July 24, 2013

Google’s Chromecast dongle lets you throw video from phone to TV for $35

Google's Chromecast is a $35 dongle that lets you stream video from a phone, tablet or computer to a TV. (Google)
Today at its “Breakfast with Sundar” event, Google announced a handful of products that have our geek motor’s revving. Not only did it unveil the new Nexus 7 with Android 4.3 and 1080p Netflix streaming, the company also ended its press conference with a streaming media device that could change the way we view and listen to media in our living rooms.

The Chromecast, as it’s been dubbed, is a small, 2-inch-long dongle that plugs into an HDMI port on the back of your TV, allowing you to stream content from any device. Yes, Google feels very strongly that all of the devices you own should work with your TV. “We will not force you to have to use the same OS on all of your devices,” Google TV VP Mario Queiroz said during the event.

Chromecast - How it works

The dongle runs off a simplified version of Chrome OS, oh, and it only costs $35. Yes, that’s the real kicker here. We finally have a way to stream content from all devices – tablets, phones, laptops – running on any OS – Chrome, OS X, iOS, Android, or Windows – and it won’t put a dent in your savings. 

The idea is really simple: plug it into your HDTV via an HDMI port, connect it to Wi-Fi, and then cast videos from your devices. Anyone who’s on your home network can use the device and stream to your TV. In the demo shown at today’s event, Google showed us how you can instantly stream a YouTube video, passing along your phone to friends who can add more videos to your Chromecast queue.

And, your phone isn’t stuck on the YouTube app while it’s playing on your TV, either. You can check your Gmail, look something up on the Web, whatever you want. The content will continue to play on your TV uninterrupted. It’ll even continue to play while in sleep mode, so using Chromecast won’t result in a drained battery.

As of now, users can access content from YouTube, Netflix, Google Play Movies and TV, and Play Music. Want to watch a video from your Chrome Web browser? After all, it’s not like every video on the Web is on YouTube. Though currently in beta, Chromecast will allow you to access content from the Web from a Chrome tab projection. Basically, Google’s admitting that this isn’t perfect yet, but it’s an option – and one that will soon be perfected. Also soon to come is a Pandora app, and we’re assuming other media sites like Spotify and Vimeo will follow suit.

If you buy your Chromecast now via the Google Play Store, you’ll also get three months of free Netflix. Not a bad deal, especially considering that your content will be playing in 1080p HD and will have support for 5.1 surround sound. During the demo, we saw two devices – Nexus 7 tablet and iPhone – both signed in to Netflix. When one device had to leave, the other was able to pick up right where the video left off. So, if you’re watching a movie with your husband via his iPhone, and he has to leave to pick up the kids, you can still control the movie via your device and continue watching. The Netflix app immediately detects what’s playing on the TV.

With Chromecast, Google has made it so that nearly any device at home can become a remote control for the television. In addition to being available on Google Play, Google also says it will be available through Amazon and Best Buy. We’re looking forward to getting one in for review, so stay tuned.

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