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It sold out within hours of launching, despite limited app support (the only non-Google app supported at launch was Netflix). It looks like a pudgy flash drive. But what is the Google Chromecast? And why should you order one now?
Chromecast is, to put it simply, a way to beam content to your television. You choose content in an app (such as Netflix) or a Google Chrome browser tab, tap the "Cast" button, and it appears on your screen.
The most popular use, initially, will almost certainly be beaming Netflix and YouTube videos. And for that, it works flawlessly, assuming your Wi-Fi network is reliable. But the device also has a number of practical uses that could make this every lawyer or traveling businessperson's best friend:
Browser Tab to Television (Setup)
For now, third-party support for the device is minimal. We'd definitely expect that to change, especially considering the popularity of the device.
Instead of waiting for apps, you can take advantage of the ability to beam anything from a Google Chrome browser tab to the Chromecast device.
First, plug Chromecast into the nearest available television, monitor, or projector. Connect it, and your laptop (tablet and smartphone browser-casting is coming soon) to the Wi-Fi network. Use the Google Cast extension to beam a browser tab to the big screen.
Also coming soon: casting your entire screen, tabs or no tabs. While the feature currently exists, it's extremely experimental and Google warns that it will probably crash.
Need to make a presentation on the road? Open your presentation in a Google Chrome browser tab. (For PowerPoint, Office Web Apps is your best bet for near-flawless presentation through the browser.) Beam it.
Trust us: It is even more simple than it sounds.
Earlier this week, we sang the praises of secure, simple WebRTC, which allows you to videoconference with no plug-ins, no software, and no logins. It's a simple as opening the site in your browser and sharing the link with your friend.
See where we're going with this? Beam that tab to your television and you'll have instant video chat on a massive screen, which is great for beaming a coworker in to a group meeting. Here is the concept in action:
A warning is necessary though: Because casting from the Chrome browser is still in beta mode, videos sometimes lag and audio falls out of sync. We'd expect this to clear up in future updates, and of course, the performance will vary greatly depending on your Internet connection. CNET has a number of great tips to improve performance on slower connections.
It's $35, so yes, if you can find one, buy it ASAP. As is, it's a useful yet limited tool. When full screen mirroring and third-party support arrive, it'll be the road warrior's best friend.