Google has been interested in our shows for a long time, but Google TV has unfortunately not met with the expected success. It must also be said that they were not given. The American giant has not given up, however, and last year it presented a new device presenting itself as an HDMI key capable of connecting to a smartphone, a tablet or a computer. The Chromecast was celebrated by our American friends and it has been available since the start of the week in France and other European countries.
Its main asset is obviously its price. Offered at 35 euros in most brands, or 5 euros at SFR, the Chromecast will suit all budgets and it will not be necessary to be well off to be able to benefit from it. But now, some of you may be wondering if it is really worth the investment. I don't have the answer to this question, but you will probably be able to find some answers throughout this test.
You know the song now. Before we go any further, we'll start by taking a look at the technical specifications of the beast story that everyone knows what it's all about.
- HDMI output, micro USB port.
- Maximum output resolution : 1080p.
- Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b / g / n 2.4 GHz.
- Dimensions: 72 x 35 x 12 mm.
- Weight: 34 grams.
- Price: 35 euros.
Google has not communicated on the processor or on the amount of RAM on board, but that ultimately does not matter as long as it is able to stream 1080p streams.
The Chromecast plays the universal card, or almost. It is actually compatible with all mobile terminals running on Android (version 2.3 and above) and under iOS (version 6 and above). It will also support all machines running Windows 7 , Windows 8 , OS X 10.7 and OS X 10.8 . Same goes for Chrome OS , of course.
At the moment, the Chromecast is not yet compatible with Windows Phone but that should change quickly. In any case, this is what a representative of the firm told me last Tuesday. On the other hand, for BlackBerry OS, it is frankly not won.
Design & Ergonomics
The Chromecast is sold with several accessories and we can even say that the package is rather complete since it includes an HDMI extension , a micro USB> USB cable and a power outlet . I didn't expect so much, especially not for 35 euros.
As evidenced by the photos accompanying this article, the Chromecast looks like any removable storage medium, except that it will connect to one of the HDMI sockets on our TV. Rather sober, it goes straight to the point with matte black plastic on both sides, and shiny on the edges. It is not necessarily unforgettable but we must not forget that the Chromecast is not intended to be exhibited. In reality, he will spend his time plugged into the butt of the living room television.
On one of its faces, we find the logo of Chrome, followed by a notification LED. The latter is important since it will allow us to immediately know the status of the device: red on startup, white in operation and so on. Further on, at the edge of the Chromecast, we will have a micro USB port and a single button.
The port will be used to power the key, the HDMI is not sufficient to ensure this function alone. The button, for its part, will allow us to reset the device and reset it. You just need to press it for about 30 seconds to start the operation.
Installation & Configuration
The Chromecast is extremely easy to set up.
To begin with, it will need to be connected to one of the HDMI sockets on our television. If ever its dimensions bother you, do not hesitate to use the extension provided in the box. Then, when it is in place, all you have to do is connect it to an AC outlet to power it. To an AC outlet, or to the USB port of the television or even the Freebox, since it will also work like that. When this is done, the LED will light up and turn red.
At this point, the Chromecast cannot yet connect to our home WiFi network and therefore is of little use. You will have to configure the device before you can use it. All you have to do is go to the AppStore or the PlayStore and download the “Chromecast” application on your smartphone or on your touchscreen tablet.
Once the application is installed, you can launch it and you will have to go to the “Devices” menu to find your key. You will have to tap on it to access its configuration screen. There, well you will have to select your home WiFi network and enter the associated password so that the key is able to connect to it, and therefore to communicate with your mobile terminals and your computers.
And now, it's over.
Unlike AirPlay, the Chromecast does not stream content stored on a smartphone, or a touch pad. In reality, our nomadic terminal simply acts as a remote control. When we send a video from YouTube to TV through the device, for example, well it is not played from our smartphone but directly from YouTube. The Chromecast will pick it up on its own like a grown-up on the platform.
The advantage is obvious: the key will have almost no impact on the autonomy of our terminal.
At present and in France, less than ten applications support Chromecast, and this is notably the case of France TV Pluzz , SFR TV , YouTube , Google Play Films , Google Play Music , from Vevo , Red Bull TV , RealPlayer Cloud and Plex . Our American friends have a little more choice, including Netflix, Hulu and Pandora.
To send content to our television, it is not complicated since it suffices to start playing the video that interests us and to press a simple button. A few seconds later, the Chromecast will start playing it like nothing has happened. It's simple, it's fast and quite responsive.
I have used YouTube and Plex a lot over the past few days. Both work really well and there are even some very nice features. I am thinking in particular of the waiting list offered by YouTube, a waiting list that will allow you to play several videos without having to load them manually each time. I was less hooked on Red Bull TV, however.
Besides that, Google also offers an extension to install in your browser: Google Cast . Through it, you will be able to load the content of any tab on the Chromecast , and thus display it on your television. Very practical when you want to broadcast the content of a photo album hosted on Google+ or Flickr, or even when you want to play music from Spotify or SoundCloud.
The Chromecast is a very amazing product, that's a fact. For 35 euros, it will effectively allow you to access very diverse content.
Music with Vevo, trailers with YouTube, movies and series with Plex, music with Google Play Music, clips stored on your device with RealPlayer Cloud, shows with France TV Pluzz, and so on . If you have several televisions at home, you can even buy several Chromecasts to control them all from your mobile or your touchscreen tablet.
And then there's Plex support. Thanks to it, you will be able to use the Chromecast to easily stream the movies and series that you store on your computer , or even on your home NAS . All with pretty covers, summaries and a ton of extra info as a bonus.
So it's true, for the moment there are still few applications that support Chromecast, but that should change quickly because Google had the very good idea to release a complete SDK designed for our developer friends. The latter will thus be able to integrate the technology into their own applications, and thus nourish the ecosystem imagined by the American giant. Moreover, more than 3,000 developers have already responded.
In short, you will understand, the little key appealed to me a lot.