Google’s Chromecast media playback device has finally officially launched in Australia, at a time when the usefulness of the device is on the rise.
Aussies keen to get their hands on a Chromecast can order one online from either Dick Smith, JB Hi-Fi or directly from Google’s Play Store. All stores are currently charging $49 for the Chromecast, plus comparable shipping costs.
JB Hi-Fi is also expecting to have units in stores over the coming days.
Right on schedule
When Chromecast launched in the US last year, there was very few services you could communicate with it, and many of those that were compatible were services like Netflix and region-locked to North America. Beyond this, Google’s own apps, like YouTube and Google Music were the core reasons to buy a Chromecast.
But the list of compatible apps and services has been on the rise since then. Only this week, Google has added Chromecast support to the Chrome browser for Android devices, meaning you can ‘cast’ videos or music playing in the browser on your phone to your big screen TV. Independently developed apps, like AllCast and Bubble UPnP also tap into Chromecast, allowing you to ‘cast’ media stored on phones or tablets to TVs or audio systems.
Important for its local launch, several Australian media companies are also ready in support of the local launch; including Foxtel’s Presto, ABC iView and movie-streaming service Quickflix.
Chromecast, you say?
If you haven’t heard about Chromecast, never fear: there wasn’t much point in chasing one down until now (unless you are one of the 20,000 Australian Netflix subscribers).
In short, Chromecast is a tiny computer which plugs directly into your TV via an HDMI port. It connects to your Wi-Fi network at home and you control it using apps on your phone or PC. So long as your Chromecast is on the same network as the controlling device, it should work flawlessly.
The beauty of Chromecast is that technically it doesn’t stream content from your phone, but instead looks up the same content and loads it independently of the controlling device — Google calls this ‘casting’. To watch a YouTube video, you look it up on your phone and point the Chromecast to it by pressing the special icon in the YouTube app. The Chromecast then looks up the same video and plays it as well.
The advantage of this system is that it doesn’t tie up your phone while it is playing the video. Once playback has started, you can use your phone (or tablet) to do other things and it won’t interrupt the playback.
You can also ‘cast’ browser windows from Chrome on a PC or Mac using a special Chromecast Extension for the browser. This is handy for when you might need to give a presentation on the fly.
A quick review
We’ve been using an imported Chromecast device here at WhistleOut for about six-months, or so. In this short time it has become a central part of our home theatre setup, as useful as a PVR or a dedicated Home Theatre PC, in some respects.
Just being able to cast YouTube videos should almost be enough to buy a Chromecast. YouTube is now home to a growing collection of full-length movies and TV Shows, so while it is not laid-out in the same way Netflix is, there is still plenty of high-quality free-to-watch content ready to cast to your TV.
Foxtel’s Presto will be a key partner locally, given its price ($20 per month) and the quality of the movies on offer. It is a shame that Presto doesn’t offer catch-up TV shows for the price, but it is still another feather in the Chromecast cap.