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Hands on: Australian Chromecast

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Gadgets on the go

Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian freelance technology journalist with a passion for gadgets and the "digital lounge room".

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Google's Chromecast streaming media player, officially available in Australia for $49.

Google's Chromecast streaming media player, officially available in Australia for $49. Photo: Bloomberg

It's simple to set up, but don't expect Google's Chromecast to offer easy access to Netflix.

Thankfully the VPN and IP routing table tricks do work with the Australian Chromecast, so Australians can still get their Netflix fix. 

One of the internet's worst kept secrets, Google has officially launched the Chromecast in Australia – months after expanding from the US into Europe. With a local asking price of $49, the Chromecast is available from the Australian Google Play store as well as retailers Dick Smith and JB Hi-Fi.

Setting up the Chromecast is simple, because it's nothing more than an HDMI dongle with a micro-USB port for power. Just connect it to your television and to a power source, either a USB port on your television or a power point via the supplied AC adaptor.

The Chromecast boots up quickly and generates its own Wi-Fi hotspot, which you can join and then use the Chromecast app to configure the device. All this involves is waiting for a quick software update, specifying your country and connecting the Chromecast to your home Wi-Fi network (no 5GHz support unfortunately, only 2.4GHz).

Once your Chromecast is connected to your home network, the Chromecast streaming icon appears in compatible smartphone and tablet apps – not unlike Apple's AirPlay icon. You simply tap the Chromecast icon and select your desired player from the dropdown menu. The Chromecast doesn't come with a remote control, it's totally dependent on another device to stream content to it. This is either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you want to access online entertainment.  

Chromecast-capable apps can stream in the background while you do something else with your handheld device. You can even stream from multiple apps to multiple Chromecasts simultaneously, but one app can't stream to multiple Chromecasts in sync so it's not really viable as a multiroom audio system.

So in a land without Netflix, what do Australians get for their money? Foxtel's Presto, Quickflix and the ABC's iView have all officially committed to adding Chromecast support to their apps in the coming months. Presto is also preparing to release an Android app in July, while Quickflix is targeting the Apple TV.

You'll already find Chromecast support built into Google's Play Music & TV, Play Music and YouTube apps – which are available for both Android and Apple devices. You can also stream video from these sites via the Chrome browser on a desktop computer. Alternatively you can mirror any Chrome tab, although this feature is still in beta and the streaming quality is hit and miss.

A handful of other apps already support Chromecast streaming, such as Plex, Rdio and Crackle. More should come with time, as Google says 3000 developers have signed up for the Chromecast program. The streaming video quality from some online services is exceptional, because the Chromecast often takes a direct stream from the internet once your handheld device has established the initial connection.

Of course it's the lure of Netflix, HuluPlus and HBO GO which is likely to attract some Australians, but unfortunately sneaking into these foreign services using an Australian Chromecast isn't as simple as we'd hoped.

The first-generation Chromecast was only sold in the US, but many found their way to Australia. Tricking that Chromecast into thinking it still resided in the land of the free and the home of the brave wasn't as easy as tricking a computer, mobile device, Apple TV or game console. Signing up for a DNS workaround such as Unblock US or UnoTelly didn't do the job, as you can't change the DNS settings on the Chromecast. Changing the settings in your broadband modem didn't help either, because the first-generation Chromecasts were hardwired to Google's DNS servers.

One way to get Netflix running in Australia on the first-gen Chromecast was to run both the Chromecast and your playback device behind a US-based virtual private network (VPN). Another way was to create a "static route" – configuring your modem's IP routing tables to block access to Google's DNS servers. This saw the Chromecast fall back on the servers you'd specified, such as Unblock US. Unfortunately not all modems let you edit IP routing tables and create static routes, so this trick isn't available to everyone.

After mixed reports regarding the batch of Chromecasts released in Europe earlier this year, there was hope that Australian Chromecasts wouldn't be hardwired to Google's DNS services. Unfortunately a simple modem-level DNS workaround such as Unblock US doesn't work on Australian Chromecasts, they still refuses to stream video from Netflix running on a nearby device. The Chromecast launches the Netflix client but doesn't get past the spinning progress wheel.

Thankfully the VPN and static route tricks do work with the Australian Chromecast, so Australians can still get their Netflix fix. Even so, if you can't edit your modem's IP routing tables then it's more trouble than it's worth considering how easy it is to get Netflix running on other Australian home entertainment gear. It's also worth checking out the local competition, as Quickflix has recently dropped its prices as Netflix's have risen.

Is there a place for Google's Chromecast in your lounge room? What will you use it for?

Read more posts from Adam Turner's Gadgets on the Go blog.

31 comments so far

  • Great, another way Google can make money here and probably pay no tax due to profit shifting.

    Commenter
    Mick
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    May 28, 2014, 8:17AM
    • If you have a problem with the capitalist society you're living in, you could move to North Korea.

      Commenter
      Wiseguy
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 8:31AM
  • For $49 I'll definitely give it a go. It may just be a game changer and there's only one way to find out.....

    Commenter
    eMs
    Location
    sydney
    Date and time
    May 28, 2014, 10:59AM
    • or try a western digital which has been around forever and has a remote and will play music videos view pictures etc through an external hard drive.

      Commenter
      smilingjack
      Date and time
      May 28, 2014, 1:15PM
    • jack, i guess you are talking about the WD live box? i got one last year and that is the best thing ever.. simply the best piece of technology i've purchased.. i download lots of torrents and Im yet to find a file format that the WD box doesnt play.. its great!

      Commenter
      draj
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      May 28, 2014, 2:58PM
    • @smilingjack I have WD box and will probably also get one of these- WD box for my local files and the Chromecast for streaming stuff.

      Commenter
      michael
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      May 28, 2014, 3:11PM
  • I'm living in the USA now and I've had a chromecast for 6 months. They're really nice and some extra functionality can be squeezed out of them with apps like localcast which let some more apps work with it.

    Commenter
    Andrew
    Date and time
    May 28, 2014, 11:24AM
    • I bought one this morning, for $49 why not... I have an android phone and a older dumb TV, even if i just use it to flick Youtube on the big screen it's a win.

      I'm hoping the Chrome tab mirroring is improved and not just "hit and miss" as described.

      Commenter
      No_Door_Matt
      Location
      CBD/Coogee
      Date and time
      May 28, 2014, 11:24AM
      • Wish I could afford $49 on a whim :-(

        Commenter
        Max
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        May 28, 2014, 4:58PM
    • No, anything made specifically for Australia does not interest me if it locks me into the pathetic Australian only content offering.

      Commenter
      Peter
      Date and time
      May 28, 2014, 11:36AM

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