The Google Chromecast is one of the first thumb-drives to simply plug in to your TV and give you Netflix, YouTube, and other web videos.
It essentially does the same thing a
Apple TV box does, but with fewer cables and a lower price tag ($35 instead of $99).
All you do is plug it into an HDMI port in the back or side of an HDTV. A wire coming out of it leads to a USB plug, which you then plug into your TV's USB slot (most now have one), or a computer nearby. In a pinch, you can use an adaptor to plug it into a wall outlet.
The USB plug is needed to power the device, as HDMI ports do not provide power.
Google's Chromecast also does not come with a remote (like Apple TV), so you need to use your smartphone, tablet, or laptop to control it.
We try it out
I tried it out at home, and found it easily powered up, when plugged into my HDTV. But I then ran into a problem: I could not get it to communicate with my home WiFi. My iPhone simply stopped halfway through the setup process.
So, humbled, I brought it to the newsroom, where our I.T. Director walked me through the process. It turns out you first need to have Chrome installed on your phone or tablet. Then it should easily find your WiFi network.
That done, we were able to complete the install, using iPhones as the remote controls.
Watching Netflix or YouTube videos was easy, once we called up the video on the phone. It displayed the video on our phone screen, as unlike most other streaming devices, there is no Chromecast menu on the TV.
At this point it only works easily with Netflix, YouTube, or Google Play videos. Other reviewers say you can watch Hulu TV shows only through a "workaround." It would also not play Apple videos on our iPhones, as it is not an Apple device.
Why you may not need one...
If you already have an
XBox, Nintendo Wii, or Sony Playstation, you already have everything you need to turn your TV into a Web-streaming device, so you may not need this.
If you have a new "Smart TV," streaming is already built in, and you don't need this.
However, the Google Chromecast is expected to make streaming so easy, at such a low price, that some reviewers are calling it the "Holy Grail of Web TV," the killer app that puts Hulu and Netflix on everyone's set.
You can move it from TV to TV, and even bring it on vacation.
But CNET feels some of the gushing reviews are overrated:
CNET's review says it is a simple $35 device that is really just a simple $35 device, nothing more.