The Roku (www.roku.com, $50-100 depending on model) and Apple TV (www.apple.com/
Once you plug in the Chromecast and it finds your WiFi network, your Smartphone, tablet or computer controls what it plays. There is no remote and content is streamed directly to the Chromecast from any app that supports it (currently Netflix, Hulu Plus, and YouTube) or from the cloud via GooglePlay.
Chromecast also offers the ability to send content from the Chrome browser on your computer to your TV, an intriguing feature since none of the set-top options include an integrated browser. In theory, this means that any content you could watch online such as NBC.com, CBS.com, HBO Go, or webcasts from your favorite websites could be seamlessly sent to your big screen through Chromecast “mirroring.”
In practice the Chromecast’s mirroring functionality is a bit buggy, leading to video lags, audio drops and the occasional crash. Video image quality is poor because it’s converted when sent to your Chromecast. Apple’
The Chromecast works best with the apps that support it, but they’re woefully limited (only Netflix, Hulu Plus and YouTube) due to its recent entry into the market. AppleTv offers those AND Disney Channels, HBO Go and sports channels (including ESPN, NBA, and MLB.TV). Roku is the clear front runner, offering Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Amazon Instant Video, Redbox and Blockbuster on Demand, PBS, Fox, SyFy and many more.
The one that will best fit your needs depends largely on the platform of equipment you already own. If your home is filled with iPhones, iPads and Macs, you should splurge on an Apple TV. AirPlay sends content seamlessly from your iOS devices and it’s the only streaming device that lets you watch the media content you have stored in your iTunes without a 3rd party work-around. If you have Android devices and purchase video or music content through the Google Play store, the Chromecast offers the best solution to view or listen to it on your TV or home theater.
The Chromecast also wins for portability. While you do need to connect the device to a USB power source with an additional cable (so you can’t just toss the dongle in your pocket and go), the size and quick set up means the Chromecast will be my go-to travel device, whether I’m headed to a hotel or need to project a presentation at the office. As more app developers build in Chromecast integration, it’s sure to get even more useful.
Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service (http://www.callnerds.com/
About Nerds On Call
Established in a spare room in Redding, Calif., in March 2004, Nerds On Call offers on-site computer and laptop repair services to consumers and businesses. Nerds On Call provides trouble-shooting for PCs and Macs, home and office networks, printers, iPods® and MP3 players, handheld devices and cell phones, home theaters and game systems, and virtually every other form of digital entertainment. In 2009, 2010, & 2011 the company was named to Inc. magazine’s list of 5000 fastest growing private companies. With 15 locations across California, Oregon, Washington, & Arizona Nerds On Call serves more than 40,000 satisfied customers per year. For more information, visit www.callnerds.com or call 1-800-919-NERD.