From PC to HDTV via Google’s Chromecast

Lincoln Spector

Google has a new way to stream video from your PC or mobile device to your high-definition TV.

But its capabilities are relatively limited, and it leaves much to be desired — especially if you’re using a Windows PC.

You’ve probably heard of Chromecast (website), Google’s U.S. $35 HDTV dongle for Internet video streaming. Small and easy to install, the device lets you watch movies and television shows. You control it with your PC, tablet, or smartphone via your home network. It works with Windows (except RT), OS X, Linux, iOS, and — not surprisingly — Android.

After trying it with my Windows laptop, iPad, and Android phone, I can say it works — but the experience was — at least on a PC — far from pleasing.

Chromecast setup: Chroming your HDTV

At first glance, the Chromecast dongle looks like a common USB flash drive that’s eaten too much fatty food (see Figure 1). But in place of the usual USB connector, you find a standard HDMI plug.

Unlike USB, the HDMI interface doesn’t provide power to devices. So at the other end of the Chromecast dongle, you’ll find a micro USB port, used strictly to power the device. The kit comes with a cable and an AC adapter, allowing you to power the gadget from a wall socket or an open USB port on the TV.

Chromecast dongle

Figure 1. The compact Chromecast dongle connects to an open HDMI port on your TV.

After plugging the dongle into an open HDMI port on the TV and connecting the USB power cable, you then download a setup program onto your PC that will connect the device to your Wi-Fi network (see Figure 2). Finally, you install the required Google Chrome extension onto your PC — or download the Chromecast app to an Android or iOS device.

Wi-Fi connect app

Figure 2. A downloaded application connects the Chromecast device to a local Wi-Fi network.



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Lincoln Spector

About Lincoln Spector

Lincoln Spector writes about computers, home theater, and film and maintains two blogs: Answer Line at PCWorld.com and Bayflicks.net. His articles have appeared in CNET, InfoWorld, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications.