back to article Chromecast: You'll pop me in for HOT STREAMS of JOY, hopes Google

While much of Wednesday's Google press conference covered the launch of the new Nexus 7 tablet, the company also unveiled its latest attempt to get into the web TV game with the Chromecast dongle. The two-inch long Chromecast looks like a fat memory stick but with an HDMI prong instead of USB. It contains an ARM processor, Wi- …

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  1. Robin Bradshaw

    Googleberry pi

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Chocolate pi

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The point of this is?

      Like Apple TV which is disastrously US centric, smart TV's make these thing largely redundant, though maybe just maybe if they got the content right they might be worth buying.

      1. Craigness

        This makes smart TV redundant, not the other way round. For content providers they just need to add some code to their website instead of making apps for all the different smart TV providers. For consumers the remote control is your phone or laptop, so typing and menu selection is a much less painful experience. This also benefits providers because it makes it more likely users will sign up for the available content - I can't be bothered using some of the stuff on my Smart TV because it's such a pain to register, log in and set up payments.

      2. Mark .

        The key is the price - I have an LG smart TV which is great at playing videos across the network, but I'd still be tempted to get this as well for it, simply for the benefits that Chromecast offers: sending music/video or web streaming info from phone/laptop to the TV - currently viewing a Youtube video means having to reload it through the TV's application or browser, and some things don't work well - e.g., Google Music quality through the TV's browser is poor, it'd be great to just send it via a phone or laptop.

        It also becomes a much cheaper way of upgrading existing TVs. It's at that price point of "I'm not sure if I'll use it much or not, but I spend more on a takeaway".

        And it seems to be much more open - play from any service you can get on a computer, rather than having to worry about whether TV streaming service X supports manufacturer Y (I'm sure some will still lock it down so you can only play on an ipad, but that's the fault of the TV companies).

        Ideally though smart TVs will add Chromecast functionality as standard - yes, the dongle will then be a bit pointless, but the technology won't be.

      3. naw

        This is for people who have good (but not smart) TVs. Or people who are buying a TV without Smart Capability - there's lots of them out there.

    3. Jonathan 29

      I think you are right to say pi. I have always found having a full blown computer attached to the TV much more flexible than these types of devices. The use cases seem a little bit limited. You can presumably mirror a game to the big screen like airplay and see the adverts in all their glory, but I have yet to want to do that.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        >The point of this is?

        It allows you to mirror on your big TV any tab from a Chrome browser on a laptop... handy for people who don't keep a PC in their front room.

        More details: http://www.theverge.com/2013/7/24/4554130/google-chromecast-vs-apple-airplay-how-do-they-compare

  2. Stewart Atkins

    I have to say I want one, get the Beeb to put iPlayer on it and they'll absolutely fly off the shelves. As I recall they said it would be in the UK in "the coming weeks" but nothing more was said.

    What I personally am curious about is:

    1. How the user pairs it to the wireless network

    2. How the chromecast was able to control the television - in the video it appeared to be able to turn the television on and select the appropriate input to display content, it also manipulated the volume although that may have been the chromecast doing that rather than controlling the television's volume.

    1. EvanPyle

      CEC HDMI controls?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        HDMI CEC

        Only fairly recent TVs support HDMI CEC - the recent ones that support this will mostly already be "smart" TVs and have the capability to access Netflix and Youtube themselves and not have any need of a dongle. If they tout this as a capability a lot of people with TVs more than a few years old will be upset when it doesn't work.

        I don't really see the market for this device - the type of people who would buy this Google dongle are probably the ones excited enough about smart TVs to already own one. The customer base for this are people who want the smart TV features but were too cheap to buy a smart TV, and bought the low end model without the smart features. I suppose at $35, the people who were too cheap might bite on this, but I still fail to see the appeal of watching Youtube videos on your TV. I've had that capability for several years only did a couple of times, just to try it. Netflix obviously has a bigger appeal, but those who want to do this have probably figured out a solution for themselves already.

        1. Darkimmortal

          Re: HDMI CEC

          You're not entirely correct, my mid-range Sony TV is from 2009-ish and even features a full PS3-imitation XMB, yet its smart TV features extend no further than DLNA and some useless widgets. No fancy streaming services whatsoever, even with the latest firmware, but crucially it does offer CEC.

        2. lostintallaght

          Re: HDMI CEC

          This will make smart TVs with their clunky slow interfaces redundant. There are millions of non-smart HDTVs in people's homes that are still working fine but you think people don't replace them because they are too cheap? We're in a global economic recession - do you think someone will want to spend hundreds on a new TV or buy this and get Netflix free for 3 months with it (bringing the cost down to $11!).

          You really don't see the market for this? Do you not think that if people see a button on Youtube marked something like 'View video on TV' they won't click on it? And when they click on the button and are told they can view the Youtube videos of their grandchildren or pets on TV for $35 it won't sell itself?

          It personally doesn't interest me that much in it's current form but I can absolutely see a market for it at it's price point.

        3. mrsean2k

          Re: HDMI CEC

          Using the PS3 version of Youtube, I can pair my phone to my sister's PS3 / TV combo 200 miles away and effectively send stuff she might be interested in (and it has to be said, troll and aggravate her a bit).

          If I can do something similar with these devices, I could easily see myself buying and installing one for my elderly technophobe in-laws, and using it to show them photos / videos etc. where all they need to do is effectively change channels.

          I'm sure there are lots of similar use cases when the disposability has sunk in.

    2. Sealand
      Holmes

      > 1. How the user pairs it to the wireless network

      The user probably doesn't have to do anything.

      Google slurped all WiFi info within range while they took pictures for Street View, remember?

    3. g e
      Facepalm

      Via USB from a computer

      My my reasonably obvious guess!

    4. Paul E

      For 1 the answer appears to be that when first plugged in it runs as a wifi hotspot with the SSID displayed on the screen. You then attach to this and can set the SSID and password for your wifi at which point it then stops being a hotspot and just joins your home wifi. No need for a PC or cables.

    5. Pet Peeve
      Boffin

      For 35 bucks this definitely looks like it would be fun to play with, especially if it's hackable so you could send it non-chrome content, like a VNC screen stream.

  3. Timbo Bronze badge

    "Available now" ???

    Glad to see that these devices are shipping straight away - I'm in N. America at the moment, and seeing this press announcement, I looked on ebay.com to see if I could get one....cheapest is $46 and most are more than that...up to $90 even...so much for a $35 price tag :-(

    (PS Amazon ARE dong them for $35 - and what is more strange is that "reviews" have appeared already :-(

    What also surprises me is that the dongle needs an external PSU - HDMI can support self-powered devices so I'm wondering why they've not designed this so it can be powered off the HDMI socket... Maybe it draws too much current ?

    (Note:One of the amazon reviews claims the device CAN be powered by the HDMI socket, if it is a v1.4 type)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Available now" ???

      Apparently you can go grab one at BestBuy already. There are already Youtube videos of folks installing them and using them.

      1. oolor

        Re: "Available now" ???

        >Apparently you can go grab one at BestBuy already. There are already Youtube videos of folks installing them and using them.

        If this is the case, I think Google just out Apple'd Apple on the release. I'm guessing that there will an aggressive focus on making android mobile and laptops running chrome have app interaction work well for sharing and collaboration.

    2. Mikel
      Pint

      Re: "Available now" ???

      There were some beta testers who have actual product already to review. And there are reviewers paid to trash products they've never seen too.

      Hope your stay is extended because stores won't have them until next week. Maybe trust somebody to buy you one and mail it?

      Online stores are now sold out a month or more. Seems it is a hit. Crystal ball says: hit products launched in July _just might_ still be sold out for Chrimbo.

    3. Fuzz

      Re: "Available now" ???

      presumably if your TV has a usb socket you could use that to power the device rather than actually using a USB cable.

      The iOS/Android requirement kind of makes it useless to me. If I have to find my tablet to watch TV then I might as well just plug my tablet into my TV.

      1. Andrew Jones 2
        Facepalm

        Re: "Available now" ???

        I do wish people would learn to read or do research, there is NO iOS/Android requirement - the requirement is a device that runs chrome. The idea is you can for instance open Netflix on your laptop, click the Chromecast icon in the Netflix webapp and the Chromecast will connect to Netflix and start streaming your TV / Film. iOS and Android were shown off because you essentially use them like a remote - you choose your content, and then send it to the TV.

    4. James Hughes 1

      Re: "Available now" ???

      Most TV's don't supply power over HDMI (not enough for something like this anyway) - you need an MHL equipped one for that (and that's not common enough). Hence the need to power from USB for all those TV's that don't have MHL - which is most of them.

  4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Android

    So what does this do that the $40 mini android machines don't do ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Android

      Costs $5 less and comes with an enforceable warranty, I suppose.

      Oh, it also comes with a three-month free trial of Netflix.

      1. g e

        Re: Android

        Netflix.

        Which means my non-smart bedroom TV can now do Netflix where my XBMC Pi can't.

  5. Barry Rueger

    But Can They Fix NetFlix?

    I'd buy one tomorrow, plus a second smartphone to run it, if they could fix the god-awful NetFlix interface.

    It still amazes me how hard NetFlix works to make it difficult to find anything they offer. How their browse function - well, it doesn't really even exist. How they don't even support something so stunningly obvious as a bookmark feature. How the search is on the level of what I had on my Commodore 64.

    Seriously, 90% of what we watch on Netflix is found purely at random.

    Hands down Netflix offers the second worst media experience that I know of.

    1. Mikel

      Re: But Can They Fix NetFlix?

      The Netflix interface for this device is the Google Chrome browser and the Netflix website. It doesn't have an interface of its own. In fact, you can also just browse the various recommendation websites and click to the streams and then send them to the device. Or use Google.

      Everybody else will be sending their streams to this thing too so it's not just for Netflix, Google Play, Amazon and such. They published the developer kit today too.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google TV - the TV that watches YOU!

    ... and then snitches to the NSA.

  7. Dapprman

    Shame it's HDMI 1.4

    Did cross my mind this might be a cheap solution for those of us with older TV sets who want the ability to get services such as Netflix (my BD player gives my LoveFilm and BBC iPLayer, but not said Netflix), however I suspect quite a lot out there, like my TV set, only have HDMI 1.3

    Now I'm not exactly TV knowledgeable so feel free to tell me it makes no difference.

    1. thesykes

      Re: Shame it's HDMI 1.4

      I'm no expert, but, I'd be amazed if it was not backwards-compatible, after all, it's those of use with perfectly good TV sets that aren't smart TV's that are the market for this thing, rather than people with brand-spanking new sets, that are highly likely to have the latest HDMI connections and provide all the functions that this will provide.

      I have no idea what version HDMI ports my PS3, TV or home cinema have, and I don't care. It's up to the devices to sort themselves out and use whatever level of compatibility they can both support.

    2. g e

      Re: Shame it's HDMI 1.4

      Surely HDMI standards specify how to deal with fallback to older interfaces?

    3. Andrew Jones 2

      Re: Shame it's HDMI 1.4

      If HDMI worked like that, no-one would ever be able to get their Freeview HD box or BluRay box to speak to their TV - 99% of consumer equipment doesn't even tell you what version of HDMI is implemented - unless it is a specific version - eg 3D or Return Channel.

  8. rogerk

    Google aside..

    We make and share race track in car video's.

    Not so easy to play on the big telly.

    Think is good. Just orded one.

    Roger

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not just get a google Android Mini TV Stick? There are loads to choose from and you can run regular Android apps directly... Google it :p

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      'Cos you'd then have to faff about finding a wireless mouse and keyboard, and set it all up. This Chromecast is just a low cost, easy to set-up solution for some common situations. It'sd bottle opener, not a Swiss army knife. Its job is just to link tablets and PCs to TVs easily.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not just get a Mini TV Stick running Android? Then you can run apps as well... E.g. XBMC.

  11. auburnman

    Still going the wrong way

    Still waiting for a device that will sling whatever is on my TV at the time across the Wi-Fi to a tablet or phone. But I guess that doesn't help sell subscriptions to on-demand services...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still going the wrong way

      like DualView, the shitty* Samsung TV+Phone toy?

      * I say shitty because of my experience, others may vary (I.e. have a positive experience). Advertised as a feature on tv (pair with s2, mirror tv screen when on same wifi), 30mb install with... "odd" permission requirements, app launch success ~50%, mirroring succes 0%. Few irate emails to tech support and TV model silently dropped from supported models :'(

    2. Andrew Jones 2

      Re: Still going the wrong way

      It's called a SlingBox and has existed for years......

  12. Pat 11

    practicalities

    Can this pick up any video steam that Chrome is playing, or just ones that have a specially written chrome app?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: practicalities

      Any stream from any Chrome browser tab. Integration with other PC/tablet applications such as Netflicks is just a bonus.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Might be worth a punt

    I already have an Android stick in one of my TVs and that works fine, but I've been looking for a way to watch US TV (US Netflix, Hulu etc.) on my TV without faffing around with router changes; with this I could just stream from my PC that's running a US proxy. I think.

    NB. Is it only an Airplay alternative, or will any apps be written directly for this, e.g. XBMC?

    1. Craigness

      Re: Might be worth a punt

      It's Chrome so it runs web apps, there's nothing to install. Think of it as the youtube phone app sending Chromecast a URL for a video and asking it to stream it and you'll be close. But you can do the Airplay thing if you want, from Chrome.

  14. Miek
    Linux

    "The two-inch long Chromecast looks like a fat memory stick but with an HDMI prong instead of USB. It contains an ARM processor, Wi-Fi, and a cut-down version of Google's Chrome OS that allows Netflix, YouTube, and content being viewed in the Chrome browser or on Chromebooks to be streamed direct to the TV." -- Amazing, I also have this 5 metre cable thingy that has a HDMI connector at both ends and plugs into my computer. I can then watch *anything* I like, not just netflix, YouTube and chrome. Considerably cheaper too.

    1. Craigness

      Isn't a wire-free option more convenient? There's an SDK so there will be more content coming but in the mean time you can watch *anything* you like by streaming a Chrome tab.

    2. Jason Bloomberg
      Thumb Up

      It's cheap and cheerful

      Amazing, I also have this 5 metre cable thingy that has a HDMI connector at both ends and plugs into my computer.

      I have flood-wired my house and have all my PCs connected by Cat6 cable and cannot understand why anyone would ever want Wi-Fi or power-line adapters. </sarcasm>

      Chromecast is however more than just a wireless replacement for wire, presumably taking advantage of recent protocols which allow content to be selected on one device (PC, tablet, phone) and then streamed direct to another device (Chromecast, TV) at the click of a button. Unless the content is on the selection device it frees up that device from having to be the bridge for the streaming. That alone has its advantages.

      Sure, Chromecast functionality can probably be replicated using a PC, Pi or other hardware, but this is a cheap 'plug-in and go' system which can be used by people who have limited technical skills.

      It is competitively priced against other streaming devices or alternatives and appeals to me because I cannot justify upgrading every TV I have to be a smart TV and I imagine I am not alone in that.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      It's only cheaper if you computer and the HDMI cable cost less than $35 surely...

  15. Mike Brown

    mx player?

    when this works with mx player, ill buy 2. im needing a non faf way to stream stuff from my nexus 7.

  16. mrsean2k

    Bulging cable

    IMO, it would be better formed as a single cable with a bulge in the middle

    HDMI connector - 6 inches of cable - Intelligent Bulge(TM) - 3 ft of cable - USB connector

    1. Mike Brown

      Re: Bulging cable

      That's bloody genius.

  17. Irongut

    Interesting

    I already have a media centre but at such a low price I'll pick one of these up to play with. It could be useful on the main TV if I don't want to fire up the media centre or on a bedroom TV.

  18. Mark .

    Looks good and cheap - how open is it?

    The problem with Google TV wasn't that people aren't buying it, but that TV manufacturers aren't switching to it as fast as they'd hoped. I know that LG switched to it for the US market - is there any evidence that the TVs sold less than their previous smart TVs? I find that hard to believe.

    Indeed, I find it odd that this article spins that streaming boxes (of which there are far more to choose from than Apple and Roku) are a success whilst smart TVs aren't. Whilst Google TV has yet to be mainstream, "smart" functionality has become standard in new TVs. (I love that 13 million over several years is a "success" for Apple, yet the same thing would be regarded a failure for any other company - sorry, Apple TV is not a success, there are plenty more ways people are getting their TV.)

    But Chromecast is still welcomed - it's a very cheap way to add the functionality to existing TVs. It's also a worthy improvement over DLNA/Universal Plug and Play. Apple's solution isn't an answer, as it's geared towards locking you into Apple devices. DLNA is great at playing videos from a random device like a PC or NAS - anything on the network - but it can't be used for mirroring a display, and is hard to get working for streaming. The problem with the alternatives that do mirroring of displays is that they're then no good if you just want to play a video (what if I want to use my phone/laptop whilst playing a video from it to the TV?) So I was pleased to see Google mention that you can switch to doing something else, whilst using Chromecast to play a video.

    How open is it? Does the SDK use standard protocols (e.g., commands over HTTP), or is it an Open Source library, or some closed source black box? Could it be ported to Linux (or Windows Phone, or a Raspberry Pi), which isn't yet supported?

    Could manufacturers build Chromecast functionality into their smart TVs or set-top boxes? This would seem the obvious thing to do long term. Whilst Google seem to be making a far better attempt than Apple to give us something cross-platform, it would be nice to be properly open, for it to be a successor to DLNA.

  19. Jason Bloomberg

    Streaming from the net or via the local device?

    Does Chromecast actually stream from the device (or mirror its screen), use Google's DIAL protocol to select on one device but stream to another, or allow both, or something else -

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/Print/2013/05/29/youtube_dials_into_video_on_the_wii

    I've searched and it's rather ambiguous as to how it actually works - even Google's own description of it - so perhaps El Reg can get on the case and actually find out? A full featured review would be even nicer.

    1. Craigness

      Re: Streaming from the net or via the local device?

      It does both! Eg, from YouTube (iOS or android app, or the website in any browser) you can make chromecast stream a video from the YouTube server. From Chrome you can mirror a tab to chromecast no matter what content the tab contains.

  20. Efros

    Just ordered one

    Best Buy seem to be the last store in the US to have stock, either that or they are lying (not beyond the realms of possibility). I'll be interested to see the effect of this on the other TV boxes, roku, Apple TV, etc., not making any statements myself until I get a chance to plug it in and try it.

  21. Bob Terwilliger

    Chromecast v Smart Tv

    Apart from lowering the faff factor versus cables, there's also a few reasons why this is better than a Smart Tv

    1) Trying to enter text on a TV remote - not fun!

    2) Crippled Youtube on Smart TVs - search results don't give anything like the same results as on my phone or tablet.

    1. Craigness

      Re: Chromecast v Smart Tv

      The YouTube app on my Samsung TV already has chromecast-like functionality. There is an option in the app to pair with another device, which can be a smartphone app or a browser running the YouTube site. I think Sony TVs have the same, so yours might be able to do it too (if 2 brands have it they all might).

  22. NotSmartEnough

    I'm sold on this: Panasonic have stopped updating the apps on my smart tv (last year's model), so no integration between YouTube on the tv and tablet/phone.

    I'd like to plug one into one of the empty hdmi ports on my non-networked amp to ensmarten it: YouTube and android play music sent to zone 2 controlled via phone sounds good.

    Got raspberry pi for same reason, but NotSmartEnough to get it set up to work seamlessly.

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