A new generation of “cord-cutters” has abandoned the traditional concept of TV, instead using web streaming, catch-up services and devices such as Apple TV to watch shows whenever it’s convenient for them – rather than when the broadcaster says so.

And Google’s ₹2,999 Chromecast might be the ideal device for the entry-level cutter. Compatible with Netflix, YouTube and Google Play movies, it’s a cheap, simple way of getting web-sourced movies and shows onto your living room TV. But is it just too limited?

Small and simple

If you thought the puck-sized Apple TV was small, wait until you see the Chromecast, which more than anything resembles a USB memory stick. A mere 35g in weight and possessing a single button, this dinky dongle plugs into a spare HDMI socket on your TV.

It can’t draw power via HDMI, however, so you’ll also need to hook it up to a USB port or wall socket. It’s not the most elegant of solutions, adding as it does to the cable spaghetti behind your telly, but if your TV's got a spare USB socket (and many do) you could replace the fairly long USB-to-micro-USB cable that's bundled with the Chromecast for one that's shorter and a little neater for just a couple of grand.

UPDATE: New Chromecast apps are niche or not ready

Anyone who picked up a Chromecast as a cheap way of getting Netflix on the telly probably adores it. But that won't stop 'Casters getting excited at the prospect of ten - yes ten! - new apps. There's no update to the Chromecast itself, just download the compatible apps and look for the Chromecast symbol at the top. Just keep your expectation in check - these are not the apps you're looking for.

In the first batch of Google dongle-friendly apps comes Plex, Avia and RealPlayer Cloud, all hell bent on becoming your go-to media server and cloud storage buddy. But RealPlayer Cloud, for Android, iOS, Kindle Fire and desktop, isn't available outside the US yet (we pre-registered for updates here in India) and the popular but sometimes messy Plex requires a US$3.99 (about 250) per month PlexPass.

That's not a huge amount but considering the Chromecast itself is only 2,999 and everything else is free (bar the Netflix sub), it seems unncessary. Plex is rolling out Chromecast compatibility to free users in the near future, but for now we'd give Avia Media Player a go. It's far from perfect itself and enabling Chromecast compatibility requires a one-off payment of £1.86 (₹190), but it does the job.

If you can forgive connection and buffering stutters, you can now play your own local videos plus media dragged in from Dropbox, Facebook and Picasa. Videos have a video reel icon rather than a thumbnail, which is very annoying if you shoot a lot of untitled smartphone footage, but making playlists is easy and it'll do until Google introduces a better integrated alternative.

Still, there's nothing here to rival Roku's incoming Streaming Stick, which promises easy playback of locally stored videos on smartphones and tablets with the Roku app.

Elsewhere in the new Chromecast apps are VEVO for ad-laden music videos, Red Bull TV for skateboarding and motorsports, PostTV for news footage from The Washington Post and the confusing but useful BeyondPod Podcast Manager for blasting out Brian Cox in audio-only form. There's also the international video app Viki for fans of Korean or Venezuelan TV, and playlist app Songza, which had dropped off the Google Play store at the time of writing but will probably be back on soon.

So the best Chromecast apps are still the ones that have been there all along - Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies. Here's hoping this is the first wave in Google's long game to catch up to the Apple TV, which still has the upper hand in terms of simple AirPlay mirroring as well as extra apps such as Vimeo. 

Casting web pages

Chromecast’s other ability is tab-casting from computers running the Chrome web browser: just click on the cast icon and whatever tab you’re currently on will appear on your TV screen. This feature is still in beta, and it’s not nearly as rock-solid as video casting. You can’t see an on-screen pointer, so there’s no way to use your TV as a proper monitor, and while embedded videos (from Vimeo, say) work, they do so with stuttering playback and choppy sound.

As a little bonus feature, it’s fine, but it really needs to be viewed as such, at least until Google can perfect it and bring it out of beta. We're hoping that happens sooner rather than later, as it could open up almost all of the streaming services on the web and make Chromecast a far more flexible video-on-demand device.


The Chromecast is cheap, easy to use and works well for Netflix and YouTube but it’s not really bringing anything truly essential to the video streaming table just yet. If you have an Apple TV, PS3, Xbox 360, smart TV or smart set-top box, chances are the Chromecast just isn’t necessary, because these are all able to get YouTube, Netflix and more onto your telly already (and they don’t require a companion device to do so).

The addition of more essential apps (rather than filler we've never heard of) and a more robust web-casting experience could make Chromecast a far more appealing prospect for tech-heads in the future, though. Plex, Avia and RealPlayer Cloud fill a gap but we hope Google is working on its own AirPlay-rivalling solution for mirroring locally stored videos and photos. If not, there's always the Roku Streaming Stick, which lands in Blighty in May.

But if you're on a budget and want to re-awesomise your dumb TV or you're just fed up of squinting at videos on your laptop then this dongle is still your cheapest route to entertainment nirvana.

Original review by Sam Kieldsen, additional words and testing by Sophie Charara

Stuff says... 

Google Chromecast review

Tiny and costing a pittance, Chromecast does exactly what it claims to – just make sure you actually need one before you buy
Good Stuff 
Tiny, forget-about-me design
Idiot-proof setup and use
Strong audio and video quality
Bad Stuff 
Few compatible apps
Slightly untidy USB power
Can't cast local videos on smartphones, tablets