An Overview of Google Chromecast

by Aeyne Schriber on July 17, 2014 in Streaming Media Player

During 2013, Google released Chromecast which changed the way we think of streaming video and using media devices. The popularity of Chromecast has continued during 2014 as the device celebrates its one year anniversary during July 2014.

Google Chromecast is going to be one year old in July and already the product has become widespread during its first year on the market. If you are unfamiliar with Chromecast, it is a small USB dongle that connects to your high definition television as an HDMI device. The purpose of the Chromecast device is to provide an innovative way to stream video.

Although the popularity of Google Chromecast has grown significantly within the last year, you may be among the many people that still do not understand how it works and why it is different than other video streaming devices on the market. In this article we will provide you with a general overview of what Google Chromecast is, how it works, and where it is headed in the near future.

Chromecast Defined and How It Works

If you are familiar with a flash drive which is a USB stick used for portable data storage, Chromecast looks just like a USB storage device. The dongle is about two inches long and provides a gateway for streaming video using the HDMI port in your high definition television. Unlike a USB flash drive, Chromecast is equipped with a small amount of memory and acts as a source for streaming video from your smartphone or tablet to your big screen television.

Chromecast connects to your wireless network and uses apps which are installed on your PC or mobile device to stream video to your television. The apps allow you to forward content to the Chromecast dongle which, in turn, processes the information and searches for the content online. Once Chromecast identifies the content location, it streams the content directly from the location on the Internet to your high definition television.

The advantage of the Chromecast design is to free up your PC and mobile devices by shifting the streaming tasks to Chromecast. This also helps to preserve battery life since video streaming from your mobile device can be processing intensive. It also allows you to use your PC or mobile device as a remote control for Chromecast.

Chromecast vs. Other Streaming Devices

When you use other streaming devices, you are required to stream the content directly from your PC or mobile device. This can take its toll on the processing power and your battery.

With Google Chromecast, you are using your device to send instructions to the Chromecast dongle that is connected to your high definition television. The dongle then takes over by searching the Internet for the content you want to watch and streams it directly to your HDTV instead of from your PC or mobile device.

Although you still have the option to stream content directly from your PC or mobile device, Chromecast helps to free up your device so you can use it for other tasks. Additionally, Google owns YouTube and therefore, they have the app setup to enable you to send multiple videos to the Chromecast device. When one video is complete, the next one on the list will automatically start playing.

In terms of device compatibility with Chromecast, you can use your iPhone or iPad to set up video streaming on your high definition television. Chromecast also works with all Android devices and the Google Chrome browser on a Mac or Windows PC.

For visual learners that would like to see exactly how Chromecast works, enjoy the video clip we have included below.

The Lowdown on Chromecast Apps

Another great feature in Google Chromecast is the capability to use a wide variety of different apps. This extends the capabilities of Chromecast, in addition to providing Chromecast users with a wide variety of options for entertainment. Google’s ultimate goal is to catch up with the likes of other video streaming devices such as Apple TV, Roku, and Boxee. Within the last year, Chromecast has accelerated to a nice variety of apps since the device release in July of last year.

If you browse through the Google Play store, you will find more than one hundred apps you can use with Chromecast. This is quite impressive considering the device is only one year old. Google also plans to release more apps during the remainder of 2014. Some of the apps that are currently available include:

  • Netflix: The Netflix app works across multiple devices and allows you to easily pause and play video by controlling Chromecast from the app on your mobile device. Additionally, if you pause the app on one device, you can easily pick up where you left off with the app installed on another device.
  • YouTube: Of course, Chromecast would not be complete without access to YouTube. The YouTube app allows you to search for content on your device without interrupting the program you are currently watching on your high definition television. The app includes a tool for creating playlists of your favorite YouTube videos. The videos automatically start playing in the order that you enter them.
  • Chrome: Chromecast is designed to work with the Google Chrome web browser. This allows you to choose content from more locations on the web and stream the content directly from your device. It also helps Windows users to access content since Chromecast is not designed for compatibility with Windows phones. The Chrome browser is capable of displaying one tab with content you want to watch without showing all of the other tabs you currently have open in the browser.
  • Plex Media: Plex is an application that allows you to convert your PC or mobile device into a home media server for storing and accessing all of your content. The application helps you to index all your media content for access from any device that has the Plex application installed.

The Plex Media app provides a connection from your television to the Plex Media server which is running on your home PC. To use Plex, you simply download the Plex Media server program from the Plex website and then point the application to the folders where you store your media content. The application will create a catalog that makes accessing content easier and allows Chromecast to access the content as well.

  • Hulu Plus: If you are a fan of Hulu Plus, Google provides a Hulu Plus app for use with Chromecast. Hulu Plus allows you to access classic TV and older television programming, as well as catch up on current episodes of the latest television programs. Although this is a smaller app than the more popular ones such as Netflix, it still provides a nice variety of program selections.
  • Pandora: Pandora is an app that provides you with access to a wide genre of music, albums, songs, and specific artists. The Pandora app for Chromecast allows you to convert your home theatre system into a powerful music streaming system. If you already have a decent sound system for watching movies, the Pandora app allows you to use the sound system to enjoy superior quality music and sound.
  • AllCast: The AllCast app allows you to stream content directly from your PC or mobile device to your television. Since Chromecast is not designed for this purpose, AllCast kind of makes up for the deficit by providing you with the option to stream directly from your device to an HDTV.
  • Google Play: The Google Play app provides you with access to a plethora of content available from the Google Play store. You can choose the content you want to watch and then send it to Chromecast to stream directly from the Google Play store. There is also a variety of third party apps in the Google Play store but, you have to spend some time searching to find the quality apps for use with Chromecast.
  • Crackle: Crackle is much like Hulu Plus in that it offers a variety of older television programs and movies. For die-hard fans of classic television and old movies, the Crackle app will provide you with a way to stream this type of content from Chromecast.
  • Vudu: Vudu offers a variety of newer television and movie titles that you can stream on-demand for just a few dollars per program. The Vudu app allows you to send newer programming to Chromecast for streaming directly from Vudu, as opposed to your PC or mobile device.
  • HBO GO: If you watch a lot of programming on HBO from your cable TV provider, the HBO GO app allows you to stream HBO movies and programming using Chromecast. This provides a legal way to access HBO without having to subscribe to it through your cable or satellite television provider.

How to Get Google Chromecast

Whether or not Chromecast is right for your needs depends upon your viewing habits. But if you tend to view a lot of programming on Netflix, YouTube, and other types of streaming media, you may enjoy having Chromecast as an option for entertainment.

Chromecast can be acquired at an affordable price of around $35 depending upon where you make your purchase. You can find the Chromecast HDMI stick on Amazon or in the Google Play store. There is also more information on purchasing on the Google website.

The Future of Google Chromecast

In addition to releasing more apps for use with Chromecast during 2014, Google is also working on more tools and features for the compact media streaming device. A few of the projects include the ability to stream media without having to actually be connected to the same network. The new pairing method allows Chromecast users to simply enter a Personal Identification Number (PIN) on the screen and then pair two different devices together.

Another effort underway is to provide support for screen mirroring with Chromecast. This technique will work with Chromecast, in addition to bringing your entire Android experience to a high definition television screen.

Also, Google has not quite forgotten Google TV and is working on the launch of Android TV. The technology giant is currently in the process of partnering with a selection of television manufacturers. The partnership will include the Android operating system on new high definition TVs, in addition to offering set-top boxes that include the Android operating system as well. The set-top boxes will include Razr, Asus, and others and is an effort to compete with Amazon Fire TV.

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