If you haven’t experienced Netflix on TV, you’re missing out. Netflix’s growing library of content shouldn’t be restricted to small laptop screens, especially when your at home. Without a game console, Tivo, Apple TV or Roku (all of which stream Netflix), I used to hook up a computer to my TV. I was somewhat unwilling to pay ATV’s or Roku’s $100 price tag for the ability to stream Netflix to the TV when I’ve been doing it for ages with a computer. But once I tried Google’s $35 Chromecast, there was no going back, and price wasn’t the only reason…
1. Smooth Playback
Playback from a media streamer, such as Chromecast, is much, much smoother than a computer’s browser. I used Transformers: DSOTM‘s opening scene to compare playback between a computer and the Chromecast: computer playback was choppy and blurry, and basically became unwatchable after experiencing the same scene on the Chromecast. And it’s not like I used some old dust collecting laptop running Windows ME; I tried a high-performance gaming rig and a Macbook Pro, which you would expect to work flawlessly. However, it seems that Silverlight (the browser plugin used by Netflix to stream video on a web-browser) is holding these high-power machines back.
2. Picture Quality
While Netflix only streams in 720p from a computer’s web browser, it streams in 1080p on the Chromecast. You may have thought 720p was decent enough, but you’ll notice the 1080p difference if your TV is more than 40″. Colors are much deeper and brighter, and details much sharper. It should be noted that Netflix is delivering “SuperHD” 1080p content to its Windows 8 app because it is using HTML5 rather than rubbish Silverlight.
3. Convenience, Clutter-free
Google’s Chromecast won’t magically clean up the tangled hell-storm behind your TV, but it won’t add to it, either. Doing away with the HDMI cable, it cleverly plugs right into one of the HDMI ports at the back of your TV. You might even forget it’s there. However, it’s not totally cable free since it’s powered via micro-USB; apparently it can’t draw enough power from the HDMI connection. However, it can draw power from your TV’s USB socket, which frees up a spot on your power-strip.
Also, the Chromecast doesn’t use a remote, which you might count as clutter, and leads us to reason 4…
4. Ease of Use
Google claims that “you won’t have to learn anything new,” and it’s true. You do the same thing you’ve been doing to watch Netflix on your phone, tablet or computer. You just need to download the Chromecast app for mobile devices and/or the plugin for Chrome. These will add an icon (pictured below) that you click and select to watch on the Chromecast. You can also cast a tab from the Chrome browser to your TV, which is neat, but response time is laggy and video quality is pretty poor.
5. Size and Price
You can take this thing anywhere; a friend’s place, another room at home, grandparent’s house, hotel room… anywhere with a TV and Wi-Fi connection. However, there is no support abroad, which is the same deal for anyone with a Netflix account.
$35 vs $100 to watch Netflix on TV? Nuff said. For $35, the Chromecast’s limited channel lineup (compared to Apple TV and Roku 3) could be excused. So far, Chromecast only streams Netflix, YouTube and HuluPlus. Those with HBO (or leech off friend’s/family’s HBO accounts) will have to wait for an undisclosed amount of time, but an HBO GO channel is apparently in the works.
Some Room For Improvement
Browsing for something to watch on a relatively small phone, tablet or computer screen with other people is less practical than browsing on nice, big TV.
It was almost impossible to make small, accurate movements on the timeline to scroll to a specific point in a video using a smartphone’s small screen.
Understanding that it is a Google product, it only streams Netflix and other channels (YouTube and HuluPlus) from the Chrome browser if your going to use the computer; not really a big deal but Firefox, IE and Safari support would be nice for everyone.