Google Chromecast : Making your TV smart, since 2013

If you already own a Chromecast, I think you would agree to what I am going to say in the post below. However, if you are not sure about what a Chromecast is, then read on.

Also, the Chromecast is available for a great price of INR2,999 (it usually sells for INR3,400) on flipkart as part of their Big Shopping Days sale. So if you don't have one, this might be a great time to grab one! LINK :  Chromecast - flipkart

The way we consume entertainment content has undergone a sea change in the last few years. If you had to catch a football match or listen to music, earlier it meant surfing through thousands of channels on the TV. Not very smart and maybe the "Idiot Box" moniker was well-deserved.

Over the years, entertainment and content, much like everything else, has expanded into the digital realms. And with it, the idiot box has changed dramatically too. First to go were the antennas which needed tweaking around every time a crow decided to disturb the unique position it needed to be in. For those who are too young to even have seen one, here's one in all its glory!

Then came the cable TV (and the cable guy who usually happened to have a notoriety of his own). That soon gave way to set-top boxes and that is where the switch to digital started. However, recently a more digital version of entertainment has found wide-spread acceptance!

Our entertainment over the years has moved to the internet!  While YouTube is where I find most video content, music comes from a myriad options out of which wynk (wynk is free for airtel postpaid customers) is what I use predominantly. And for photos, I have the all-knowing and all-remembering Google Photos!

My entertainment has, over the years, moved from the TV to the desktop and from there to the mobile. As the variety and quality of content has increased, the size of the screen on which we consume content has surprisingly decreased! And there is this huge LED TV screen that is just lying around unused, since nobody watches TV anymore!

What is the Chromecast?

And that is where Google Chromecast comes into the picture! To move your content to the huge, awesome screen that will do justice to the awesome content! The Chromecast converts your dumb idiot box into a smart device. If you want to show some pics to a group of friends, you can show them on the TV for everyone to see, instead of passing the phone around. If you are in a house party, you can put the music on your phone directly onto the TV, and concentrate on enjoying the moment, rather than worrying about adaptors and cables! And lastly, if you have a kid, then the Chromecast is a lifesaver. You can put the kid's nursery rhyme videos on the TV and you don't have to worry about him/her pestering you for your mobile.

And when you are not viewing anything on the TV, there are beautiful pictures curated by Google that come up as Background and your TV then acts as a huge, digital photo frame. You can even choose your own pics from Google Photos to display.

The Chromecast is a dongle-like device which plugs into your TV's HDMI port and converts your dumb TV into a smart one. Once plugged in, you can watch all your digital content on the TV, instead of the mobile. The current version looks almost like a hockey puck and comes with a short flexible cable that allows you to plug it into the TV even if the port is in a spot that is hard to access. The device looks sleek, but that isn't going to matter since it would most probably be hidden from view anyway.


To use a Chromecast, you would need the following
1) TV with a HDMI port
2) A power source ( a USB port on the TV works fine too)
3) A WiFi internet access point
4) A mobile phone / tablet / computer

Setting up your Chromecast

Setting up the Chromecast is super simple.
1) You plug in your Chromecast into the HDMI port of the TV.
2) Plug in the USB power supply into a USB port on the TV or the supplied power adapter.
3) Connect your mobile to the WiFi network.
4) Download the Google Home app from here.
5) Use the Google Home app to select the Chromecast, connect it to the same WiFi network and give your newly smartened TV a name. (I have named mine TheIdiotBox in fond memory of its humble beginnings)
6) Start enjoying your content on the TV.

For more detailed instructions, go here.

Viewing media on your Chromecast

Once you have got the Chromecast setup, viewing your content on the TV is as simple.
You have 2 options of going about doing this.

1) Chromecast enabled apps

A lot of media apps support Chromecast natively (for the full list of supported apps, go here), which means they have a Chromecast icon on the top. This icon shows up when an active Chromecast is detected nearby.

The Cast icon on the Netflix app

Just click on it and you'll be able to see your content on the TV screen. You are free to use your phone for other activities and the content continues on the TV. Messages and calls won't interrupt the content being played on the TV.

2) Screen Mirroring

If the app you are using doesn't have the Chromecast icon (which means it is not Chromecast compatible), then you have an option of mirroring the screen onto the TV.
What this essentially means is that whatever you see on the mobile screen will be duplicated on the TV screen. The only problem with this solution is that you cannot use your phone without interrupting the TV viewing experience.

Most mobile phones would have a "Cast" option in the notifications panel. If you can't find the cast option in the notification panel, you can go to the Settings > Display /  Cast / Wireless Display.

The good things about Chromecast

1) Simplicity
The best part of the Chromecast is how it takes a complicated sounding technical activity and turns it into something so ridiculously simple. Once setup, putting the media onto your TV is a single click operation. Even those who aren't too tech-savvy wouldn't have any problems with the Chromecast.

Post the Chromecast, my usage of the TV in its earlier avatar has gone down to only live sports. For everything else, I use the Chromecast.

2) Games
Almost every media app out there is Chromecast compatible and there are some fun games as well.
(a list of some supported games can be found here). The Motion Cast Tennis game was arguably the best I tried till date, with a great motion simulation almost like the Wii!

3) Local content
Local content on your mobile can also be cast on to your TV using apps like All Cast.
Content can be cast from your computer as well. You'll have to use Google Chrome for this to work. Go to the settings on Chrome and click on 'Cast'.

A popup comes up giving you the option to cast a tab or the entire desktop screen. If you cast a tab, you can doing stuff on your laptop, and only the contents of the tab that was cast will be shown on the TV. Casting the desktop, however, shows up everything from the computer on to the Chromecast.

There are a number of applications which help you maintain a media library and cast them onto the Chromecast. I use Kodi and it does a great job of being a media centre and helps me enjoy all my downloaded movies and TV series on the TV screen without any messy wires.

4) Cheaper
I also find plugging a Chromecast into a normal TV a much better solution for digital entertainment than buying a far more expensive smart TV. Apart from the expensive part, a smart TV also requires you to install apps before you can access content. A Chromecast on the other hand, connects to your mobile and brings all the apps on the mobile to the TV, no need for multiple installations. Buying a smart TV for every room might not be something everyone can afford. A Chromecast, on the other hand, can be plugged into any TV and you are ready to go.

5) Better than the alternative
The other option, the Amazon Fire Stick is not a great option for me just because I spend more time on YouTube than Amazon Prime Video. And the Fire Stick doesn't support YouTube (there are workarounds, but the experience is not that great). Also, the Fire Stick requires you to install apps on the stick. Every time you find a new media app, you would need to find and install it on the Fire Stick as well, which I think is not too convenient.

The not-so-good things about Chromecast

Coming to the drawbacks of the Chromecast, there are a couple of them I find irritating.

1) Support for Amazon Prime Video
 Amazon Prime is not Chromecast compatible (neither is hotstar). However, you can start the Amazon Prime videos app on your mobile and then mirror the screen to your Chromecast. It works, but the experience is nowhere near the one you get if the app is Chromecast enabled. Amazon may decide to add this feature some day in the future once they kiss and make up with Google. (As of now, Chromecast is not sold on Amazon. And YouTube, Google's video offering, is not compatible with Amazon's Fire TV stick. Things companies do for exclusive access to user data, I guess!! 😧)

2) Internet required even for local content
The Chromecast needs to be connected to the internet even if you are casting local content from your mobile. This is arguably for Google to collect user data, but makes no sense especially when internet services are flaky as they tend to be in parts of India.

3) File formats supported
The Chromecast can handle most file types, but there are some file formats that are not supported. This is especially important because, as of date, it doesn't support .avi files and H.265 encoded files (a lot of new media these days is H.265 encoded). So you'll have to ensure that you download media that is in a supported format

Complete list of supported formats here.

And that's why I think a Chromecast is a great buy for all your media viewing needs.
Do let me know if you have any questions!
For more details on the Chromecast, go here.

Bonus : My Chromecast Journey

I had  been hearing about the Chromecast before it was about to be launched, but since it hadn't launched in India for quite sometime, I ended up buying a clone called the Cubetek EzCast in May 2014. The experience was not that great and I bought a first generation Chromecast in Oct 2014, when I was in Saudi Arabia. The Chromecast was everything I had thought of and more. I was a fan from day one.

As luck would have it, the Chromecast launched in India within the next couple of months and at a cheaper price. By September 2015, the second generation (current version) Chromecast was announced. I was happy with my older version and had no plans of upgrading, since there weren't many updates any way. The puck shaped form factor and multiple antennas were the major changes. Also, it hadn't come to India yet.

Tragedy struck in Jan 2016 when there was a power surge in my apartment and a lot of electronic items ended up frying up. The Chromecast was one of them.  😭

By April 2016, the second generation Chromecast had made it to India and I ended up buying the new version in May 2016.

It's been a couple of years since and the Chromecast has never given me a chance to complain!

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