Google announced its Chromecast media streaming device last week and immediately caused quite a stir amongst technology enthusiasts. Not only was the Chromecast seemingly easy to use, but its low $35 price point made it attainable by virtually anyone. It didn’t hurt that Google was throwing in a three month trial of Netflix with the device as well, but that deal was suspended almost as soon as it was announced due to overwhelmingly high demand.
The Google Chromecast is a simple device to understand. It is basically a small HDMI dongle that physically plugs into an HDTV (or other display) and wirelessly connects to a local Wi-Fi network.
Once installed and connected to the LAN, the Chromecast gives users the ability to stream or cast content to the attached screen from any Android or iOS-based mobile device or a PC/Mac running the Chrome browser, after installing a requisite plug-in.
The Google Chromecast - Available at Amazon for $35
The Chromecast device itself looks much like a USB flash drive. At one end of the you’ll find an HDMI connector and at the other end a micro-USB port, a reset button, and a status indicator LED. Other than that though, there’s not much to see on the outside, save for its logo and other markings.
Internally, the Chromecast features a Wi-Fi controller and low-power Marvell SoC, paired to 512MB of RAM and 2GB of flash memory. The device runs what is essentially a specialized version of Android that leverages some of the multimedia streaming and playback technologies first introduced with Google TV, but its outward facing interface looks nothing like either. In fact, after setting up and configuring the Chromecast, all you’ll really see are some wallpapers while the device is idle. All content is sent to the Chromecast from a secondary device (i.e. your smartphone, tablet, or PC).
When you open up your Google Chromecast for the first time, you’ll find the device itself in the box, along with a micro-USB cable, a power adapter, and an HDMI extension dongle. There are some instructions imprinted on the box, but the installation and setup are so easy for the Chromecast, we doubt you’ll need them.