The small dongle that stole the show last Thursday at Google’s morning event was the Chromecast. In the interest of time, we’re not going to go too much into it because of two reasons: it’s not officially available in Malaysia, and it has been sold out on Amazon.
There are quite a number of devices these days that aims to bridge the gap between the web and your living room TV; Apple TV, homegrown EMAGINE, Android-in-a-stick ‘Android mini PC RK3188‘, or even a gaming console like the Xbox. Yes, most modern TVs these days have apps like YouTube or Plex, but controlling the interface is usually a clunky affair. Apple TV is great, but only if you’re already tied to its ecosystem.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could ‘push’ contents from your computer or phone straight to the TV? This is where the Chromecast comes in.
It is a small little dongle that resembles a flash drive but instead plugs into the TV directly via HDMI. It has a USB port on the other end for power, but that’s it. It runs on a version of Android, and content is delivered via Wi-Fi.
This essentially turns any regular TV with an HDMI port into a smart TV where the interface can be controlled by your computer or a mobile device. In theory, even if the TV doesn’t have an HDMI-in port, it can still be plugged into an A/V receiver to pipe in the signal.
As far as I understand it, it could work in a few ways. The first is by mirroring content that’s on your Chrome tab with the ‘Google Cast’ Chrome extension, and that includes full web pages. When trying to playback web videos, instead of streaming it through DLNA, the computer is actually just sending the instructions to Chromecast and it independently streams it itself. Only Flash videos are supported at this point, and not Silverlight nor QuickTime.
Secondly, this allows Chromecast-supported Android apps like YouTube, Google Play Music and Netflix to have a share button that could push videos to the TV. Work’s on iOS’ YouTube and Netflix apps too.
Lastly, Google also released an SDK and developers like Koush has already whipped up a simple app to use Android’s share mechanism to push (possibly via DLNA) video files straight to the TV.
I was too late to check whether Amazon ships the Chromecast to Malaysia; I’m guessing no. It costs just US$35 (RM113.52), however has already been sold out. One of the cheapest found on eBay is going for around RM190 currently, however the shipping costs around RM90 more.