It's here: the Google Chromecast streaming stick lands with loads of content already available for your lounge entertainment.
Google Chromecast is one of many "streaming stick" devices, but likely to be the one you've heard about before. It brings home theatre-quality entertainment, including Internet content streaming in an easy to use package - all you need is an Android device or Google's Chrome browser.
An example of the amount of content available overseas include Google's own YouTube, the music service Pandora and TV/movies content providers Hulu and Netflix.
Even though the big names Hulu and Netflix aren't available in New Zealand yet (Netflix is planning a local launch for March 2015), Google Chromecast launches locally with YouTube, Pandora and Quickflix, an A/NZ service similar to Netflix, with a considerable TV and movies library, both in a subscription and pay-per-view options.
How does this $60 device work then? Pretty easy - the easiest way of using it as by having an Android device with the Chromecast app, a TV with HDMI input and a working WiFi network. You plug the Google Chromecast to your TV, install the Chromecast app on your Android device and follow on-screen instructions to connect the little device to your WiFi network.
Once this is done, Chromecast compatible apps on your mobile device (smartphone or tablet) will automatically show a new icon that allows you to "cast" the content to your TV, where you can watch it in full size. The mobile device turns into a remote control and you can even safely turn it off while all the streaming is done from the Chromecast via your WiFi network.
You also have the option of sending your device's screen contents to the TV, which is useful for presentations/demos. In this case you can't turn the mobile device off, since it is the source of the content being shown on the big screen.
There is also a Google Chrome extension that can be installed on your desktop browser and allows you to cast the screen contents to the device.
For my tests I tried the Quickflix service with its Android app. Playback was really smooth and there was no hiccups or buffering. Once you open the app just tap the Chromecast icon on top of the screen and select which Chromecast you want to connect to (in case you have more than one device connected to your network).
This works well with YouTube and other Google services as well, including movies and music from Google Play services, both already available in New Zealand. While not in use Google Chromecast can show slideshows with photos from your own online collection or from content sourced by Google.
I also had some success playing Netflix content, although considering this is a service not yet available in New Zealand you should expect the need of third party network access services and some router configuration to achieve this - better wait for March 2015 if you want to use Netflix without any manual configuration.
Now that Google Chromecast is available in New Zealand, I'd expect other services to put more efforts and launch their own Chromecast-compatible apps.