A few months ago I picked up a Google Chromecast from Best Buy. I was curious about them for a while and at $35 I wasn’t going to be out very much cash if I didn’t find it useful.
It turns out that $35 is an excellent price point for this product and, compared to most similar devices, I think you may actually get a bit more than you paid for. In some cases it can be very convenient. If you already have a device such as a Roku or Apple TV this may not be very impressive, but that all boils down to how each person chooses to use it.
It can function just fine as an inexpensive method for streaming content to a television but it requires that the content be streamed from another device such as a laptop, tablet, or phone. Some may not care to have a smartphone tied up while streaming.
Whether or not the Google Chromecast is an alternative to, or a replacement for, streaming from a stand-alone device simple depends upon how one plans to use it (and how much one is willing to spend).
For example, I find it very useful in hotels for streaming content to a television from my personal laptop. It’s not a major difference, but it cuts down slightly on the bulk required to carry an HDMI cable and my laptop doesn’t have to be tethered to the TV.
I don’t plan to replace an Apple TV or Roku with the Chromecast. At home those devices are more convenient because they don’t require an additional device to stream content from.
Though Chromecast can be used to mirror content from another device the experience isn’t always excellent. Most of the in-app native support seemed to work well but attempting to mirror the desktop wasn’t any better than my experience with AirPlay (admittedly the desktop mirroring function is more of a ‘beta’ feature and not a primary feature).
Comparing it to an Apple TV or Roku may help describe some of the differences but it’s not a perfect comparison. It’s not the same type of device and, in some ways, it’s like trying to claim that a tablet is better than the combination of a laptop and a smartphone. There is some overlap in capability and their utility is determined by one’s personal needs.
In the end simply connecting an HDMI cable to a television works far better in terms of quality, reliability, and ease of setup. But if you want something portable that doesn’t require being tethered to a TV (and it’s made to work with mobile devices) then it can work very, very well. And, as I mentioned at the beginning, it was only $35.