The Mounting Disappointments of Chromecast

Now that some of the initial giddiness has worn off, the realities of what Chromecast — Google's little web-to-TV stick — can and cannot do has set in. 

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Now that some of the initial giddiness has worn off, the realities and, sadly, disappointments of what Google's little web-to-TV stick Chromecast can and cannot are beginning to set in. When Google announced its little streaming TV guy, the tech nerds had a seizure from happiness, a bunch of them clicking over to the Play store that moment to spend the $35 and get the dongle — without knowing much about it beyond Google's PR pitch. Now, a couple of days later, the shine has worn off a bit, and it doesn't look that revolutionary anymore.

  • It's Not that Cheap Anymore. For Netflix subscribers the stick basically came free, since it came with a free three month subscription to the service valued at $24. For our bad at math readers, the pushed the price of Chromecast to $11, not including shipping and handling (another Chromecast disappointment). Netflix and Google have since ditched that deal because of "overwhelming demand." The device sold out of Amazon and Best Buy by Thursday morning, anyone who orders it now will have to wait 3-4 weeks. Though, if that's too long, you can pay up to $100 on eBay
  • It's Not that Tiny Anymore. One of the allures of Chromecast is that it comes in a compact little stick — or at least that's what Google led us all to believe with those clever ads. The device extends a little longer than that, coming with a bulky power cord to stick into the wall. Thing In Box Comes with Cord, isn't exactly a crime against technology (and there is some fine print, see below, that says "Power cord required (not shown)" on the official Chromecast page), but the offended John Herrman over at Buzzfeed says, Google "wasn't quite honest." In practice, it's not too bad, as Wired's Mat Honan explains. "On three of the four televisions we have tried, the cable was not visible from the front side."

  • It Doesn't Always Work That Well. In an overnight test, Honan discovered that you need really strong WiFi to get it to work. Here you can see it stuttering in a Vine that Honan made as he and other Wired editors tested it out using their decent office WiFi:

With a solid connection, however, it works like a dream, he says.

  • It Doesn't Technically Have That Much Content. The Verge has a harsh chart showing all the apps that Airplay — Apple's version of this — supports that Chromecast doesn't. Really, the stick only has Netflix and YouTube. But, in practice that really doesn't matter, because of Chrome's tab projection thing. Sure, it doesn't have the HBO Go App, but you can sign into HBO Go on your laptop browser (in Chrome!) and cruise from there. Even better, shady streaming sites will work, too. Quicktime and Silverlight are the only things that won't work — so, like, downloaded bootleg movies aren't about to show up on your television. 

Honestly, even with all of these problems, Chromecast sounds like a great deal — if you don't already have one of these boxes and have any interest in putting web television on a big screen. It still costs just $35 and takes a teeny-tiny amount of set-up, working on all sorts of devices. It's not about to revolutionize the television industry or anything, but it's incredibly useful.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.