Google Chromecast 2015: Puck-on-a-string fun ... why not, for £30?

Streamer, you know you are a streamer

Kit and caboodle

Many apps now support Chromecast, among them Netflix, Now TV, Sport, Google Play (natch), YouTube (ditto) and a host more from no-name developers – on the iOS side, many of them from the kinds of Chinese coders caught by last month’s Xcode hack, so some pre-download caution is due.

Google Chromecast 2015

Chromecast configuration overview

Google makes its iOS and Android Chromecast SDK readily available so there’s really no excuse for a content provider not allowing their app to ‘cast’.

Apple and Amazon naturally irritate by insisting you play with their toys and no one else’s, but that’s DRM and customer-loathing business practices for you. Prime Minister Corbyn will sort them out...

While mobile apps source material for Chromecast, and control playback, they don’t actually play the material. In fact, all a mobile app does is tell Chromecast where the content is being served from and what app of its own should be run to display that content.

Chromecast has a default ‘receiver’ app, but content providers and app developers can build their own if they want to display their own branding and/or UI. Receivers are lightweight apps hosted by Google and built out of HTML5 and JavaScript.

Google Chromecast 2015

Make your choices from a mobile device and then hand it over to the big screen

When the ‘sender’ app – the one running on the phone or tablet – connects to a Chromecast to play a file, it sends the file’s location and the ID of the receiver app that needs to be run first. The rest is just HTTP streaming from source to Chromecast.

The upshot is that unless you’re using an app which allows you to play a video format not natively supported by Chromecast, your mobile device shouldn’t be taxed by Chromecast usage. Which is good news if your phone has poor battery life.

Playing unsupported formats requires on-the-fly video conversion, and your mobile will have to do that. Chromecast supports many popular containers and codecs, including MP4, AAC, MP3, WAV, FLAC and Vorbis, but MKV and AVI files are out, I’m afraid. You can read the full list here.

Google Chromecast 2

Content provider: the HDMI and USB cables combine to act as an extender now

Apps such as BBC iPlayer send Chromecast off to their own sites for content, but a number of third-party apps will do local streaming, either from the mobile itself (bear in mind the proviso above) or a shared drive on the network.

All my stuff is in MP4 format anyway, so I had no trouble streaming locally, whether playing standard-definition or high-definition footage, either 720p or 1080p HD. The material looked good and certainly on a par with my Slice media player.

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