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chromecast first impressions

18 Dec 2013

2013-12-18 00:53:31 -0600

chromecast crashing / rebooting

(Update is at the bottom.)

First, it crashes. A lot. In the first, oh I don't know, 20-30 minutes of playing with it, I got it to crash probably at least 6 times when trying to play stuff off youtube.

At this point, I'm not sure if it's certain videos that tend to make it crash happy or what, but it's quite annoying and frustrating.

It doesn't take terribly long for it to reboot, but then you have to "refresh" whatever app you're using to control it so that it refinds the chromecast and tries to stream again. It's like a 30-60 second reset in total probably.

I got it to crash both when controlled from the ipad and when controlled from the chrome browser on a desktop.

Oddly enough, I'm not finding anything relevant doing searches for "chromecast reboots" or "chromecast crashes". That just seems weird. Even if it's not widespread, I would think that there would be something.

So here's one thing I'm trying:

I'm hooking the chromecast up to the power supply instead of the random USB port on my TV

Depending on how long it takes me to write these first impressions, maybe I'll know if that seems to have fixed things. Previously, I was surprised to find that it booted up just fine when plugged into the TV's USB service port. Frankly, I have no idea what the port is for (service, duh), but perhaps it's not providing reliable power to the chromecast.

chromecast power usage

While we're on the subject of power, according to my monitor, it's using about 1.9 watts.

Let's compare that to things I know:

I've had power bricks that consumed more power with the device off than the chromecast uses when it's fully running.

chromecast confusion

I knew the chromecast only supported a few things and that it had to be remote controlled by a computer/tablet/smart phone, but I guess I was assuming that it would have the apps built in and that the remote control device would basically be just that... a remote control.

But instead, the user experience is much more that you have the apps installed on your computer/tablet/phone and then you hit the cast button to send it to your chromecast as though the chromecast is just some dumb device.

Here's why this matters. Maybe I'm an idiot, but I have no clue how to access what the chromecast is currently playing when I switch devices or even when I close the tab. I apparently have to send a new video or whatever and then I'll be able to control the chromecast again.

So in practice, you can't turn off your remote control device when you use the chromecast because you'll lose the ability to do anything basically other than pause (if using chrome on a computer) or just start something completely new.

Okay, now that I've been playing with netflix, it appears that it is possible to resume with netflix on the ipad. This doesn't appear to work for the computer though. For one, if you close the netflix tab on the computer, it immediately stops playing. However, on the ipad, I was able to kill the app then relaunch it and it showed a bar at the top of the screen indicating what was currently playing on the chromecast.

I haven't figured out if this is possible with the youtube app. The fact that it's possible with the netflix app though gives me hope that it will eventually be supported on the youtube app as well. Until then, if I'm watching anything of length on youtube, I'll just have to make sure I keep my remote control active.

Update: I did figure out how to access what's currently playing via the youtube app on the ipad. I still have no idea how to access that from the computer though (other than the limited pause/play functionality in the chromecast extension).

chromecast advertisements

I can't say for certain yet, but it appears that if you're doing adblock on your computer, then you won't have ads when you cast on the chromecast.

At this point, I haven't messed with playlists to see if those would insert ads, but it's also been long enough since I've seen ads on youtube, that I wouldn't even know which videos are supposed to have them.

update on the rebooting / crashing

So it appears that the USB port on my TV was indeed to blame.

I've had a hiccup once or twice since putting it on the power adapter, but no full crashes/reboots like before. So I'm happy.

overall thoughts

The chromecast will be sharing a single HDMI port on my TV with 3 other devices now.

How I've got things setup at the moment is that I have an HDMI cable coming out of the hard-to-reach port on the TV. It connects to a coupler, and then I just plug whatever I want to use into the coupler.

It cost a grand total of $9 (cost of coupler plus an extra HDMI cable) which is cheaper than the $30-$50 I would've paid for a highly rated HDMI switch on Amazon. Also, now I'm not screwed if I managed to underestimate how many ports I needed and bought too "small" of an HDMI switch.

At this point though, I could see this thing possibly being the "default" thing that I leave plugged in. Ya know, like maybe after I'm using X device, I'd just plug the chromecast back in for easy access later. We'll see though.

When I bought the chromecast, I imagined I'd mostly use it to watch longer videos like conference talks and tv shows (like random spanish and french stuff).

I had previously tried doing the same thing with my ps3 (months ago though so maybe it's been fixed) and it would often "crash" during a presentation and act as though it had played the full video. Given that I would have no clue how far into the video I was, it was quite annoying and basically lead to me giving up on it.

Now that I appear to have solved the reboot issues, the experience of using this thing has been much nicer.

I'm still disappointed that there doesn't appear to be any way to resume what you're playing from a computer but maybe I haven't found it yet. I am happy to have figured it out on the ipad though, so at least the possibility exists on a computer.

I was able to pick the chromecast up for $25+tax, and I would say I'm happy with it at that price. If it were the price of an apple tv though, no way. Which I think is basically the common sentiment with this device: the relatively cheap price makes it a worthwhile purchase.