Although a little late, Google has finally made a play for the Indian living rooms with its Chromecast media streamer. Unveiled in the country over 15 months after its original debut at the Google I/O 2013, Chromecast provides a no-frills way to access online media on your HDTV.
Even though Chromecast has no real competition in India apart from Mango Man Consumer Electronics’ Teewe, it is worth understanding whether the Google streamer provides value for the INR 2,999 price-tag.
There is little to say about Chromecast on the design-front. Around 3-inches in size, it looks pleasant enough for a dongle and plugs comfortably into the HDMI port of your HDTV. As majority of the televisions won’t provide enough power to run Chromecast directly from the HDMI port, Google bundles a USB power adapter, which can be used to connect the device to a wall socket or you can simply use one of the free USB ports on your TV to provide extra power. Obviously, the added wires don’t look pretty, but as long as everything is hidden from plain sight, you don’t have to worry about Chromecast messing up your room décor.
Google also packs an HDMI extension cord in the box, which can be used if the location of the HDMI port on your TV makes it hard to plug the Chromecast.
In terms of the device-specifics, the Chromecast includes an LED light to indicate if the device is powered on, a USB port to plug in the power adapter and a button to factory-reset the device.
The set-up process is pretty seamless and Google has included all the instructions right in the box itself. You can start using the Chromecast within minutes of unboxing it. All you need is the Chromecast app from Google Play for the initial set-up and Cast extension from the Chrome Webstore for adding cast support to your computer’s Chrome web browser.
Once properly set-up, Chromecast provides an excellent media streaming experience. You hit the cast button on a compatible application or in Chrome browser and Chromecast connects to the Internet, fetches the relevant media and begins streaming it.
It doesn’t stream online content from your smartphone or PC, but connects to the cloud itself. There are however some applications, which allow you to cast local media content from your smartphone. You can even use the cast functionality in Chrome to stream some types of local media files by opening them in your browser and then casting them.
Using cast-supported applications is easy. All you have to do is search for what you want to watch or listen, press the cast button, and Chromecast takes over, while your device acts as the remote control.
During my testing, Chromecast always worked as expected, apart from instances when I tried to cast a Chrome tab from my laptop, which was playing a video. The results were choppy and unusable. Some of it could be blamed on my ISP-provided Wi-Fi router, which is a budget model. As casting Chrome tabs requires both a powerful computer and efficient Wi-Fi, it is best using the Google cast-supported websites rather than casting a Chrome tab and Google recommends the same.
Availability of cast-supported content in India
Let’s be honest, you won’t be buying a Chromecast for INR 2,999, just to stream YouTube on your HDTV. Unlike the US, the number of cast-supported applications and websites are limited in India, probably because there are not many video-streaming websites in the country itself and even those that are present, haven’t integrated the cast-support yet.
You will have access to a number of applications with cast support, but the decent ones are Google Play Movies, Rdio, Eros Now, Dailymotion, Tunein Radio, Plex, ES File Explorer and YouTube. None of the Indian music streaming websites have added cast support and there is still no access to Play Music in the country.
Thanks to Google, you can also cast the HTML5 videos in Chrome using the built-in cast support. It doesn’t matter whether or not the website has included cast-support. If the video is playing in HTML5, Chrome will let you cast it. I tried it a number of times during my testing period and it always worked great.
There are some games as well, which you can play on your HDTV using Chromecast, but nothing to boast about.
While considering the Chromecast purchase, it comes down to what you actually want to see on your HDTV. While watching something on your PC or smartphone, if you’ve ever wondered that you wish you could watch it on your TV, and that content is available in Google-cast enabled apps in India, buying Chromecast is a no-brainer. It is quite an easy-to-use device, which is constantly improving and will only get better with time. Given the way Chromecast operates, it is not going to need any hardware improvements for the next-few years, so you don’t have to worry about it not being a future-proof device.
Chromecast might not be as cheap as it is in the US, but INR 2,999 is still a quite decent price-tag, given you can find the content to stream. As I said earlier, look at the content you watch and if it is available for casting, go for Chromecast, otherwise it’s going to be of little value to you.
Simple and affordable
Google-cast enabled apps work great
Android smartphone-mirroring & Chrome tab-casting is useful
Support to cast any HTML5 video
Constant improvements & new features from Google
Limited cast-enabled content in India
No central spot to control Chromecast playback
Casting Chrome tabs with videos is choppy
Price & Availability: Google Chromecast can be purchased from Snapdeal and Google Play in India for INR 2,999