Tag Archives: google

Google Chromecast (2015) review

Welcome to another review from me. This time we’re taking a look at the actual Chromecast.

Background

I bought this because I enjoyed the simplicity and ease of use of its audio counterpart, and I wanted a way to turn my TV that isn’t smart, smart. This seemed like the easiest way to do it, rather than buying a hole new TV, or buying say, an apple TV. Sorry this review has taken so long to put together, but I’ve been away at college and I don’t have a TV there, plus the network restrictions make things like a Chromecast a pain to use there, so I just got it delivered home. I bought it on black Friday as Google were doing an offer where you got £20 google play credit when you bought one. Plus, it’s 30 quid for a little disk with an HDMI connector that means I can watch Netflix on TV. How can you not?

The box is pretty much the same as the Chromecast audio’s; same design, and the Chromecast is presented the same. The difference between the two is that the Chromecast has a permanently attached little HDMI cable, and the audio has grooves on it, like a vinyl. Under the Chromecast, you have the power adapter with quite a long micro USB cable.

Setup was just as easy at it should be. Plug in to TV, plug in power, switch TV to HDMI, open the Chromecast app and follow the instructions to add a new device. On my phone, like with the Chromecast audio, I had to join a network it had created to get the app to interface with it at first. As soon as that was done, I gave it a name, turned off guest mode, made sure the time and country were right, and joined it to my network. At this point, a small video played on the TV telling me a few things I could do with it, and telling me that I was all ready to go.
The Chromecast app told me I had 3 video apps that were castable, these were BBC iPlayer, Netflix and youtube. I loaded up Youtube, and the TV icon appeared and I connected straight up, found a video, hit play and it started playing out of the TV. You can even make a queue with youtube, and it’ll just play through your videos.

Review

So I started using it on Saturday, and it’s now Monday and I can say I bloody love the thing. Almost as most as I love its audio counterpart. I love how easy it is to load up the Netflix application, find your Chromecast, and watch Netflix on the big screen. I like that the audio described programs are not exempt from casting, (I’m watching house of cards at the minute), and it just goes up their straight away, no problem. This is also true of shows from the iPlayer. Getting audio described programs to play when already connected to the Chromecast on Netflix on iOS can be a bit tricky, as the elements to do this are not currently labeled, nor are any of the controls that are on screen; voiceover sees them, there’s just no label so it’s hard to tell where you are. On my Nexus however, all of this is labeled. I have contacted Netflix to see if they can resolve this. I haven’t tried it yet, but the Chromecast app on my nexus tells me that All4 (channel 4’s catch up service) also supports casting.
I really like the design of the Chromecast, but its glossy finish leads me to believe that it’ll be a fingerprint magnet, but as it’s designed to be one of those things that you set up and leave, I’m not too worried about that. I would have liked to see a removable HDMI cable, even if it was just a small one though, because if you don’t have space for the Chromecast to hang where your HDMI port is, you are going to need a HDMI extender, which I think google do sell, but still. Plus, if that plug breaks, you’ve pretty much got to buy yourself another Chromecast. I do however, like the length of micro USB cable you get with the device, just in case your sockets are quite a way from your TV. I like the idea of the backdrop as you if you have photos stored on google photos, flicker or Facebook, you can have the Chromecast shuffle these. I don’t have it connected to any of these services, and just have it display photos from around the web, and different landscapes and works of art, ETC.

Final thoughts

I personally love what Google are doing with the Chromecast line of products. I’ve always liked the idea of the Chromecast, but I wasn’t too sure about the design of the first generation, so I’m glad they’ve completely redesigned it. On my TV, the HDMI port is recessed slightly on the side with all the other ports, so the Chromecast just hangs there. My last thoughts, I think the Chromecast range is a way of smartening up your older not so smart technology that doesn’t need to be replaced as it’s still fully functional on the cheap. Hats off to Google.
You can pick up your own Chromecast from the Google store, or if you’re in the UK I do believe Curries stock them.
Thanks for reading!

My review: Chromecast audio

When google announced this little box of tricks that connected to your speakers and turned any normal system into a fully connected one, I was intrigued to try it out.
I’m going to run through getting it out the box, setting it up and how I find the range of apps available. My main one that I will be using though is spotify connect however I will me trying out other services like google music.

Google music

Speaking of Google music, I’ve been having a bit of trouble with uploading my own collection. The music manager application is completely inaccessible to mac and windows users due to the way its designed and built. I tried the web app for chrome and on mac it’s a little bit difficult as chrome isn’t the best of browsers to get around, but I managed to get a few tracks uploaded. However, I tried uploading a big folder but I can’t see the status of the upload; progress, ETC. Anyway, back to the main point of this post.

Unboxing

It’s a very nice google style box; the same type (just a bit smaller) that my nexus came in. You don’t get a lot in the box but the device itself is presented first. If you don’t know what one looks like, it’s a small round disk, with grooves on it like a vinyl.
A picture of the Chromecast audio
It has an input for the micro USB cable, a 3.5 output jack and a button which I think resets the device although I’m not sure. Surrounding the device in the box is a small 3.5MM to 3.5MM cable; trust me it’s small. Once you’ve lifted the device out there is a very nice power adapter and a longer usb to micro USB cable then I was expecting. Good quality as well. And that’s it.
Setup was the easiest thing I think I’ve ever done, plug the device in to power and your system, choose add a device in the Chromecast app, choose Chromecast audio, join the WiFi network it has created, play a test tone, enter a name, join your WiFi and then you’re ready to start casting things. It is as simple as that.
Of the apps I had installed on my phone, I could cast from: Google play music, spotify and TuneIn radio.

First impressions and review

Spotify was my first choice as it’s the service I use the most and pay for. I loaded up a playlist, hit the button to choose a spotify connect device and my Chromecast appeared straight away. One double-tap, and pleasing tone later, music stopped playing from my phone and through my speakers. Honestly it was so easy I found myself thinking “surely it can’t be this simple”, but it really is.

I went into the Chromecast app just to play around and see what settings I could tweak and fchange. You can change the name of your device, the WiFi network, timezone, time format, language, turn the feedback sounds on and off, turn on and off guest mode (more that in a bit) and turn on something google is calling “high dynamic range, for AVRs and HiFi systems”. I turned this on as I had it connected to my 2.1 system at the time and it made one hell of a difference. Before it sounded a bit flat and boring but this made the sound louder and boosted all the frequencies. As I write this (not at the time of posting) I’ve got it connected to our sound bar playing a spotify station and the ‘high dynamic range’ is making a big difference there as well. I then moved on to tune in because I thought “Hey! £35 internet radio!” But alas, this was not to be had. Every station I tried to cast brought up an error saying that I couldn’t cast it. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to use this as a radio but Spotify is good enough.
Screenshot of error in TuneIn radio
I also tried a couple of tracks that I had stored in my google music library and no problem there, tap cast and they start playing. I also just tried Rdio and the app is a little bit difficult to get around but I managed to get that playing through the Chromecast audio no problem.

I would like to see more apps, e.g. it would be nice to have an app that could cast your music stored on your phone, but I suppose google users have that with play music. Also, Google did try and get Apple music support on board but it never came through. I have yet to try this with android but as soon as I do I will be back with my experience.

Verdict

It’s a lovely little device that works like a dream, as long as you have a Rdio or SPotify subscription or are a google play music user. It does exactly what it says on the tin though, it’s turned my speakers from boring offline speakers to WiFi-enabled ones that I can play Spotify one without paying over the odds for a dedicated streamer or something like a Sonos system.
Thanks for reading, and keep watching out for more reviews in the future.
Thanks!

Why I chose to buy a nexus7

Hello there, and welcome to my second blog post on this blog.

In this one, I have decided to talk about why I bought a nexus7. I’ll be talking about why I think it’s a good device, how I use it, and my experience with it.

the background

If you know me, you’ll know I’m in to apple. Well, I have an iPod, an iPhone, and a mac. So you’d think when I went on the hunt for a tablet my first thought you have been the iPad or the iPad mini.

There’s a reason I go with apple: there stuff is reliable and is of a good quality (hardware and software).
But, as you’ve probably guessed by the title of this post, I didn’t go for the iPad. I had heard a lot about android accessibility in the past few months, and I really wanted to give it a go. Plus, I’d gotten a little bit stagnant with iOS. Yeah, it’s good, but if I got an iPad, it would be the same stuff, just on a bigger screen. So, I started looking at nexus7’s on eBay. I liked the idea of a 7 inch screen, as I can still hold it with one hand and be comfortable.
I also wanted something to watch catch up TV on besides the mac who wasn’t really accessible.

It took me ages to find a 2012 nexus 7 for less than £150, but I eventually won one.
The day it arrived was an exciting day. I had to get someone sited to look at it for me though, and it turns out the person who’d I bought it from hadn’t reset it to factory defaults, and had left it locked with a pattern. I googled on how to reset it to factory settings without gaining access, and to cut a long story short, managed to reset it.

what next

This was exciting for me, so I turn on accessibility set it up, and then updated it to android version 4.4, it being on 4.2.
I started playing with it, downloading apps and what not, (I should add that I had looked up the talkback gestures beforehand and they’re similar to iOS, so I knew how to get around) (The explore by touch tutorial also helped).

let’s jump a few months

so, that was all in January, and it’s now June. What are my thoughts now? Personally? I’m still in love with the thing.

However, I managed to crack the screen on my 2012 model, so sold it to my dad who decided he would get it fixed, and I bought the 2013 model on eBay instead for a similar price to what I’d paid for the 2012. That was in April.
I’m still in love with it, and use it every day. I use it to watch a whole host of things: netflics, BBC iPlayer, 4OD and demand five content. I also use it to watch the Sky go and TV catch-up services. Sky go providing a live TV and catch-up service.
I also use it to do a whole host of social activities, including skyping family and friends, using google hangouts, and using Facebook and twitter.
I am also able to get around the unlabelled buttons and elements in the Spotify app quite nicely, although I have contacted them, and they have replied saying that they are going to pass my message on to the development team.
My nexus has also replaced my Kindle device for reading, even though it is reading with the eloquence TTS, it’s still pretty good.
Yeah, you read right, I got the Eloquence TTS synth for my nexus. I did this because I wanted to know how it would perform and whether I would actually like it. The answer, I do. It reminds me of the talks on Symbian days and it’s actually quite responsive.

so there must be some downfalls with it?

Well I’m not going to lie here; there are a few little gripes that irritate me. The two strongest ones being that I can’t access my iTunes match subscription on there, which I could fix by getting google play music, but the music manager is inaccessible for both windows and mac.
My other really big gripe is the presence of Facebook chat heads where ever I am. I hate these as they get in my way, and they enable anyone who picks up my tablet to see who I’ve been chatting with. According to lots of googling, there used to be a setting to turn these off but it was removed. My solution for this at the moment is to move them right to the edge of the screen so they don’t get in my way.
There’s a stupid gripe that I have, and I’m not really sure why I complain about this because I know it’ll never happen, but it irritates me a little bit that my tablet doesn’t receive iMessages when my mac, iPhone and iPod do. There’s a simple solution to this, which is by an iPad or iPad mini but they’re outside my price range so that’s something I’ll have to live with.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I believe that android is now a very viable option to buy accessibility wise. It still has its downfalls, that being that there isn’t as many accessibility oriented apps or games for the blind and visually impaired, however if you’re looking for something that will let you watch some catch up TV, do some skyping, and some tweet and facebooking, or you’re just looking for a device that you can try android on, the nexus7 (2012 or 2013) is a great device for beginners.
The 2013 model comes in two sizes (16 and 32 GB), and can be purchased new for around £150 on amazon for the 16 GB, or £180 for the 32 GB.
I hope you’ve found this post useful in some way shape or form.
If you would like to add anything or ask me any questions, please either drop a comment in the comments below, or drop me a line through the contact page.
Thanks for reading.