I’m feeling bipolar toward the new Chromecast TV from Google. It’s an outside-the-box gadget that still manages to deliver the same old experience. It’s brilliant but backwards. It’s easy to use at times but a bit of a pain at others. I’m split; there’s a lot to like and plenty of room for improvement.
Chromecast TV is a small dongle that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port. Aside from the colorful dongle itself there’s a power cord (which is nice and long and comes with a velcro wrap for easy cord control) and a short HDMI cord.
Setup is an absolute breeze. Without reading any instructions, I was up and running within a couple of minutes. Once it’s plugged in, you download the Chromecast app (yes it works with iOS and iPhones) and follow the setup instructions. You’ll teach the Chromecast TV your home network’s password and that’s about it.
Heading into the Chromecast experience I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. In the past I had used the Apple TV and several Roku devices. Those devices were my reference point which meant I expected an interface with apps, search, games… you know, an experience of some sort.
But that’s not how the Chromecast works. It operates off of your device; as in completely off your device. In my case that meant an iPhone 6s. So my iPhone became the remote and the interface.
With Chromecast you don’t browse for content on your TV. Your find content you want to play through various apps on your phone. There’s no unifying app, even, to pull everything together. The Chromecast app itself basically informes you what apps work with the Chromecast TV and, aside from some piddly other features, doens’t do much else.
So if you want to watch something on Netflix you’ll have to open the Netflix app. Same goes for content on PBS, Plex, Crackle, etc. It’s usable, but it’s not ideal. If you’re using a phone with only 16 GBs of onboard storage, you might find yourself limited by the amount of apps you can actually download and use in conjunction with the TV (especially if you take a lot of photos or videos).
The splintered app experience is frustrating because different apps have different control schemes. Netflix, which probably has the best controls of the apps I tried, lets you rewind 30 seconds and has large pause, play ...