Google ChromecastGoogle recently unveiled Chromecast, a very inexpensive HDMI adapter that turns any TV into a "Smart Television," allowing you to use your phone, tablet, or laptop to run apps like Netflix or YouTube, as well as mirror a Chrome browser tab, all over WiFi onto your big screen. While there are quite a few devices out there capable of similar functions (not including TVs themselves), Chromecast may just be the cheapest, easiest, and most portable solution yet.

Here's what it can do:

  • Stream online video, music and more to your TV using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop
  • Supports Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, as well as anything on the web through Chrome browser
  • Works with Android, iOS, Chrome for Mac, and Chrome for Windows
  • Easy setup: Plug into any HDTV and connect to your home WiFi network
  • Box includes Chromecast, HDMI extender, USB power cable, and power adapter

Check out Google's intro video, followed by a setup video from CNET:

I can see this becoming a really enticing option for households that want a simple way to have all of their televisions capable of playing content from their mobile devices. Once Chromecast is connected, it looks extremely simple getting the content to display on your TV. If you already own an Apple TV and you've been using AirPlay, none of this is anything new, but what makes this such an interesting product is its price. For $35, you could buy three of them for the price of one Apple TV, and leave them connected to specific TVs. When you want to move it, you're simply pulling it out from the back of the TV and bringing it wherever you have to.

This could be really helpful for filmmakers or others in the creative industries for connecting their laptops or mobile devices to a big TV to show off work in front of a large group of people. It looks like you're limited to 720p for Chrome tabs (and probably all of your other devices), but a potentially great feature is that apparently the Chromecast can play most videos that are stored locally on your computer. Simply by typing in the location of the video in the browser, Chromecast should be able to play it through the Chrome extension.

The biggest issue for most people will likely be the quality of their WiFi signals (as long as their network is fast enough). Even if you don't always need one, Chromecast almost seems like a no-brainer for the price just to keep around with you in a bag. It would have been great if it was powered by the HDMI, but I guess you can't have everything in such a compact and affordable device.

It will be interesting to see if people will consume more long-form content on YouTube just because they will have an easy way to watch it on a bigger screen. Even though online video is becoming a bigger part of the way people consume media, regular television still far surpasses it. This may be one way for Google to get YouTube onto as many TVs as possible, and also allow people to almost seamlessly switch from their mobile devices to their TVs in a matter of seconds. The only downside is that it does require some sort of other device to actually play the content, and there is also no remote.

What do you guys think? What are you using right now to get your videos playing on a large screen?