Google's newest gadget, the Chromecast, is kind of a big deal despite coming in such a small package. It also has a small price tag: A whopping $35.
Its goal is simple: To help you consume entertainment in a very simple way. All you have to do is plug the Chromecast into a vacant HDMI port on your television, give it some power via its USB cable, connect it to your wireless Internet network and decide how you want to use it. The entire process takes all of five minutes.
Once you're ready to roll, you can use your portable device (such as tablets and phones) or your computer to beam content to the Chromecast, which then displays it on your television.
For instance, say you have Netflix on your phone and decide the screen is too small to do the movie justice. Simply hit the Cast button on your phone, which is built into the Netflix app, and whatever you're watching will now be displayed on your big screen. Your phone then turns into a remote control for what you're watching. It's the same idea for the computer, too.
Some apps and sites, like YouTube and Netflix, already have the Cast technology built in. This allows you to have a more user-friendly and seamless experience. There aren't any video or audio quality hiccups when using these Cast-enabled apps and sites.
However, using Chromecast to beam video from websites like ABC, NBC, Comedy Central and HBO Go can be disappointing. Even if you have a strong Wi-Fi connection, if you attempt to view content from a source that doesn't have Cast built in, you will experience a degradation of video and audio quality.
My wife and I tested the Chromecast at our house and at my parents' house, to rule out the option of poor Wi-Fi. While at our house, we tested the aforementioned sites and got nothing but lag and out-of-sync audio. While at my parents', we tried watching an episode of “Game of Thrones” using their HBO Go account and experienced the same thing: lag, and choppy video and audio.