The ability to mirror iPad and iPhone screens on HD TVs is well known, thanks to the AirPlay function used in tandem with an Apple TV. Users of smartphones and tablet computers running Google's Android operating system can accomplish the same thing using Google's Chromecast.
Chromecast is a $69 media streaming device that plugs into the HDMI port on your television to cast your favourite TV shows, films, music, sport, games and even mobile apps.
As well as Android smartphones and tablets and Google Chromebooks, Chromecast also works with Apple's iPhone, iPad and Mac computers, and Windows laptops.
Without reading the instructions I simply plugged the Chromecast into the HDMI port of my TV, plugged in the Chromecast's power adapter, turned it on, and hey prestro, it worked immediately, no fuss, no drama.
I then installed the Google Cast app on my Android phone, linked the Chromecast to my wifi, and bam, my dumb TV shipped from the UK immediately became smart, and the streaming TV world was at my fingertips from the comfort of my very own living room. Imagine being able to watch Darth Vader's Imperial Stormtroopers boogie on Britain's Got Talent on demand.
The Chromecast is incredibly small, the size of a USB stick, the power adapter is bigger than the actual unit, and can be powered from a USB port or wall socket. Given the capability of the Chromecast to add extra functionality to an old dumb TV, or simply mirror your small portable device on a big screen, the price tag is very modest.
Being so small the portability and ease of use of this device makes is great for taking anywhere.
There is no cheap plastic controller to break or lose, and operating directly from my phone is ideal. The software links with other apps like NetFlix and YouTube to make watching TV a breeze. I fluffed around for ages trying to cast an MP4 file from my PC to the TV, eventually realising that all I needed to do was drag and drop the file into my Chrome browser and it can be cast directly without requiring an additional player. It's also possible to mirror your smartphone screen, or a tab from your desktop computers browser.
I set up another Android tablet with the Google Cast app, using the kids Netflix profile, but was surprised when another Android tablet could control the Chromecast also, playing cartoons from the YouTube for Kids app which has the cast function as part of the app. There are many apps available that are Chromecast compatible.
I foresee tablet battles for control of the Chromecast!
If you'd rather play music instead of video, popular streaming apps like Spotify and Google Music are supported as well. Speed wise I can't fault it, it loads and plays without any buffering delays.
Best update my broadband subscription to unlimited data or I'll pay more for this month's additional usage charge than for the actual Chromecast unit.
Check it out at google.com/chromecast