Many, if not most households, now use some type of video streaming player on at least one of the televisions in their homes.
One of the most popular and cost-effective players is the Google Chromecast, which offers a number of features that cannot be found on other streaming video players.
Whether you’ve already purchased a Google Chromecast or plan to purchase one in the near future, we’ve provided a few tips for setting up your Chromecast, as well as an overview of the Chromecast and its chief competitors. Read on to learn more.
What is Google Chromecast?
Google Chromecast is an internet-based device that allows users to stream a number of music and video services directly through their television.
The Chromecast is most often used to play services such as Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube, but can be used in a number of ways to put online music and video content onto a television.
The device is generally priced around $35 USD, putting it in the same class as the Roku Express Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire TV stick.
A primary drawback of the Chromecast is that it requires an internet connection to stream content, though the unit does include 2GB of storage and 512 MB of memory. The full specifications and comparison to the Roku and Fire TV stick will be discussed below.
That said, the Google Chromecast compares favorably to other streaming players in its class, and would be among the top considerations for most buyers based on availability, affordability, and functionality.
Why Choose Google Chromecast?
The Google Chromecast rests amidst a sea of sling boxes and streaming sticks, as there are now 10-12 (or more options) on the market for streaming internet video service into one’s home.
One of the unit’s major distinctions is that it does not come with a remote as Roku Express Streaming Stick does. Chromecast users will need to use a smartphone to operate the device.
This system has its own list of pros and cons.
While some users will appreciate the simplicity of not having to learn and use another remote control, a common complaint of the Chromecast – particularly the base model – is connectivity problems with their smartphone and the tendency of the app to automatically log off.
Assuming that the use of a smartphone isn’t a consideration, the Chromecast provides an affordable, competitive streaming device in the same league as the Roku Express stick and the Amazon Fire TV stick.
Another option for users who demand high-definition content is the Google Chromecast Ultra, which can broadcast gorgeous 4K HDR content for double the price ($70 USD) of the standard Chromecast.
The Chromecast Ultra operates almost identically to the regular Chromecast, basically featuring the same advantages, disadvantages, and functionality. It does provide a slightly smoother interface, but the clarity of the stream would be the main reason most users would upgrade from a standard Chromecast.
The Chromecast unit has two basic connections: an electrical connection into an outlet or surge protector, and a USB connection that ports into a television.
Google recommends that users plug the Chromecast unit into one of their television’s USB ports first, then plug the unit’s power adapter into the Chromecast.
Next, users should connect the power adapter to an electrical supply, either by plugging the power adapter cable into an outlet or a surge protector.
Google strongly recommends that the provided power adapter be used for operating the Chromecast. Aftermarket or second-hand power adapter could cause the unit to fail.
Note that older-style televisions without USB ports will not be compatible with the Google Chromecast.
Once the unit is installed properly and connected to an electrical supply, users will want to connect both their mobile phone and the Chromecast to the same wi-fi network. Note that the Chromecast will not function if the control phone and the Chromecast are on different wireless networks.
The Chromecast can also be operated from a laptop or tablet, in the event the user is unable or does not wish to use her or his smartphone.
Once users have downloaded the Google Home app, they can begin to “cast” music and streaming video content to their television.
Google also provides detailed instructions for setting up the device once the physical installation is complete.
Here is an overview:
- Users will need to update to the latest version of Google Chrome. This is a popular web and mobile browser.
- Users will need to navigate to the Chromecast setup menu in Chrome.
- Users can click “Set up your Chromecast using this computer” to jump to the next menu.
- Chrome will automatically search for devices that need to be set up or synched.
- Once users have selected the appropriate device to set up, they will need to accept Google’s terms and conditions.
- Most times, the Chromecast unit will automatically try to proceed with setup. If there is a problem, use the appropriate troubleshooting steps on your mobile device, laptop, or tablet.
- The television will produce a code, which the user will then enter into their mobile phone, laptop, or tablet. If the codes match, the Chromecast will pair with the “remote”.
- Users can then rename their Chromecast, or retain the default name.
- Once setup has been successfully completed, all cast-enabled devices (other wireless-enabled devices) should appear as options for pairing.
Google Chromecast vs. Roku Express Stick vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick
Given that these three devices operate in the same fundamental fashion, it’s fair to compare the three in the interest of objectivity.
The Google Chromecast is the only one of the three that does not come with a remote, which as stated above, is either a positive or a negative depending on the user. It is fair to say, however, that the remotes included with both the Roku and Fire TV players are extremely user-friendly.
Memory and storage are the next two topics. The Fire TV stick wins this race, as the device features 8GB of built-in flash storage and 1GB of memory.
The Chromecast comes next with 2GB of built-in storage and 512MB of memory, while the Roku Express Streaming Stick only has 256MB of storage and 512MB of memory.
In theory, the extra memory helps the Fire TV stick operate more smoothly than its competitors, but what really pushes the Fire TV stick ahead in terms of performance is the dual-band wi-fi.
This isn’t to say that the Chromecast is sluggish, but the Fire TV stick has gained traction based on how smoothly it operates.
The Roku Express earns praise for simplicity of use. While the Chromecast has a lengthy, somewhat tedious setup process, the Roku Express by comparison is plug-and-play. There’s almost no argument to be made that the Chromecast’s setup process is easier or faster than the Roku Express setup process.
The Roku Express is available for about $30 USD, and the Amazon Fire TV stick is generally available for about $40. The Google Chromecast falls in the middle at a suggested retail of about $35 USD.
It’s a bit nitpicky to discuss the differences between the three devices, as they all operate in a very similar fashion and cost very similar amounts.
Ultimately, the decision will come down to a user’s comfort level with a particular interface. Google proponents who use Chrome as their primary web browser are likely to have a familiarity, and thus a preference, for the Google Chromecast.
A Few Final Considerations for the Google Chromecast
Chromecast users have had the same two major complaints about the streaming player since its inception, which are the complicated setup process and the connectivity issues.
If you read the overview above, the setup process seems a bit overdrawn, particularly compared to the Roku Express stick’s nearly instantaneous setup process.
The standard Chromecast has a reputation for disconnecting when a user opens up multiple apps on their remote device. Google is well aware of this problem, and is making concerted efforts to fix this problem in the next generation Chromecast.
The Google Chromecast Ultra draws so much power that it requires a constant electrical connection via power adapter, so this may be a consideration if the outlet space near your television is limited.
Moreover, the power adapter itself is big and cumbersome, so users should expect it to take up several spots on a surge protector or a complete wall outlet. The bulky power adapter is a consistent complaint that Google has not addressed as of this writing.
All of this said, these issues are not significant enough to discount the Google Chromecast as a very viable option for streaming content onto a television. Googl e fans, in particular, likely love the Chromecast, and Google continues to refine and advance the product in the interest of pleasing customers.