives a care about you…

  • Lavina

    Can you stream plex?

    • Kai Hendrik Behrends

      Not yet, but they have anounced that there is interest and some people in the forums have startet to play around with it.

      • Lavina

        Cool, as soon as Plex is available I might buy one or two, right now I think my best bet for a good Entertainment system is a pi with XBMCbuntu however, I haven’t gotten around to buying a pi

  • Nad

    Not available in my country(uk), according to the play store, pah! and i wanted one.

    • Kai Hendrik Behrends

      Same goes for germany, but they should become available in the uk, france, and germany in the coming weeks.

  • Hayden Bridges

    What’s ironic is that I’ve been avoiding buying one because I wasn’t sure if it was compatible with Linux systems.

    • Thus far, after getting kid next door to run setup using his android phone, I have been able to get it to work from a standalone Vista box, an XP virtual machine, and Ubuntu 12. Got more vm’s to test.. expect the ubuntu based distros have best chance of success. I expect some updates in first couple weeks will improve it a lot.

  • bw

    Does anyone know if it is possible to cast the same thing to more than one chromecast at the same time, ie synced? If it is possible, this combined with google music could be an easy multi-room music system.

  • Gabe Ojeda

    Does Chromecast work with the Acer C7 Chromeback and Nexus 7 (2012)?

  • Bob

    Tested Chromecast from Mint 15 OS. Unsuccessful…The video will play immediately from a Chrome tab but the audio never comes through.

  • I ROD

    how can I set up Chrome cast in PlayStation 3 at the same time

  • ChrisJBrady

    This device is the biggest con for years. Best buy – my backside. Worst buy EVER. My PC can see it in the wifi network list, and it connects OK. However when I use Chrome to connect it says that no Cast Devices Can Be Found. I check this issue in the web and there are THOUSANDS of complaints. So my PC can see and connect, but Chrome will not. This device is NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE. My local Trading Standards will be hearing from me tomorrow. Google should be ashamed of conning the public into buying such rubbish.