How good is the Google dongle?

images-2We often hear the phrase ‘streaming content’ – but what does it actually mean? If you catch your favourite programme via the BBC iPlayer or if you watch a YouTube video on your phone – you’re streaming content. In other words, watching something via the Internet.

But if you’re fed up with watching The Great British Bake Off via the BBC iPlayer app on your tablet or phone and want to watch it on a larger screen there are various options. Before Christmas we looked at Apple TV, Roku and Now TV boxes , and last week Google entered this market with their much-anticipated ‘Chromecast’, so we thought we’d have a look and see how it compares.

The Chromecast is a ‘dongle’ (looks like a USB stick), not a box like the others, so it tucks neatly behind your TV and it’s small enough to pop into your pocket if you’re travelling.

images-4To set up the Chromecast, just connect it to a HDMI port on your TV. It also needs a power source, which you can either get using a USB connection on the TV or use a regular power socket.

Next you need to connect to your local wi-fi network, and then you’re ready to start streaming (or ‘casting’). Chromecast doesn’t have it’s own remote, instead you can download an app (for free) to your phone or tablet, or even use the Chrome browser on your laptop.

The Chromecast is pretty good value at £30 – Roku are about to launch their ‘streaming stick’ for £50 – but the selection of content that you can stream is quite limited at the moment. It gives you access to BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube, plus lots of other channels you’re unlikely to watch (unless you’re especially keen on Korean movies).

You can use Chromecast to view your own content, like videos you took on your phone, but you’ll need to install another app to your mobile device so it’s a bit fiddly. If you’re an Android user you can stream films from your Google Play account, in the same way that you can watch iTunes films through Apple TV or Sky Movies through a Roku box.

imagesSo what’s the verdict on Chromecast? If you’re an Android user with lots in your Google Play library, it’s pretty good, with great picture quality. It can’t do all the things that the competitors can – yet – but being a Google product, new apps will inevitably change that before too long. If you’re an Apple devotee, then go for Apple TV because it’ll talk nicely to all your other devices. If you really just want BBC iPlayer, Netflix and 4oD, Roku looks like the best bet – wait till April 21st for their new stick.

If you’re still wondering about the best way to smarten up your TV, get in touch and we’ll be happy to chat through the options.

This week’s blog has been written by our newest Tipster, Graeme Young.

The perfect night in

With the winter nights at their longest, it’s the perfect time of year to stay in and watch a movie. These days all you need to watch the latest releases is a broadband connection and a tiny set-top box.

Apple TVIf you have an Apple iPad or iPhone, then the obvious choice is the Apple TV. This little black box costs £99 and connects to the Internet by wi-fi. Movies from Apple are a little bit pricey, but there is a good selection and you only pay for what you watch. There are also other TV services such as Netflix available on a subscription basis.

Roku screenIf you’re not an Apple person, then a better option might be Roku. These set-top boxes start at £50 and, in addition to Netflix and BBC iPlayer, offer Sky Movies for £9 a month with the Sky Sports channels on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Both Apple and Roku also let you play your own music, photos and home movies on your TV from your phone or tablet. However, if that sounds like a feature you’ll never use, then the best deal of all is Sky’s own Now TV box. This is actually last year’s Roku box with a few features stripped out. Unlike its rivals it’s not full HD, but it only costs £10, so you could have an Apple TV and a Now TV for the ultimate Now TVchoice of movies.

All of these options only stream content from the Internet. If you want to record your own programmes then you’ll need a bigger, more expensive set-top box such as YouView, which also gives you access to BT Sport.

Happy viewing!