Media streaming device
A few weeks ago we invested in a Chromecast from Google. We have had an Apple TV for a couple of years now. Up to now we have mainly been using Apple phones/tablets in our family so for compatibility reasons we chose Apple when we were looking for a streaming device. 99% of the times that we have used our Apple TV the purpose has been to use the AirPlay function. That is the reason why I got interested in the Chromecast from Google as this could accommodate the same feature but to a much lower price.
What is Chromecast
Chromecast from Google is a wireless media streaming device. It is equipped with a HDMI output connector that can be plugged directly into a TV and supports full HD (1080p). It also comes with a power cable that has micro USB connection to the Chromecast on one end and a USB on the other end. It comes with an adapter (5V/1A) so that it can be powered by an ordinary power socket but a USB 2.0 port is actually sufficient to power the unit and enables that you can use a port on your TV. One of the most impressive features is the size of the device. It´s dimensions are 52 x 52 x 13.5 mm and weights only 39 g. Once the media streaming device is connect you can “cast” content from your phone/tablet/computer to your TV screen.
What is running on the Chromecast is actually a scaled down web browser based on Chrome, googles own browser. The browser displays web applications that receives HTTP requests from a client. The client being your phone/tablet/computer and the Chromecast being a server in your home network. There is also a communication channel between the client and the server which enables that the client can work as a remote.
What is then the difference between casting and mirroring? Let´s use the example that you would like to mirror your screen on your tablet to your TV. This can be done with a Apple TV and a Iphone/IPad for instance or it can be done with the combination of android and chromecast. When the two units are connected and mirroring there will be a constant stream of data between your tablet and the streaming device. It works the same way if you have a movie downloaded on your phone and you wish to display this on the streaming device. The file on your phone will always be the source for the data and will be streamed to the streaming device. When you are casting the content from a supported app like YouTube or Netflix, the only transaction between your tablet/phone/computer and the streaming device is it receives the URL from where the data is intended to be streamed from. Once it has this it does not any longer require data from your tablet/phone/computer. You have basically given the streaming device permission to go directly to the source. This is the same way that Airplay from Apple works. The brilliance with this is that the user can continue to use the table/phone/computer for other tasks as no CPU power is allocated to keep the data flowing. You can even shut your tablet/phone/computer off and the streaming device will continue to display the content that you have allowed it to display.
If you are using Chrome browser on your computer you can actually mirror the content from your browser or desktop. You get to this by going into the control menu on the browser and then selecting Cast.
What´s good about it?
The size of the Chromecast is one of its absolute strongest features. The installation can be made on the back side of the TV that makes it more or less invisible. Since all new TV´s are equipped with USB ports there is no need to spend time with hiding the cable installation. It is also very simple and quick to setup.
In the end the real kicker for the Chromecast is the price. You can get one today for around 40 EUR, comparing it to an Apple TV (4th generation) which cost 170 EUR, you can buy 4 Chromecast´s or 1 Apple TV. The Apple TV can off course host its one apps so it is a more powerful platform from that perspective. But if you are looking for a pure media streaming device the Chromecast is that device.