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Review: Google's $35 Chromecast has promise, but plenty of room for improvement

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
Google has dipped its toes into the home media space before with Google TV, Project Tungsten and the Nexus Q, but the company has yet to see success in the living room. Is the Chromecast destined to be the commercial success Google has been looking for?

Chromecast


Rough around the edges, but for the price?



This reviewer's family are cord cutters. We get our television from an antenna, and have done so since 2008. Instead of broadcast programming, we use Netflix, HuluPlus, and iTunes rentals, in that order. Our set top box of choice is the Apple TV, and we were first to have a first generation Roku ? which is showing its age and freezes under normal use.

Buying Chromecast for $35 with a 3-month Netflix code was a no-brainer.

The Chromecast package



Chromecast comes in nice packaging that is somewhat reminiscent of Apple's packaging on the older Airport Express. The outer sleeve shows the product on the front face, the device in use on the back and three icons on the binding edge depicting plug in, connect, watch. It feels very much Apple-influenced. And then it all went wrong. The anti-theft sticker is placed at the top edge and is printed with PEEL HERE in black. Peeling it results in VOID being left on the box. It's a minor detail, but VOID on a newly purchased product does not give a good impression.

The box opens nicely like a book and has three "getting started" steps on one side, while the Chromecast device is nestled elegantly in a plastic shell on the other.

Chromecast


Under the dongle is a small manual, 5-volt power adapter, micro USB cable, and an HDMI extension cable. The micro USB has a nice velcro cable tie to keep the cable organized. The HDMI extension cable is packed in a horrible poly bag with a label stating "HDMI Extender-OPTIONAL Use to improve fit and Wi-Fi connection." The packaging is a series of contradictory choices. Some appear to have been made carefully, others without a care at all.

Using Chromecast



Chromecast's manual recommends connecting the device to a wall outlet via the included USB power adapter and cable, but using an extra USB port on your TV is also an option.

We used a Nexus 7 running Android 4.3 as our primary device for setup. Setup was easy. The Chromecast app from Google Play detected the Chromecast device, asked us to enter our Wi-Fi password, rename the device, and it was ready to use.

Chromecast


We were also able to cast video to the TV using YouTube on our iPad mini and the Chrome browser on our MacBook Air (mid-2011).

Control



While the "cast" button shows up in supported apps, much like Apple's AirPlay, Chromecast doesn't actually stream content from your device. The dongle connects directly to the Internet and streams video from source content, while a local handset or computer handles controls. This can affect Chromecast's video quality if the Internet connection is slow, where the Wi-Fi connection in the home for AirPlay would almost always be fast.

Chromecast requires the Chrome browser, YouTube app, or Netflix app to control video. The browser works on Mac, Linux, and Windows. The YouTube app is supported for either Android or iOS. Netflix is currently only supported on Android.

Chromecast


This brings up a question for us: Do you need a remote control?

To cast, you have to unlock a mobile device, open an app, and only then can you control what's playing. Similarly, you have to switch to a browser tab if you're casting from a laptop or desktop. For families who are used to leaving a remote on a coffee table and being able to pick it up and pause in one step, Chromecast is more complex. On the other hand, this could be a viable solution people who have longed to get browser tabs on the big screen.

When connected, the lock screen on Android is superseded by a pause / stop / instant 10 second replay control. Pressing home or back then shows the normal Jelly Bean lock screen.

Chromecast


As for specific apps, we noticed that Netflix on Android has a different interface for subtitles and audio selection when connecting to Chromecast than displaying locally on the tablet. Selecting subtitles and switching between two-channel and Dolby Digital+ audio worked correctly.

Problems



Suppose you unplug Chromecast from the HDMI port, even with power still attached on the micro USB port? You get to repeat factory set-up all over again. We anticipate having to redo set-up for power failures. Depending on how the TV or AVR handles vampire power, we expect to redo set-up after the TV or AVR powers off.

We also experienced problems with casting from Android. The Chromecast would get stuck displaying a buffering image that should be shown only before content begins. The only cure was to switch video back to the tablet, start playing, and then switch to Chromecast. This occurred both with YouTube and Netflix on Android.

Chromecast


We were able to cast from Chrome on Mac without issue. Hulu and other video sources played just fine. Casting local video files dragged onto Chrome had mixed results. MKV files with AAC audio played without audio, while MP4 and M4V (for AppleTV) played just fine.

60 percent of the time, it works 100 percent of the time



AirPlay works reliably. It's possible to mirror displays or use the TV as a second display from Mac and iOS. For iOS, every app that uses a standard volume controller can send audio, and through mirroring, every application can by default send audio and video, unless the developer explicitly works to prohibit it for their app.

Chromecast works somewhat unreliably, given the need to switch back to the local display in order to get it working again. Chromecast is not a system-wide control, and appears to be enabled by each individual application developer.

Chromecast


Airplay works across almost all applications. Developers don't have to work hard to enable it. Chromecast works across a few applications and developers have to add it to their applications individually.

Airplay uses local wifi to deliver media. Chromecast uses the Internet and hopes you have a good Internet connection.

Because Google is using the Internet to get URLs to play, does this mean Google knows what you're watching? If it's YouTube, probably. If it's Netflix, probably not due to DRM in the middle. If it's something local casted via the Chrome browser, also probably not. Apple doesn?t know what you watched unless you're watching iTunes rented or bought media or using iTunes Radio in the near-future. Google knows only if you're watching from YouTube.

Audio / Video



Chromecast is a 720p device. It does supply stereo audio, but Netflix streaming was available in Dolby Digital Plus. On AppleTV 3 (2012) the audio is Dolby Digital encoding.

We tested this device using the HDMI port on a Harman-Kardon AVR 3700. The audio sounded just fine. The video on Chromecast was a little worse than the AppleTV experience we are familiar with: The video would begin blurry and become a little more clear after a few minutes. Even when it cleared up as much as it was going to, it never seemed as crisp as when watching AppleTV.

Chromecast


Billing aside



We were lucky enough to nab a Chromecast while Google was still offering the free Netflix incentive, though ran into some issues with billing through iTunes. Applying the discount code was impossible for the Netflix support team and iTunes didn't know how to do it either. The only option was to cancel our Netflix account billed through iTunes, phone support to have our email address preserved and then institute a new account. Netflix support representatives advising us to cancel our account to get away from iTunes billing didn't sound like advice that would make Cupertino very happy.

iTunes representatives reached by web chat from Apple's support page were helpful and canceled the account subscription with ease. This subscription could also have been managed and suspended on iOS or iTunes on Mac or PC.

Netflix representatives also had to assist with the manual re-adding of Instant Queue titles to the 'new' account.

Conclusions



For $35, Chromecast is an easy purchase to make, especially if you have a Netflix subscription already in place, or watch video in Google's Chrome browser. It's clearly early days, and our hope is that, besides adding new content sources, the rough spots mentioned above get ironed out. At the low price point and small size, it makes for an easy addition to a travel bag for hotel video use, but we would prefer to continue using AppleTV.

Score: 3.5



ratings_hl_35.png

Pros:


  • Affordable

  • Supports Dolby Digital+

  • Easy set-up to get on Wi-Fi network


Cons:


  • Blurry video

  • Lag when casting from Chrome browser

  • Limited video sources

  • Problems with power requiring re-doing initial set-up
post #2 of 43
Nice write-up!

Anandtech posted a very thorough review too. Not surprising that the Chromecast is getting a fair amount of attention. With Vimeo, Pandora and Redbox all announcing their services will be included and HBO confirming they're probably coming on board too it's one heck of a bargain IMO.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/7186/google-chromecast-review-an-awesome-35-hdmi-dongle

http://variety.com/2013/digital/news/hbo-go-is-coming-to-google-chromecast-1200569774/

EDIT: It's not taking long for developers to jump in either. Apparently there's apps already developed that allow photos and video on your smartphone or tablet to be streamed thru the Chromecast.
Edited by Gatorguy - 7/31/13 at 8:32am
melior diabolus quem scies
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melior diabolus quem scies
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post #3 of 43

Some information is not correct.

Quote:
This can affect Chromecast's video quality if the Internet connection is slow, where the Wi-Fi connection in the home for AirPlay would almost always be fast.

If your streaming source is internet, how it will be faster with Apple TV. Both will require the content to come over the internet connection. If the media source is local (in case of chromecast, it is limited to playing video in chrome tabs), no internet connection is used AFAIK.

 

Quote:
Suppose you unplug Chromecast from the HDMI port, even with power still attached on the micro USB port? You get to repeat factory set-up all over again. We anticipate having to redo set-up for power failures. Depending on how the TV or AVR handles vampire power, we expect to redo set-up after the TV or AVR powers off.

I have done both powering off the TV (and thus powering off the module because it is powered through TV USB) and plugging out the USB. It didn't require redoing the setup. I haven't tried plugging out from the HDMI port itself. But I doubt that will require redoing the setup. I have to check it though. It might be a different problem in your case.

 

Quote:
Chromecast is a 720p device.

No, it is 1080p device. Chrome Tabs are sent in 720p.

 

 

Fair review otherwise.

Quote:
On the other hand, this could be a viable solution people who have longed to get browser tabs on the big screen.

Bingo. That is my main motivation for this device. Not just browser tabs, but also apps from the phone/tablet.

post #4 of 43

Takeiteasy, I was going to reply to point out those very same errors.

 

FWIW, I have very little interest in the Chromecast.  For an Apple-centric household, the ATV makes much more sense (granted, it's more expensive, too).  If I was an Android-centric household, I could see the appeal of the Chromecast.

post #5 of 43
Some people buy cheap just because its cheap. Others spend just a little more for the best. There are two reasons someone would choose this over an Apple TV-
-They don't have the money or are too cheap so spend the minor difference (35 vs 79 fully warrantied refurb). But hey- $44 is a lot for some people 1hmm.gif
-They don't have any iOS or Mac devices.

Handcuffing your streaming to Chrome and the google ecosystem is not something I'd prefer to do.
With Google's track record in the living room- those clamoring about the "potential" of this device are simply naive.
Edited by Andysol - 8/3/13 at 12:59pm

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2014 27" Retina iMac i5, 2012 27" iMac i7, 2011 Mac Mini i5
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post #6 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Takeiteasy View Post

Some information is not correct.
If your streaming source is internet, how it will be faster with Apple TV. Both will require the content to come over the internet connection. If the media source is local (in case of chromecast, it is limited to playing video in chrome tabs), no internet connection is used AFAIK.

I have done both powering off the TV (and thus powering off the module because it is powered through TV USB) and plugging out the USB. It didn't require redoing the setup. I haven't tried plugging out from the HDMI port itself. But I doubt that will require redoing the setup. I have to check it though. It might be a different problem in your case.

No, it is 1080p device. Chrome Tabs are sent in 720p.


Fair review otherwise.
Bingo. That is my main motivation for this device. Not just browser tabs, but also apps from the phone/tablet.

I just took it off HDMI first when I was moving it to the living room and it didn't require setting up again.

Maybe while the reviewer was taking it out he accidentally held the reset button.
post #7 of 43
How do you get past the terms and conditions landing page at hotels?
"Building for the future?! They should be running around reacting to the present!" -John Moltz
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"Building for the future?! They should be running around reacting to the present!" -John Moltz
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post #8 of 43
It could have been a simple, six-word review: you get what you pay for.
post #9 of 43

The Chromecast is cheaper than the Apple TV - less than half the price! But, that's only $64. Are people really going to sacrifice quality, ease of use and performance in the living room for $64? The device is becoming an increasingly important part of a television experience that people pay thousands of dollars for. Skimping on $64 seems ridiculous.

post #10 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Takeiteasy View Post

Some information is not correct.

If your streaming source is internet, how it will be faster with Apple TV. Both will require the content to come over the internet connection. If the media source is local (in case of chromecast, it is limited to playing video in chrome tabs), no internet connection is used AFAIK.

 

True, and a valid point. 

 

However, something to think about with the Apple TV... It does allow an ethernet connection and does allow for a few GBs of buffering.  Both of these could help improve the experience.  The Apple TV has 8GB of flash, although a little of it is used by iOS and the apps.  Still, it can easily download a full HD 1080p movie over a connection that it wouldn't otherwise be able to do real-time.  I've been in situations where the connection was poor, and we've watched a broadcast show or ate dinner while the movie downloaded in full or near full before watching.

 

Likewise, I've been in situations where weak wifi was the problem connecting to the internet and being able to plug in via ethernet was an easy/cheap solution.

 

Personally, I don't get the saving of a few bucks in getting the Chromecast instead of an Apple TV or even a Roku, but that's for many other reasons as well.

post #11 of 43
Netflix on iOS works, you just need the latest version.
post #12 of 43
Hopefully this will encourage Apple to open up the Apple TV to 3rd party apps. I'd love to some UK-centric streaming apps on it.
post #13 of 43
Wow - with all those cons you still gave it 3.5 stars? And you left out the biggest one, its actually based on google android platform - deduct 2 stars just for that reason alone.
post #14 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by jonshf View Post

The Chromecast is cheaper than the Apple TV - less than half the price! But, that's only $64. Are people really going to sacrifice quality, ease of use and performance in the living room for $64? The device is becoming an increasingly important part of a television experience that people pay thousands of dollars for. Skimping on $64 seems ridiculous.

This. And only $44 for a refurb one through Apple. Full warranty and all. I'm sure the Chromecast is great for those rocking 32" LCD Insignias.

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Time Capsule 5, (3) AirPort Express 2, (2) Apple TV 3

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post #15 of 43
The Apple TV is a self-contained unit not requiring any other device, has its own remote, and can do Air Play as an option. We can use it all day without any other device involved. For a few dollars more you don't have to have another device on. This makes it a no brainer for us. Chromecast is a major fail in that you have to use it with another expensive device.
post #16 of 43

It's just another piece of crap from Google.

 

OK Google Glass ...

 

OK Google Now ...

 

Next ... OK Google Chromecast!

 

WTF!!!!!

 

Gosh, this company sucks so bad!

....the lack of properly optimized apps is one of the reasons "why the experience on Android tablets is so crappy".

Tim Cook ~ The Wall Street Journal - February 7, 2014

Inside Google! 

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....the lack of properly optimized apps is one of the reasons "why the experience on Android tablets is so crappy".

Tim Cook ~ The Wall Street Journal - February 7, 2014

Inside Google! 

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post #17 of 43

The secrecy at Apple must be wound up tighter than ever;  AI has to scrounge page hits by posting non-Apple reviews.

 

1rolleyes.gif

post #18 of 43
No Ethernet, no digital audio. Typical Google half baked product. Needs other devices to function. Definitely worth no more than $35.
post #19 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by robogobo View Post

No Ethernet, no digital audio. Typical Google half baked product. Needs other devices to function. Definitely worth no more than $35.

 

HDMI has digital audio.  And unlike the article said, the Chromecast supports 1080p.

 

I've been an apple guy since my parents bought me an Apple ][+ in 1980 (you can check my post history).  I ordered my first mac the day it was released and have used them ever since.  I've had iPhones since the day they were released, iPads since the day they were released.  We have a house full of Apple TVs.  Sometimes other companies come out with something clever.  This is one of those times.  Moving the UI to the tablet/smart phone without sacrificing the direct video quality is brilliant.  

 

Unless you don't have a smart phone or tablet, you don't need any devices you don't already have to run it. 

 

I ordered the chromecast the day it was released and will probably order a couple more when they support more apps.  It's already my preferred way to watch netflix.  I can flip through my play list in my iPad far, far, faster than I can navigate it on my Apple TV.  And will be my preferred way to watch Vudu, Amazon, HBO, etc, etc. if/when they all support it.  Right now I have Apple TV for some streaming content, blu rays player for other content, a smart tv for content.  None of the UIs are as good for navigating content as simply using my iPad.

 

My only complaint is it doesn't appear to support 3D.  And I haven't heard if there is any way to get it to work on a hotel network with a login page, which is also a problem with AppleTV.

post #20 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andysol View Post

Some people buy cheap just because its cheap. Others spend just a little more for the best. There are two reasons someone would choose this over an Apple TV-
-They don't have the money or are too cheap so spend the minor difference (35 vs 79 fully warrantied refurb). But hey- $44 is a lot for some people 1hmm.gif
-They don't have any iOS or Mac devices.

Handcuffing your streaming to Chrome and the google ecosystem is not something I'd prefer to do.
With Google's track record in the living room- those clamoring about the "potential" of this device are simply naive.

You forgot to add "in my opinion."

Because in my home we have a Mac, an old PC, 3 iPhones, 2 iPod touch, 2 iPads and an Android device. Also an Apple TV. I will be buying 3 more Chromecast(s) to go along with the one I have now. My point? Money isn't an issue for me, and I have iOS devices, still buying Chromecast.

It's simple to use, serves all of our needs. And as we are cutting the cord shortly, this is an inexpensive way to make every TV in my home a smart TV. It isn't about the $$, though. Chromecast is dead simple to use, my six year old has been using the hell out it for the last few days.

Just my .02.
post #21 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by jonshf View Post

The Chromecast is cheaper than the Apple TV - less than half the price! But, that's only $64. Are people really going to sacrifice quality, ease of use and performance in the living room for $64? The device is becoming an increasingly important part of a television experience that people pay thousands of dollars for. Skimping on $64 seems ridiculous.

 

Well, people pay good money for an iPhone and then go cheap on a charger that eventually electrocutes them. So...

post #22 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by allenbf View Post

You forgot to add "in my opinion."

Because in my home we have a Mac, an old PC, 3 iPhones, 2 iPod touch, 2 iPads and an Android device. Also an Apple TV. I will be buying 3 more Chromecast(s) to go along with the one I have now. My point? Money isn't an issue for me, and I have iOS devices, still buying Chromecast.

It's simple to use, serves all of our needs. And as we are cutting the cord shortly, this is an inexpensive way to make every TV in my home a smart TV. It isn't about the $$, though. Chromecast is dead simple to use, my six year old has been using the hell out it for the last few days.

Just my .02.
That's fine Allen. Id love for you to tell me what chromecast does that ATV doesn't. Because I can tell you a number of things an ATV can do that chromecast can't. You might not need those features, but the only reason you got it was because it was cheaper and filled whatever need you had.
We'll see what happens in 14 months after Google abandons it completely (just based on their track record). 1wink.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by alandail View Post

I ordered the chromecast the day it was released and will probably order a couple more when they support more apps.  It's already my preferred way to watch netflix.  I can flip through my play list in my iPad far, far, faster than I can navigate it on my Apple TV.  And will be my preferred way to watch Vudu, Amazon, HBO, etc, etc. if/when they all support it.  Right now I have Apple TV for some streaming content, blu rays player for other content, a smart tv for content.  None of the UIs are as good for navigating content as simply using my iPad.
This is the same idiotic drivel you keep regurgitating. So you owned an Apple TV but you didn't know you could AirPlay? Just use the Netflix app/UI on your iPad and AirPlay it. How is that ANY different than what you are doing with chromecast? Either you're trolling, or you're ignorant to Apple TVs capabilities. Your choice. Because you blew $35 for a device that does what a device you own already (if you're being truthful about owning Apple TVs). I don't think you're trolling- although its getting to the point where you sound like one because you said this same stupidity in the last chromecast thread and a dozen posters all agreed that your post was very misinformed. You still don't get it.
Edited by Andysol - 8/4/13 at 7:56am

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post #23 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by FreeRange View Post

Wow - with all those cons you still gave it 3.5 stars? And you left out the biggest one, its actually based on google android platform - deduct 2 stars just for that reason alone.
I was wondering that too. 3.5 out of what? But you're showing your bias and ignorance here too. It's not based on Android, it's Chrome and available on all platforms which is actually the key argument many are making in favor of the device over Apple TV. I don't see the argument since we all have already chosen platforms and Chrome is a power suck on all my Mac devices but at $35, I guess they're appealing to a different consumer altogether.
post #24 of 43

fascinating to watch the gadget heads gush over Chromecast.

 

for committed Windows/droid people, you can understand since Apple TV is not really an option for them (i know there are some workarounds, but few bother) and this watered-down version might be the first convenient option they've seen.

 

there is simply no denying it is less capable/flexible than the Apple TV/Air Play part of the Apple ecosystem, especially after iOS7 is released, for those who can use that fully via Apple products. so what really are its advantages?

 

- its tight integration with the Chrome browser. if that is your browser of choice you get to enjoy CC's maximum convenience.

- it's $65 cheaper. if you're genuinely low-income every dollar counts.

- you don't need Apple products.

 

it's the last item of course that is driving the hype. Apple-avoiders are ecstatic to finally have a third-rate media-extender dongle that offers some of the conveniences of the Apple ecosystem.

 

(for reference, i consider the ATV to be a second-rate media-integrator STB. its UI/Remote still need lots of improvement and effective integration with CATV/TiVo services. there is no first-rate STB yet, period.)

 

3.5 stars for that? you have to be kidding (god, we have entire generations addicted to grade inflation now) ... 2 stars at most.

post #25 of 43

Yeah, this could be useful when travelling.  Not sure I'd ditch my Roku 2 yet though.  

post #26 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by wigby View Post

But you're showing your bias and ignorance here too. It's not based on Android, it's Chrome and available on all platforms which is actually the key argument many are making in favor of the device over Apple TV.

 

From GTVHacker:

"Is it really ChromeOS?

No, it’s not. We had a lot of internal discussion on this, and have concluded that it’s more Android than ChromeOS."

 

Not that the internals really matter.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

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post #27 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfiejr View Post

fascinating to watch the gadget heads gush over Chromecast.

 

Indeed. I used to be one myself. I know where that road leads.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #28 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

From GTVHacker:
"Is it really ChromeOS?

No, it’s not. We had a lot of internal discussion on this, and have concluded that it’s more Android than ChromeOS.
"


Not that the internals really matter.
You're right, internals don't matter when they're hidden under an os running an app. That's like saying "well, iPhone is really more of an ARM device than iOS."
post #29 of 43
1 star for AppleInsider reviewing a Google device.
post #30 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by macslut View Post

 

True, and a valid point. 

 

However, something to think about with the Apple TV... It does allow an ethernet connection and does allow for a few GBs of buffering.  Both of these could help improve the experience.  The Apple TV has 8GB of flash, although a little of it is used by iOS and the apps.  Still, it can easily download a full HD 1080p movie over a connection that it wouldn't otherwise be able to do real-time.  I've been in situations where the connection was poor, and we've watched a broadcast show or ate dinner while the movie downloaded in full or near full before watching.

 

Likewise, I've been in situations where weak wifi was the problem connecting to the internet and being able to plug in via ethernet was an easy/cheap solution.

 

Personally, I don't get the saving of a few bucks in getting the Chromecast instead of an Apple TV or even a Roku, but that's for many other reasons as well.

 

What? People still use ethernet?  I thought Apple was all about designing for the future.  Why should the Apple TV should have built in ethernet which only a small minority of people will use?  Instead of ethernet, the Apple TV should have a USB port for attaching a storage device.  Any backward fool who still uses ethernet can buy an Apple USB ethernet adapter for only $29, unless those poor fools are too cheap to buy one.

post #31 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andysol View Post

This is the same idiotic drivel you keep regurgitating. So you owned an Apple TV but you didn't know you could AirPlay? Just use the Netflix app/UI on your iPad and AirPlay it. How is that ANY different than what you are doing with chromecast? Either you're trolling, or you're ignorant to Apple TVs capabilities. Your choice. Because you blew $35 for a device that does what a device you own already (if you're being truthful about owning Apple TVs). I don't think you're trolling- although its getting to the point where you sound like one because you said this same stupidity in the last chromecast thread and a dozen posters all agreed that your post was very misinformed. You still don't get it.

 

using netflix to airplay a movie from an iPad doesn't give you the same quality as having the video streamed directly, either via AppleTV or via Chromecast.  I've also tried airplay from my macbook pro, it also wasn't the same quality as having the device stream the the video directly.

 

And I told you, look at my post history.  I've been posting on here since 2004 and my post history goes back to 2007.

post #32 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post

 

What? People still use ethernet?  I thought Apple was all about designing for the future.  Why should the Apple TV should have built in ethernet which only a small minority of people will use?  Instead of ethernet, the Apple TV should have a USB port for attaching a storage device.  Any backward fool who still uses ethernet can buy an Apple USB ethernet adapter for only $29, unless those poor fools are too cheap to buy one.

Once again, the people who moan about the MacBook Pro Retina not having built-in ethernet still don't get it.  The MacBook Pro Retina is a laptop, which is a *portable* device.  Designing it to be as thin and light as possible is important, and that means that some ports needed to be removed.  The majority of people buying a laptop want to use it wherever they go (kitchen counter, living room sofa, bed, etc.) and will only use it at an ethernet-equipped desk part of the time.  So you get yourself a Thunderbolt-to-ethernet (or USB-to-ethernet) dongle and *leave* it at that desk, or pack it in your laptop bag.  No biggie.  So far, I've never been in a position where I had a strong need to plug my MacBook Air into ethernet, so I'm certainly glad that Apple didn't make my Air thicker just so they could build that port in.  I'm sure there are a lot of MacBook Pro Retina owners who feel the same.

 

The Apple TV, OTOH, is designed to be a primarily stationary device. You hook it up to a TV in your home and you leave it there.  So far, Apple has been consistent in equipping their other stationary devices (Mac Mini and even the latest iMac) with ethernet ports.  On a stationary device, Apple has decided correctly that the benefit of on-board ethernet is more important than making the device thinner.  That said, it wouldn't shock me to see them remove ethernet and make an even smaller ATV (though I hope they'd still at least allow for a method to buy a separate dongle to support it), perhaps to make it even smaller and easier to hide behind your TV (even though it's already small enough to do that), or to market it as being more portable (in the latter case, hopefully they'd continue to sell a larger ethernet-equipped model).

post #33 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by alandail View Post

 

using netflix to airplay a movie from an iPad doesn't give you the same quality as having the video streamed directly, either via AppleTV or via Chromecast.  I've also tried airplay from my macbook pro, it also wasn't the same quality as having the device stream the the video directly.

 

And I told you, look at my post history.  I've been posting on here since 2004 and my post history goes back to 2007.

I've tested this out myself (with Netflix) and came to the same conclusion.  The picture quality is *significantly* worse (it looks low-res and not HD), and I experience numerous stutters as well (and my ATV is hard-wired via ethernet).  The iPhone Netflix app also does not have a built-in AirPlay button, so you have to double-click and navigate to the OS-level AirPlay button, and you have to select the "Mirroring" option.  My experience with AirPlay Mirroring in general have been pretty poor (normally picture quality is perfectly fine and HD-quality but there are stutter/dropped-frames issues).  But what's odd about the Netflix iPhone app is that once you put it into this Mirroring mode, the app on the iPhone switches to what I'll call "remote control" mode where the video is now *only* playing on the TV and the iPhone display just shows the Netflix logo and the pause/play/FF/Rewind controls.  So the GUI in the iPhone app *acts* like an app that fully supports AirPlay (non-Mirroring) but you had to select Mirroring to be able to get there.  And, like I mentioned, the PQ on the TV switches to low-res crap-quality, complete with stuttering.

 

In short, it's really not usable that way.  I don't know if Netflix is going out of their way to hobble the PQ when you attempt to use AirPlay or what.  FWIW, I just tried Hulu+ and it works the *exact* same way (i.e., have to select Mirroring, but iOS app switches to logo-only and remote control mode, and PQ suffers immensely).

 

If you do want to use your iPhone/iPad to navigate the Netflix library and play the show of your choosing on your ATV, my workaround is to use the iOS app to find your show, then add it to your Instant Queue and then fire up the Netflix app on the ATV and select your Instant Queue, or start it up for a minute or so on your iPhone so that it then shows up on the ATV's "Recently Watched" queue.

 

I'd love to see the Netflix iOS app (and Hulu+ and everything else) behave more like the Chromecast in this regard (built-in AirPlay button and optimal PQ as it allows the ATV to do the actual streaming/decoding of content).

 

Update: I just tested the YouTube app and it seemed to work just like I'd want it to.  It has a built-in AirPlay button and PQ looked pretty good (hard to judge for sure as YouTube isn't usually ultra-high-quality in the first place) and it played smoothly (not stuttering).  It would be interesting to do some testing where you look at your router's traffic and determine whether the YouTube app's video is still traveling thru the iPhone first or if it's handing it off to the ATV (a la Chromecast's method).  If the latter, then that tells you that the Chromecast-style functionality is already possible with the existing iOS SDK and you just need to get Netflix and Hulu+ on board with implementing it into their apps.


Edited by Scott R - 8/5/13 at 6:24am
post #34 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott R View Post

I've tested this out myself (with Netflix) and came to the same conclusion.  The picture quality is *significantly* worse (it looks low-res and not HD), and I experience numerous stutters as well (and my ATV is hard-wired via ethernet).  The iPhone Netflix app also does not have a built-in AirPlay button, so you have to double-click and navigate to the OS-level AirPlay button, and you have to select the "Mirroring" option.  My experience with AirPlay Mirroring in general have been pretty poor (normally picture quality is perfectly fine and HD-quality but there are stutter/dropped-frames issues).  But what's odd about the Netflix iPhone app is that once you put it into this Mirroring mode, the app on the iPhone switches to what I'll call "remote control" mode where the video is now *only* playing on the TV and the iPhone display just shows the Netflix logo and the pause/play/FF/Rewind controls.  So the GUI in the iPhone app *acts* like an app that fully supports AirPlay (non-Mirroring) but you had to select Mirroring to be able to get there.  And, like I mentioned, the PQ on the TV switches to low-res crap-quality, complete with stuttering.

 

In short, it's really not usable that way.  I don't know if Netflix is going out of their way to hobble the PQ when you attempt to use AirPlay or what.  FWIW, I just tried Hulu+ and it works the *exact* same way (i.e., have to select Mirroring, but iOS app switches to logo-only and remote control mode, and PQ suffers immensely).

 

If you do want to use your iPhone/iPad to navigate the Netflix library and play the show of your choosing on your ATV, my workaround is to use the iOS app to find your show, then add it to your Instant Queue and then fire up the Netflix app on the ATV and select your Instant Queue, or start it up for a minute or so on your iPhone so that it then shows up on the ATV's "Recently Watched" queue.

 

I'd love to see the Netflix iOS app (and Hulu+ and everything else) behave more like the Chromecast in this regard (built-in AirPlay button and optimal PQ as it allows the ATV to do the actual streaming/decoding of content).

 

Update: I just tested the YouTube app and it seemed to work just like I'd want it to.  It has a built-in AirPlay button and PQ looked pretty good (hard to judge for sure as YouTube isn't usually ultra-high-quality in the first place) and it played smoothly (not stuttering).  It would be interesting to do some testing where you look at your router's traffic and determine whether the YouTube app's video is still traveling thru the iPhone first or if it's handing it off to the ATV (a la Chromecast's method).  If the latter, then that tells you that the Chromecast-style functionality is already possible with the existing iOS SDK and you just need to get Netflix and Hulu+ on board with implementing it into their apps.

this is all accurate. but of course there is no practical reason not to simply use Apple TV alone to watch any of the services it already provides apps for. why bother with AirPlay then? and you don't want to tie up your iOS device needlessly either running such an app. which is one advantage of Chromecast's no-app method when ...

 

i use SlingPlayer a lot, running its app on my iPad with TV display via AirPlay since there is no Apple TV app for it. the PQ is HD as delivered by their adaptive compression software, the same PQ you get when you watch it via your browser SlingPlayer plug-in instead on a computer, which is also what Chromecast will display on a TV i assume. can't do anything else with the iPad while doing this. but once Mavericks enables full screen AirPlay display of an individual app window via Apple TV, i won't have to bother with the iPad anymore. so that will be the quick end of that Chromecast practical advantage.

post #35 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post

What? People still use ethernet?  I thought Apple was all about designing for the future.  Why should the Apple TV should have built in ethernet which only a small minority of people will use?  Instead of ethernet, the Apple TV should have a USB port for attaching a storage device.  Any backward fool who still uses ethernet can buy an Apple USB ethernet adapter for only $29, unless those poor fools are too cheap to buy one.
AppleTV has a micro USB port just like the Chromecast.

Does what you say also apply to the Chromecast? Add USB storage and Ethernet via Usb dongle or are we trying to find reasons to hate Apple only today?
Edited by snova - 8/5/13 at 12:22pm
"Building for the future?! They should be running around reacting to the present!" -John Moltz
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post #36 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfiejr View Post

this is all accurate. but of course there is no practical reason not to simply use Apple TV alone to watch any of the services it already provides apps for. why bother with AirPlay then? and you don't want to tie up your iOS device needlessly either running such an app.

I'm talking about practical reasons.  It's a lot faster to navigate through the iOS Netflix app to find something I might want to watch, as compared to using a remote control to navigate thru the TV GUI.  Plus, it allows others to watch something else on the TV while I'm searching for the next thing to watch.  Once I find what I want, I'd like to select it on my iPhone but direct it to the TV.  At that point, I don't want it tying up my iPhone at all, and there's no reason why it should need to (you are correct that I don't want to use AirPlay).  I'll add that I don't even care about having the play/pause/FF/rewind buttons on my iPhone at that point.  Once the show starts on the TV, I'm perfectly happy (and prefer) using my old fashioned remote control to pause/FF/rewind.

 

To summarize, what I'm asking for Netflix and Hulu to do (and possibly Apple, if their SDK doesn't already support this) is to add what seems to be a very small change to their app logic.  And if Apple needs to tweak their SDK and/or Apple TV firmware to support this, then I suspect that it's a pretty small bit of logic there as well.

post #37 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post

 

What? People still use ethernet?  I thought Apple was all about designing for the future.  Why should the Apple TV should have built in ethernet which only a small minority of people will use?  Instead of ethernet, the Apple TV should have a USB port for attaching a storage device.  Any backward fool who still uses ethernet can buy an Apple USB ethernet adapter for only $29, unless those poor fools are too cheap to buy one.

 

I agree with Scott R on this.  In my house, portable devices use WiFi and stationary devices use Ethernet.  I have a very large house with tons of electronics in every room.  If everything used WiFi, that would be a problem, not to mention it's easier sometimes to plug in Ethernet than it is to get a reliable WiFi signal to parts of the house.  All of this depends on the house though.  Our house has multiple Cat 6 cables into every room, and it has radiant heating in the floors which block WiFi signals.

 

IT Admins in office environments who know what they're doing will also plug desktops into Ethernet if the lines are present or easy to run instead of WiFi.

 

Apparently Apple agrees with this as their stationary products all have Ethernet, while the only products to ween off Ethernet are the portable ones.

post #38 of 43
As an aside Chromecast accepts webpage (tab) casts from cheap ol' Chromebooks without missing a beat. Google suggests only their $1000+ pixel works. Can even see AI posts great on a 60" plasma without reading glasses, a welcome change.lol.gif
melior diabolus quem scies
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melior diabolus quem scies
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post #39 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott R View Post

 

To summarize, what I'm asking for Netflix and Hulu to do (and possibly Apple, if their SDK doesn't already support this) is to add what seems to be a very small change to their app logic.  And if Apple needs to tweak their SDK and/or Apple TV firmware to support this, then I suspect that it's a pretty small bit of logic there as well.

read the Mossberg review of the Chromecast.  

 

 

"One big advantage Chromecast has over AirPlay is that, once you start streaming something from your device to the TV, you can switch apps and do other things on the device, like check email, without interrupting the stream.

With AirPlay, in most cases, you can't do that, although there are some exceptions, like HBO GO. Apple says this capability is up to the developer.

A big reason for this difference: On tablet and smartphone apps, Chromecast isn't beaming directly from the device, but is using your tablet or smartphone to trigger delivery of the content from the cloud to Chromecast, freeing up the device. Apple says AirPlay also supports this method, but most app developers don't seem to be using it, so the iPhone or iPad is usually tied up beaming the content to the TV."

"Building for the future?! They should be running around reacting to the present!" -John Moltz
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post #40 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott R View Post

I'm talking about practical reasons.  It's a lot faster to navigate through the iOS Netflix app to find something I might want to watch, as compared to using a remote control to navigate thru the TV GUI.  Plus, it allows others to watch something else on the TV while I'm searching for the next thing to watch.  Once I find what I want, I'd like to select it on my iPhone but direct it to the TV.  At that point, I don't want it tying up my iPhone at all, and there's no reason why it should need to (you are correct that I don't want to use AirPlay).  I'll add that I don't even care about having the play/pause/FF/rewind buttons on my iPhone at that point.  Once the show starts on the TV, I'm perfectly happy (and prefer) using my old fashioned remote control to pause/FF/rewind.

 

To summarize, what I'm asking for Netflix and Hulu to do (and possibly Apple, if their SDK doesn't already support this) is to add what seems to be a very small change to their app logic.  And if Apple needs to tweak their SDK and/or Apple TV firmware to support this, then I suspect that it's a pretty small bit of logic there as well.

searching Netflix via any kind of connection sucks. can only find keywords in titles or actors. i like mysteries, so do millions of others. is there a mystery genre? no (not for iTunes either). search for the word "mystery" and you just get movies/shows with that in their title. which is <5% of them all.

 

but sure, having a physical or virtual keyboard to work with is best whenever text entry is needed. for the rest of the time, i programmed my IR remotes with the TV volume control - the one i use most often - to also replace the Apple TV IR remote buttons. Apple should have included volume controls on its remote too, but so far has failed to do so. having to use two IR remotes instead is clearly a second-rate UI.

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