Monday 7/29 was my lucky day. Right after I installed the Android 4.3 OTA update on my Nexus 7 (2012) I went to the mailbox and found a Google Chromecast. Here's my first impression of the Chromecast.
- The install is a breeze. I used the Chromecast setup app on the N7. I checked the setup website on my PC but got a message that maybe it wouldn't work because my OS isn't fully supported (I run Linux Mint). The install and setup took less than 10 minutes including fat fingering my WiFi password the first try.
- I didn't try Netflix yet, but YouTube and Google Play Music & Movies/TV work great on the N7. There is no way to cast from the Android Chrome browser yet.
- The Google Cast extension for Chrome on the PC is pretty much unusable for video. The video barely moves, more like a slide show, and the CPU usage goes through the roof. Despite the bad video the audio plays normally. The high CPU usage was mostly due to Chrome GPU processes. WiFi network usage wasn't too bad but then again not much video was actually being transmitted to the TV.
- When I chose full screen for the videos the TV screen would go black but the audio kept going. As soon as I exited full screen on the PC the picture reappeared. Don't know if this is a Chromecast or Linux problem. I tried several websites with video all with the same results.
- The video on the PC screen was also moving very slowly. It didn't seem to matter what quality I set in the Cast extension. 720p high bit rate, 720p and 480p are the three options.
- Pandora and Google Play Music websites cast OK. The album cover graphics moved very slowly on Play Music when I expanded them to the large size. CPU usage is medium to low. I didn't try Play Movies/TV web sites.
- I kept losing the connection between the PC and Chromecast when I tried to display pictures stored in the cloud. Both Google Drive and SkyDrive had problems. The rendering of the pictures on both the PC and TV was extremely slow.
- The YouTube website has a Chromecast icon right under the video on the bar with all the other controls. This works great. It automatically goes to full screen on the TV. No delays and good quality video with insync audio. Since the streaming is handed off to between the cloud and the Chromecast dongle on the TV, there is no CPU usage problem on the PC.
There will be other apps and websites that get native support. Pandora is already announced as coming soon. While Google Play Music & Movies/TV apps on Android have native support, the web sites don't yet have it. I'm hoping that the apparent popularity of the Chromecast will encourage many other app and website developers to add native support. I've already seen some articles that indicate this may already be happening.
Bottom line it was a worthwhile purchase. It's a bargain at $35 and I ordered mine while the three months free Netflix bonus was still in effect. That made the Chromecast price $11 plus tax and shipping. I bought it for YouTube access since that's one thing Roku doesn't stream. YouTube on the TV works great with the N7 and PC. I would have loved it if the casting from a Chrome browser tab worked but maybe some day. There are a lot of websites that have video I would like to watch on the big screen without using an HDMI cable between PC and TV. One small bonus was that the USB to Micro USB cable that came with the Chromecast is longer than the one that came with the Nexus 7. Since my TV has a USB outlet close to the HDMI connections I used the old N7 cable for that and now use the longer cable for charging the tablet. That gives me a little more slack for the times I need to charge and use at the same time. I also now have another AC to USB charging brick. Every little bit counts in the life of a geek.