Google clearly caught the public’s imagination on Wednesday when it introduced Chromecast — the $35 dongle that can turn any TV with an HDMI port, and access to Wi-Fi, into a smart TV. Plug it in, and you can access YouTube, Netflix and other media, including music and photos from your computer, phone, or tablet. The device is already sold out on Google Play, Amazon, and Best Buy. (You can find it for about $45 on eBay, though.) And Google has exhausted its allotment of promotions that gave early Chromecast buyers three months of Netflix for free. So is Google’s new product worth all this excitement? Several critics who have tried it say that it is — but mostly because its cheaper than alternatives such as Apple TV and Roku. It “works as advertised, and it makes me feel like I’m a little further into the future,” The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal says. “For $35, that’s a good deal.” Wired’s Mat Honan says that images don’t show that Chromecast needs to draw power from either a USB port or an outlet. Still, he’s “pretty blown away by how easy, versatile, and inexpensive this is. Given the low, low price … it’s really hard not to like.”PC Magazine made it an Editor’s Choice, with a rating of four out of five — again, mostly because of the price. “If the Chromecast cost as much as the Apple TV (or even half as much), it would compare more poorly,” Will Greenwald says. But CNET editors were less impressed, giving Chromecast three stars out of five. They complain that “there are no dedicated apps for many major services (including Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Spotify, Rdio, and MLB.TV), no dedicated TV interface for standalone use, no support for personal media sitting on your devices … and the awesome-sounding screen-mirroring feature ends up being entirely underwhelming in practice. Basically, you can stream Netflix, YouTube, and a couple of Google services; $35 feels about right.”
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