Google Chromecast does nothing better than an AppleTV

TL;DR – AppleTV does more and does it better.

I’m not impressed with the Google Chromecast. I got it in the post today like most people and when I got home from work plugged it in to the 55″ panel and started to play. Here are my initial thoughts.

  1. It doesn’t run on 5GHz networks… so to use it I have to switch to the regular network, when my laptop and ipad and iphone all use 5GHz.
  2. On the iphone/android/ipad it only currently works with the Netflix app, Youtube app, and Google Play (android); Which my AppleTv does with better video quality and no buffering issues.
  3. On the desktop, it currently only works with stuff that is IN a Chrome browser tab… as in I can’t play anything from my computer to it like movies or apps or anything that doesn’t live in a web browser. WHY? Airplay does all of that. (It mirrors it which is a pain but that’ll be fixed in Mavericks due out soon).

I can see it getting better with time but if you have an AppleTV, or Roku, or Playstation, or Xbox (I have all of them)… there’s really no reason to get a Chromecast. Yet. But for $40 – it could grow into something awesome. And if you don’t have any of the aforementioned hardware devices then Chromecast could be pretty awesome for you at a low entry cost.

EDIT: RWW covered the lacking 5Ghz issue

  • http://www.transmatrix.net Kevin

    When you say “5GHz” do you actually mean 802.11ac? The frequency does not determine the speed…

    Also, I think the more interesting thing for this device is that it provides a similar functionality as AppleTV, but it’s less than half the price and not locked into the Apple ecosystem. Since I have iOS devices and Mac laptops the AppleTV is definitely a more appealing product to me, but when you have guests over that have Windows laptops it would be nice to have a device like the Chromecast that allows them to stream content to your television.

    • http://chuckreynolds.us/ Chuck Reynolds

      so sure, should have specified.. not a network geek. 802.11a/n or b/g/n whatever. it’s the airport extreme. either way I use the “5ghz” antenna one as networking buds tell me less interference with other stuff and technically it’s faster. I don’t care to get into that at all.

      As far as “provides similar functionality as AppleTV”… not really. It does two apps out of the MANY that appletv does and i can’t send anything from my laptop/ipad/iphone over at all.. has to be one of those apps or something in a chrome browser tab. Not even close to similar functionality or usefulness.

      If you’re worried about “locked in”.. which every apple hater seems to be.. hack it. it’s easy and you get the same stuff plus even more. The AppleTV we have at Gangplank is hacked and works great and still use it for the normal apps like Netflix and MLBtv.

      As far as windows guys.. I haven’t a need for such a thing but I think there’s an app called AirParrot or something that replicates airplay on windows. I hear it’s amazing.

      • http://www.transmatrix.net Kevin

        802.11a/b/g/n determines the speed, not the frequency. Dual band routers that support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz give you more flexibility for a mixed-mode network and prevents a b/g device from slowing down your n traffic, but 5GHz does not inherently equal more speed. As long as the Chromecast device supports 802.11n, putting it on your network at 2.4GHz isn’t going to make a difference unless you have a slower device also connected to the network (and then it would only slow down your Chromecast connection and won’t impact your other n devices on the 5GHz network.)

        It just seems like most of your criticisms are coming from a very Apple-centric point of view. It would be like reviewing the AppleTV from the perspective of an Android user…

        One of the nice things about the Chromecast is that Google has made it so that anyone can make an app that will stream to the device. As time goes on, you may see a new button on iPhone apps that allow you to stream to Chromecast. Only time and demand will determine where it ends up.

        Also, AirParrot isn’t free and asking a guest to pay $10 to share something on your TV is a little rude…

        • http://chuckreynolds.us/ Chuck Reynolds

          again like I said in the article “I can see it getting better with time” and with their API maybe.. but I was on the android boat for a while and I know how “open” that really turned out to be. I don’t think the post is very apple centric at all… I could have gone more into depth about how my playstation can do more as well or my xbox but I didn’t think it was worth it… and I did mention that “if you have an AppleTV, or Roku, or Playstation, or Xbox” – “there‚Äôs really no reason to get a Chromecast. Yet.”
          This argument always comes up with anybody that owns apple or owns android shit. it’s annoying. nobody can have a normal conversation anymore about tech as everybody is so one-sided. i own toys from both camps, have issues with each one.

          • http://www.transmatrix.net Kevin

            Dude, I’m the same way: right tool for the job (I own Windows desktops, Mac laptops and Linux servers). I’m not trying to turn this into an OS war. (FYI, I don’t own any Android devices)

            You said “Which my AppleTv does with better video quality and no buffering issues.” That’s what I was responding to.

            Also, the chrome tab mirroring is the closest thing to Apple Airplay that I’ve seen so that’s why I gravitate to that comparison.

          • http://chuckreynolds.us/ Chuck Reynolds

            Airplay is honestly pretty good. I run bluray vids streamed through airplay and have zero issues. I could barely get a 720p youtube app video to feed through to chromecast at all… first minute was interpolated like 480 maybe… then buffered then was full res but buffered two more times in a 5 minute video. idk.. maybe they’ll work on it and update it but so far… meh. Good little device for travel probably as long as you have tv’s with hdmi in your hotel or airbnb :)

          • theexman

            Chromecasting from the Chrome browser is BETA! And it clearly states that which is why it doesn’t work perfectly. I don’t understand why YOU expected it to work perfectly.

  • I’m possibly an idiot

    You missed some major points:

    1) It costs $35, not $40. If you were adding tax + shipping, Apple TV costs $110.

    2) Chromecast is 1/3 the price of Apple TV, 1/3 price of Roku 3, and less than 1/10 cost of PS3/Xbox360

    3) Apple TV only works with OS X and iOS. You are restricted to the iTunes ecosystem for the most part.

    4) Chromecast works with Windows, Macintosh, Android, iOS, and even Linux. Great for families that have plenty of mixed devices.

    5) This is the only device aside from Roku stick, which tucks away and disappears.

    6) If you go to settings, you can stream entire screen, not just a tab.

    7) They also have what I feel like is the most open API compared to all the other TV solutions such as Boxee, TiVo etc. I feel as though quite a few apps will introduce support for their photo, video, music, and other media apps.

    Then again I was incredibly wrong about Google TV and Nexus Q. I thought each would be awesome. The Logitech Revue was a horrendous piece of garbage. I got excited for the $300 Nexus Q which I got at I/O since it came straight from Google and I felt as though it would get a ton of upgrades to improve the product. It was discontinued within a month or so.

    • http://www.transmatrix.net Kevin

      If you order from the Google play store, it’s $40 after the shipping charges…

      • theexman

        True but so is the ATV. It’s best to make the comparison solely on the actual price because other charges can vary considerably depending on where and how you buy it.

    • http://chuckreynolds.us/ Chuck Reynolds

      1. With tax it’s about $40… TOC total cost of ownership mr anonymous.
      2. not the point. if you already have any of those it doesn’t make sense.. perhaps you didn’t read all the way through the post.
      3. i used apple tv w/o a Mac the whole first version. look up airparrot. and can always hack it to not “be restricted”
      4. see 3
      5. agreed it’s small, see edit about travel
      6. don’t see that setting at all. http://i.imgur.com/ehPw8PA.png
      7. api… perhaps people will build things.. but i was on the android boat once too with said “open API” and we see how well that’s going.
      Nexus Q was a lemon to start.. the new Nexus 7 is supposed to be rad tho that’s like the size of an ipad mini.

      Thx for posting but no thanks for stayin anon

      • theexman

        Let’s not forget that the first Apple TV sucked big time. Chromecast is far far better in it’s first iteration.

        The setup with Chromecast is also much easier and appreciate the fact that it doesn’t lock down the device you’re using to control the Chromecast. The Apple TV is not as flexible.

  • Johnnytech

    My $1500 smart TV just died – so I got a dumb TV (42″ LED) for $400 – Then I got Chromecast with 3 free months of Netflix. Net cost ($15). I know the Netflix promotion is over but when you consider that you need one of these for each TV in your house the low price point is important. Also the killer feature is being able to use a real keyboard as your remote control so search for movies… This is the reason why I never bought an apple TV (I just connected my Mac to the TV so I could use the keyboard). Anyway I am using chromecast for a few days now and I am very happy!

  • trader200ma

    This reviewer is living in an alternate universe. And, as he states, this review is based on just a few hours of use…all the same day. No in-depth usage.

    1a) No, it doesn’t run on a 5Ghz network. It’s in the specs and he knew this before he bought it. Running it on the 2.4GHz band is fine. It’s designed for it and it works perfectly.

    1b) No, you don’t have to switch anything on your router, routers don’t work that way. The two bands link together via the router, making the appearance of one cohesive network. All devices on both bands “see” each other and work fine together. If your phone is on the 5GHz band, it’ll drive the Chomecast with no issues.

    1c) DO NOT review technology if you have poor test equipment or don’t know what u r talking about. Your router must be at least 4 – 5 years old.

    2a) Yes, it only currently works with youtube, netflix, google movies & tv, and google music. That was all published at launch. Update the article to note that roughly 10 major services have now pledged Chromecast integration, including Hulu and HBO Go.

    2b) No, there are no “buffering” issues with the Chromecast itself. Again, he has poor networking or a poor router. My in-laws run over a very slow AT&T 3Mbps DSL connection with the free included router. Chromecast plays content like a champ.

    2c) His AppleTV doesn’t have “better video quality”. Both devices are 1080p and display the same image density.

    3a) Yes, it plays ANYTHING within a Chrome browser tab, and with a good router, plays it nearly flawlessly.

    3b) Drag & drop a file from your desktop into a Chrome browser window and it will play nearly all local content. He simply doesn’t understand the product.

    3c) When you stream anything from your mobile phone via AirPlay, your phone becomes totally dedicated and useless. Streaming via Chromecast leaves the phone totally usable for any other business.

    AND…it travels horribly. Chromecast needs to be on a local Wi-Fi network, cannot deal with a hotel’s Wi-Fi “login” page, and needs a network where all devices can see each other. Hotel networks are unusable for this, and workarounds that you could bring along are fairly technical. Don’t even bother taking it with you to watch movies in your hotel room.

    • http://chuckreynolds.us/ Chuck Reynolds

      hey i got 99 problems but an alternate universe definitely isn’t one.
      1b. never said i had to switch anything on the router.. i need to change the normal networks I’m already setup to use on my devices. And as far as I can tell – it does not see the chromecast if I’m on the 5Ghz ssid.
      1c. new airport extreme maybe a year old. and maybe you meant to attach this to 2?
      2a. pledged isn’t current function. you wish a lot? those work too?
      2b. from my ipad mini to the chromecast.. youtube buffered out.. from my laptop to it same thing. it chokes on streaming from the web through a device as far as i can tell. will try again but the AppleTV or airplay from my mbair works better at this point in time.
      2c. technically yes they have the same spec… but probably related to 2b it doesn’t look as good.
      3a. so far yes but you missed the point.
      3b. so I can play mkv’s and avi’s within chrome? 1. didn’t know that… BUT… avi’s require quicktime and i have to install more shit from them to make it work. fuck that. mkv worked but muted and can’t activate sound button? idk wtf is up with that. So… hey you kinda got me on that one. I like MPlayerX much better tho – more control and when subtitles are included I can load those. not sure that’d work in Chrome?
      3c. correct. that will be fixed however in mavericks at least for laptops – afaik ios7 won’t fix that?

      Yeah the travel thing does suck… considering taking that out after I realized the login page issues. I’ll have to keep watching porn on my phone when traveling :)

      Thanks for commenting trader200ma

  • Nizhidao Shenme

    I have never used an AppleTV but WD TV Live is definitely better than Chromecast.

    I bought a Chromecast hoping to replace my WD TV Live but was greatly disappointed due to one main reason: Poor streaming – Every video from YouTube, Google Play to local files were all horrible. Netflix was the only tolerable source, but even then it takes 3-5 seconds before a new stream hits HD, where as WD TV Live becomes HD right away. The controls also had at least 0.5-1 second delay. Again, very poor when compared to WD TV Live. I don’t claim to understand the technical aspects of Chromecast that makes it stream so poorly, but I know it isn’t my setup.

    If WD TV Live can stream nicely, Chromecast should be able to, too.

    Hopefully Chromecast 2.0 will make it actually useable.

    • theexman

      I don’t have any of those issues with Netflix or Youtube using my Galaxy Note 2 as the controlling device. If you’re using a computer, it might not be fast enough when using the Chrome browser. Did you install the plugin for the Chrome browser?

      And WDTV has the same drawbacks as ATV. It’s much more expensive, bulky, proprietary interface and corresponding app selection, and you need yet another remote.

      I have one Chromecast and love it, and I plan to buy two more for my other two TVs in my home. That’s very do-able. I wouldn’t say that about buying and setting up 3 WDTVs or ATVs.

  • theexman

    Your first point is irrelevant as your average user doesn’t use a 5ghz router. And Google clearly states that is not compatible.

    Your second point is an exaggeration. Chromecast does 1080p with 5.1 audio. How is ATV video quality better? How well do Android devices with ATV?

    Your third point is misinformation. You can play local files through the Chrome browser. Chromecast can mirror the desktop of a laptop as well. However, both features are labeled as beta. Google it.

    ATV only really works well with Apple products and costs about 3x as much.
    Roku doesn’t do Netflix and costs at least 2x as much.
    Playstation is even more expensive and not very portable.

    With Chromecast you can buy one for each of your TVs and not break the bank and it’s almost invisible.

  • Billreyn

    There is now a java app that will allow you to cast local content from your computer to the chromecast. Have cast mkvs even. Seems to work great. It’s called Fling.

  • Billreyn

    And I just watched Star Trek:Into Darkness on it. Looked incredible! And since I bought the movie on Google Play Movies, when you pause the movie you can see information about the actors on screen at the time and the music playing(if there is any). Very cool feature of Play Movies! Had no buffering issues whatsoever.

  • http://chuckreynolds.us/ Chuck Reynolds