Fun With Google Chromecast

I recently acquired a Google Chromecast device. I didn’t know what I planned to do with it, because I wasn’t even sure what it could do, but at $35 I had to play with it.

Turns out, it’s a pretty sweet little addition to the old home entertainment center although I’ve had to solve a few issues to put it to best use.

Connection Issues (ports/audio): My HDTV has two HDMI ports on it. The easiest way to plug it in was to use one of those, but unfortunately this meant no ability to run the audio out to my older, non-HDMI equipped, surround sound receiver. When I bought my TV, I neglected to check for audio output and (thanks Samsung) there is none, so how to get the sound to my receiver?

Solution: I bought two things on Amazon, an HDMI switcher and an HDMI audio extractor box. The switcher gave me three HDMI ports, which when connected to one of the two I already had, moved me up to a total of four ports. I hooked the Chromecast and my DVR up to the switcher so now I have a spare HDMI input on the TV and one on the switcher if I want to plug my laptop in. The audio extractor box takes an HDMI input and sends just the audio out to an optical Dolby 5.1 connection on my receiver. The signal then passes through to the TV. So, video on the TV, digital audio to the receiver, problem solved.

Once everything was connected there was the question of what to do with it. The obvious stuff, Netflix and YouTube, were no-brainers, but I started wondering what was the best way to accomplish local video streaming. I get a video file, say this week’s Formula 1 qualifying session as an MP4 file on my hard drive. I want to watch it on the TV, not the laptop.  I figured I’d need a video server or something.  Turns out, I can open Chrome, open a video file with “File->Open…”, and click the “Cast This Tab” button and it works.  Pretty effing cool.  I have a DLink router that can serve up media files to a web browser so that’s an even nicer solution, but not totally necessary.  The only glitches I’ve run into with the local video streaming are occasional audio synchronization slips.  They seem to self-correct after a minute or two at the most.

All in all, I’m pretty stoked about the Chromecast.  Downloaded video files, Netflix, YouTube, and web video like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are all now being happily watched via Chromecast.  I’d say it is a worthwhile addition to my home theater.  I recommend it.  🙂