Google Chromecast review

The device comes with a short HDMI extension cable in case you can’t plug it in to your TV directly, and it’s powered by an included microUSB cable and mains adaptor. However, if your TV has a free USB port, you can use that to provide power instead.

There’s no remote control since the idea is that you use your Android smartphone or tablet to decide what to watch and to pause, rewind or fast-forward the video. You can also use an iPhone or iPad running iOS 6 or later or if you don’t own a compatible device you can use any PC, laptop or Google Chromebook and control things from Google’s Chrome web browser.

Once you’ve installed the app (or Chrome extension) and connected the dongle to your router’s Wi-Fi, you’re ready to ‘cast’. This involves launching a compatible app see the full list and tapping the Chromecast icon within it:

A pop-up box prompts you to choose a Chromecast (useful if you have several and, at this price, you may well have a couple) then returns you to the playback screen where you can tap the play button.

There’s no Chromecast interface as such, so it isn’t quite like an Apple TV or Roku where you use a remote control to navigate through content. Apart from the ‘home screen’ which is presumably there just so you know the Chromecast is working, everything is controlled from a companion device’s screen.

The Chromecast button appears in Netflix for iOS and Android too, and works like a charm. Once a video is playing, you can put your phone or tablet to sleep to save battery life, and still pause the playback from the lock screen, or pick up the controls from another device on the same Wi-Fi network.

Google's Play Music and Play Movies & TV apps on Android are also supported and let you cast content you've bought or rented from the Play Store. We were unable to play albums that we'd bought from Google Play - we tried playing both music that was downloaded to our smartphone as well as songs stored in Google Music, but nothing worked. The album art appeared on the TV briefly, but  was then replaced by a "cannot play side-loaded music" error message.

Strangely, there’s no way to cast photos and videos from your camera roll to your Chromecast, whether you’re using an iPhone, iPad or Android device. Third-party apps such as AllCast can do this but when we tried the free version, there was a 15-20 second delay before a photo we’d tapped was shown on screen. Videos wouldn’t play at all.

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