Chromecast - A Road Warrior Accessory

If you are wondering what to get your road warrior friend or family member for the holidays, consider a Chromecast. It’s just $35 and it will come in handy time and time again.

We arrived on our family holiday with a ton of movies to watch and a desire to keep up on the NBA and NFL action. But the TV in our rented house was only connected to the local cable TV system which had none of that.

Not to worry, my friend John travels with a Chromecast in his briefcase. We connected it to the HDMI port on the TV in our rented house, plugged it in and now any laptop in the house can drive the TV via the Chrome browser. Plus all of apps we have on our phones with Chromecast support can also take over the TV. Adding a VPN to our phones and laptops was also quite helpful.

John tells me he pulls this move all the time in hotels around the country. And from time to time he accidentally leaves them there. Not to worry. For $35, you can afford to keep a couple in your briefcase.

I’m a huge fan of Chromecast and AppleTV’s Airplay. These services allow you to bypass the traditional TV distribution system and go “over the top” with relative ease. And for $35, you certainly can’t beat the price. So my vote for the killer stocking stuffer this year is Chromecast.


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    Then try with that, and it will pull all your videos into a playlist on your iPhone or Android, and you can use your smartphone like a remote.

    1. awaldstein

      I think I bought mine after a nudge from you William.

      1. pointsnfigures

        yup, is a nice tool. There is a nice extension you can download to a Chrome browser.

        1. Pointsandfigures

          also an investor! : )

        2. awaldstein

          yes it is an easy add, thanks,

    2. kenberger

      Plex has been my go-to app for years. It’s awesome. Used to be key to my Boxee experience too.Seems better than this other service, at least at first glance, maybe i’m missing something.

      1. William Mougayar

        videostream is easier to use πŸ™‚ (but i’m biased, as an investor)

        1. kenberger

          ABD: Always Be Disclosing

        2. kenberger

          just tried it, as the wife wanted to stream Star Wars Ep 4 from her laptop to the TV, used this app, worked in a second. Excellent!I love Plex but videostream is awesomely simple, seconds to use, hardly any setup.Go William! Very nice investment.

          1. William Mougayar

            Thanks Ken! The wife test πŸ™‚

          2. JimHirshfield

            Tell my wifi streamed it. (see what I did there?)

        3. creative group

          William Mougayar:Thanks for the disclosure.

  2. JimHirshfield

    Yes! It’s been a game changer for us. Only complaint is that streaming from Chrome browser to Chromecast is choppy. Might be my WiFi, but I don’t have this problem when using mobile to drive Netflix onto Chromecast.

    1. Eric Satz

      No i agree with you. Choppy-painful. Wondering if the vpn solves for this?

      1. JimHirshfield

        How would a VPN fix this?

        1. Eric Satz

          Don’t know. Was wondering what the point about the vpn might be and if it isn’t to speed delivery between laptop and chromecast.

          1. JimHirshfield

            No. It’s for making the IP address appear to be in the geography that will gain access to the licensed content. Like making it look like you’re in the US when you’re not, so that you can access Netflix, NFL, etc

          2. Eric Satz

            10 4. Thanks

    2. obarthelemy

      might be your laptop: when “chromecasting” Netflix, the laptop just sends a pointer to the stream to the Chromecast, which then plays the stream directly off Netflixwhen “casting” a Chrome tab, your laptop has to compress and send its own screen over to the Chromecast.

      1. JimHirshfield

        So, how would I optimize this when casting a tab? Close everything else on the laptop? Anything else?

        1. obarthelemy

          If you’re not doing anything else on the laptop, make sure is at the best possible network connection : – close to the wifi access point and in direct line of sight (ditto the chromecast by the way: next to the TV rather than hidden behind it)- if you can, wired connection to the wifi router

          1. JimHirshfield

            Makes sense, thanks.

          2. rich caccappolo

            jim, does chromecast work well with apple devices, e.g., ipad or iphone or notebook?

          3. JimHirshfield

            I use it with my MacBooks (Air and Pro). I stream from Chrome browser to the TV (Chromecast). Sometimes that’s jittery or choppy because of my laptop choking to keep up. Works better when casting from my Android mobile or my son’s iPhone. Haven’t tried with the iPad mini.

  3. aminTorres

    oh wow. this solves my problem when I go to the Dom. Rep.

  4. Barry Houldsworth

    Amazing timing. I was just suggesting this to my wife last night! Like most things…seems obvious once someone says it πŸ™‚

  5. awaldstein

    Yup–I was a late adopter now a big user.Must admit (sheepishly) that I woke up wanting to see a particular movie that was available nowhere streaming, balked at joining Netflix DVD and bought it through Amazon.

  6. obarthelemy

    And for $35, you certainly can’t beat the priceActually, you can beat the price: get an Android TV stick such as the $20… , and you can run Android’s PlayStore apps, games and media straight on it, no casting required.It’s slightly different because it’s its own computer, not a dumb-ish receiver, so the apps need to run right on it, you need to add some kind of Bluetooth mouse, remote or even keyboard to operate it, or at least an app to operate it from your Android phone (… )Advantages:- doesn’t require another computer to be busy casting to it- better picture quality (no casting compression)- has an SD slot so can carry its own media – doesn’t *have* to have wifi like on a Chromecast if you just want to watch preloaded films (for the kids) or presentations (for the bankers)- can actually play fun games, supports gamepads, wifi not required depending on game EDIT: oh, and apparently it can act as a Chromecast too:…Drawbacks:- underpowered. there’s much better, but it’s more expensive at an unconscionable $70

    1. JLM

      .Somebody gifted me an “unlocked” Tronsmart Orion R68 running 5.1 Lollipop. Haven’t had a chance to try it yet but I have never seen a device with more inputs in my life.I am trying to figure out if it can act as a docking station in addition.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. obarthelemy

        Docking station ? for what ? I doubt the USB ports deliver much power, they must deliver the bare minimum USB spec.

      2. obarthelemy

        The funnest thing to do is hook it up with a couple of gamepads over BT or USB (PS3/4 and xbox pads work, among others, if you already have them), then load up either pad-aware Android games, or an emulator and old console games.Add a dozen of films on an SD card, and it can rain a whole weekend, the kids won’t get bored… though they might get hyper :-p

      3. LE

        Tronsmart Orion R68 running 5.1 LollipopThe non consumer friendly naming couldn’t get any worse than that. Not short. Not memorable. Failure.Here is an Amazon page on that:…Tronsmart Orion R68 Meta Android 5.1 Lollipop 4K*2K TV Box KODI Rockchip RK3368 Octa Core 2G/16G AC WIFI LAN Bluetooth 4.0 HDMI 2.0 – The first 64bit TV Box

  7. ppearlman

    Ive begun doing yoga and there’s an endless number of high quality instructional youtube vids that we cast onto the tv. That and live concerts… such a simple awesome genius product.

  8. LIAD

    Maybe over the holiday period with a little mood music, romantic lighting and a few bottles of red wine, chromecast and blockchain can hookup and beget a lovechild that bypasses and goes over the top of the traditional banking system.

    1. pointsnfigures

      In my old neighborhood, all those kinds of bankers were Italian.

  9. Eric Satz

    How did the VPN improve the chromecast experience?

    1. kenberger

      i wondered this too, am guessing the implication is for outside the US, to be able to use services like Netflix, for example.

      1. JimHirshfield

        A little birdie told me Fred is vacationing outside of the USA right now.

        1. kenberger

          me too, which is why i’m guessing that. I’ll also assume that Fred isn’t going to explicitly spell out this part in a blog post.

  10. pointsnfigures

    Have Apple on one tv, and Chromecast on the other to see the difference. Biggest difference is price, and portability. Surprised Amazon Fire never caught fire.

    1. BillMcNeely

      Not everybody can be Alicia Keys πŸ™‚

  11. jason wright

    nomad is’s a no-brainer, but get outside once in a while.

    1. fredwilson

      i would say we are outside 80-90% of the day on this vacation. but there still is a need to wind down on the other 10-20%

      1. jason wright

        enjoy it πŸ™‚

      2. LE

        At my vacation place (back when I used it) I noticed that I often felt, ironically, pretty good on rainy days. There was no pressure to “get out on the boat” I could just hang around and read and do nothing at all which was more relaxing than having to drive the boat and entertain guests if any. Likewise if you’ve ever been on a cruise ship it always seems like it’s sometimes better to actually have “at sea” days so you don’t feel as if you have to get off the ship and explore whatever town you’ve arrived at that day.

      3. JimHirshfield

        Don’t forget SPF 70

  12. kenberger

    … Except for 1 big caveat: in many HOTELS, you CAN’T USE THIS.The Chromecast and mobile or laptop need to both be logged into the network. We’ve all stayed with the types of hotel wifi, especially browser-based authentication, where it annoyingly logs you off constantly? You’ll give up. And this setup applies to very many hotels.

    1. Matt Zagaja

      It is amazing to me how awful the Internet/tech situation in many hotels is. Guess it is motivation to leave your room, but even at CES the hotels switched from wired jacks to WiFi that worked poorly. Yet walk into Starbucks and you can chug along for hours without problem.

    2. kidmercury

      i’ve hotspotted my phone and chromecasted via my laptop with some success. of course, phone needs to be getting data for this to work, and carrier plan needs to support hotspotting in the desired quantity.

      1. kenberger

        yes– that’s the hack to use.I’ve used it well in Berlin and Poland, where hi-limit, low-cost 4G sim allocation is easy to come by.

      2. creative group

        kidmercury:That method is best used with a headset or device which is jailbroken.Is that your experience also?

    3. Nicholas Molnar

      An alternative to this is to pack a Thunderbolt to Ethernet adaptor and create a wifi Hotspot from your laptop using the Ethernet connection in the hotel room.

  13. kenberger

    Yup it’s awesome if you’re in a house; airbnb should promote or even provide these (see my other comment, however, re hotels).Also notable is the Chromecast *Audio* variant. I’ve taken my Bluetooth speakers, plugged this into the line in, and get much better results controlling music over WiFi instead of Bluetooth.EDIT: there’s a useful matrix on this page showing the advantages of wifi over Bluetooth, I’ve written about this here before:

    1. JimHirshfield

      Your bluetooth speakers have a USB line in port? Hmm, I never thought of that.Edit…no wait…Chromecast is HDMI….How do you do this????

      1. kenberger

        Nope. I mean a 3.5mm aux in. And I am talking about the Chromecast Audio product, not the regular Chromecast product, see my link above.The Chromecast Audio has an aux out (instead of an hdmi) that goes into your speaker (or system or amp). It turns any speaker (wired or wireless) into a wifi-based speaker.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Ah, now I see. One end of device is 3.5mm and the other end of the device is plugged into power source?

  14. aminTorres

    I wonder how this works, the VPN part of it I am most interested.Can you chose a location as your proxy? I would love to buy one of this for my brother for regular use and from when I visit but wonder whether this will work in the D.R.

    1. JimHirshfield

      VPNs can change your IP address to make it look like you’re wherever you want to be. It’s all software.

      1. aminTorres

        yeah, I understand the principle. I use one for work but it is automatically set to NY. I was more curious about the specific interface for this particular device. Thanks.

        1. JimHirshfield

          The VPN isn’t set in the Chromecast. It’s set on the laptop. (Sorry, if you know this already too and I’m sounding remedial). I use ExpressVPN and can change the locale as needed.

          1. BillMcNeely

            How do I do VPN with a iPhone?

          2. JimHirshfield

            I’m on Android. But my best guess is that you should search “VPN” in the Apple App Store πŸ˜‰

    2. Nneko Branche

      @aminTorres:disqus it turns out getting it work is fairly straightforward. Once connected to the VPN use the chrome browser extension to cast the tab instead of going through any web app. You can find the details in this piece https://bigthinkingapplied….

  15. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Love my Chromecast. I use it to read digital comic books to the kids on Comixology (which is super neat because it automatically zooms in the parts of the image you should be focusing on while reading).

  16. Nicholas Kukrika

    But don’t you get all this and more (i.e. Prime Video) if you get the Amazon Fire TV equivalent?

    1. obarthelemy

      Fire doesn’t support the Chromecast protocol, so you can’t “cast” to it, there’s a partial hack for it though (… ). Basically for Fire to display stuff, it has to have the corresponding app in its appstore.Conversely, you *can* cast Prime Video to a Chromecast by viewing the video in a Chrome tab and casting that; or you can buy a $20 Android stick and install Amazon’s app on it.

    2. kidmercury

      google has the richer ecosystem — i.e. more video partners on board — just as it does with android. i do have a roku for amazon, and has a backup in case my chromecast starts acting up, but amazon needs to make prime video a must have if it wishes to start closing and forcing people on to fire.

  17. JaredMermey

    Has anyone developed an app or custom rom that allows true screen mirroring from the OS as opposed to needing the sdk built into every app? Every once in a while there is still an app with a video player that does not include Chromecast. The chrome extension helps alleviate that somewhat but only for browser.

    1. Matt Zagaja

      I believe AppleTV does in fact do this.

      1. JaredMermey

        Cool. Just switch to iOS so maybe that should be the next purchase. But what about someone running android?

        1. obarthelemy

          depends on what you want to do. I think a $20 Android stick is the better choice most of the time, then either put content in its Β΅SD card, access it via LAN/dlna, or if you really need screen mirroing, use miracast (… for example) for media (your PC must support miracast too), or TeamViewer for apps.

  18. Mike Svatek

    Tip: good backup for sales presentations/demos. We all have challenges onsite with clients and technical difficulties with connecting to projectors or TVs. Just stick the stick directly to the TV, turn on your portable WIFI, and you’re good if your demo can be done via a browser web.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Nice! But clarify…Do you need to tether your mobile phone to do this? Or the laptop connects directly to the Chromecast even if you’re not on a network?

      1. Mike Svatek

        I use a hotspot (AT&T mifi) that my laptop and Chromecast connect to and therefore are on the same WIFI network. I imagine it would work the same with a tethered phone but I haven’t tried it.

  19. LE

    Google marketing really is a total fail. They have no clue about marketing because they don’t ever have to work this angle.. They do stupid things and it’s all papered over by profits from the core cash cow.What you wrote makes me want to buy this device. One blog post and I’m in. Anything that I’ve seen marketing wise from Google hasn’t.Take this page:…It has three different chromecasts in different colors. It then says “Compare Chromecast Models”. So you think “oh there are choices to make on this ok what are they?” Now if you follow that link you get this page:…That’s a support page, not a product comparison page. The link makes you think there are different choices. The “product comparison page” isn’t even easy to read for what it is and isn’t what it says it is at all.

    1. Lawrence Brass

      Luxuries cow owners can give themselves, compare this with Apple tv message.You are usually good at what you are actually getting paid for, and not so good at what you wish to get paid for. Or maybe Fred’s ‘too much money is the root of all evil’.Portability of the device is cool.

  20. Kate Huyett

    Would love as a “fun friday” a travel hacks post.

  21. OurielOhayon

    The only problem is that when you land in a hotel the wifi is not point to point, which makes your chromecast unusable. So you need to bring with you an extra mini router through which you will connect your phone to the chromecast

  22. BillMcNeely

    I have both cable (for sports) and Chromecast ( which got after Fred’s post in 2014) I usually end up using apps ( availability has improved over the last year) that work with Chromecast.and am pretty happy.

  23. Mario Cantin

    Not just for the road warrior, IMO. My wife and I love Chromecast so much we got rid of everything else: Apple TV, DVD, VCR (!?) and the PlayStation too. And we have no cable TV either — only local TV, YouTube and the occasional Netflix show. We’re very happy with the minimalism of it all.

  24. Pete Griffiths

    Me too. big fan.roku stick is good too – i like their discovery

  25. Nneko Branche

    @fredwilson:disqus I definitely agree with the recommendation for the chromecast as a road warrior travel companion. Its ease and price really can’t be beat when it comes to transforming the dumb TV to smart experience.However, I am curious about the bit you mentioned regarding getting it work with a VPN. I wrote a guide to this some time back at https://bigthinkingapplied…. but getting it work is far from a trivial experience for the non technically initiated. How have you managed this trick. Do share :)regards,Nneko

  26. Scott Barnett

    +1. I have the first generation chromecast. Need to get a 2nd generation. There’s an issue wtih Hulu and the first generation that causes the Chromecast to hang.

  27. Erin

    As someone who hasn’t watched TV in about a decade, I wonder what I’m missing sometimes. When I read posts like these, I get all twisted up, thinking, “Omg, I’m falling behind! I’m not keeping up with either TV or new technology! I’m going to be an irrellevant grandma who doesn’t know what the 2050 equivalent of Facebook is!” I know about Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, and I’ve seen enough clips on Youtube to satisfy my curiosity, but I wonder if, at the end of my life, my lack of knowledge of the stories and folktales woven during my lifespan will add up to a significant enough loss to regret not taking the time to interact with them, reflect on them, and integrate their lessons into my life. While in conversation, I can identify a pop cultural reference as it flies by me, and I can guess at its meaning, but inevitably the conversation goes on and I’m still on board. Or am I? Am I shielding myself from something? And if so, what? This AVC post reminds me that my sole 2015 New Year’s resolution was to watch more TV and movies, and yet I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the plump sum of four movies this year. I did go over to my parents’ a couple times to watch the Bachelor with my mom, thinking it was going to be a mother-daughter bonding experience, but it never gelled, I got impatient with the girls, and I gave up after two episodes. My mom kept talking during the show, and I was so confused as to whether I should be conversing with her or watching the Bachelor. As 2016 approaches, I do publicly declare that in this coming year, I hereby intend to watch one movie a month. If anyone would like to be my accountability partner, please reply to this post (and suggestions are welcome. I like funny, intelligent movies that make you think, but aren’t too scary).

    1. Mario Cantin

      I quit watching shows about a year ago, and I wasn’t watching a whole lot already, but I feel much better. I feel more productive focusing on learning, playing music, being more competent, etc. That’s me personally. I don’t give a rat’s a** about Breaking Bad, Games of Thrones, et al. My wife and I quit watching House of Cards halfway through the second season as we couldn’t take it anymore. I’d much rather read Fred’s blog or listen to The Twenty Minute VC podcast. And she’d much rather follow fashion on Flipboard.

      1. Erin

        “…we couldn’t take it anymore”. Lol. I read this line the other day about Amy Poehler saying that she was tired of pretending she liked Star Wars, which, I’m sure, was refreshing to a lot of us who just can’t seem to get excited about TV.

        1. creative group

          Erin:We have no idea how we ended in your reply box but it must have been motivated by a response to not watching TV.It is nothing laudable, commendable, admirable, estimable, creditable or worthy about highlighting siting in front of the idiot box.We do follow film directors who have made noteworthy films.The Star Wars saga started to become interesting to us with the beginning the Revenge of the Sith in 2005 and we will catch what JJ Abrams put to together with this new installment of the Force Awakens when it arrives on DVD in the local library.We are more of a Prometheus/Alien (Ridley Scott) observer.We do observe what educators say. It has always been of value to listen to our educators.

          1. Erin

            I know Star Wars was a noteworthy production and a strong story, absolutely. Someday when I’m 70 I’ll sit down and watch it all through the slits in my fingers.

    2. Sam

      Maybe you’re not keeping up with the Joneses (and their TV). Or maybe the Joneses aren’t keeping up with you. All in your point of view.I have a movie for you if you’re looking for ideas: Big Fish. A surreal and beautiful movie that makes you smile and makes you think. Perfect for this time of year if you can carve out the time.

      1. Erin

        Yeah I’m not sure which one it is. You know what, I’ve actually seen Big Fish. I just watched the preview again, and yes, it really does bring a smile to your face. πŸ™‚

    3. Aviah Laor

      Wow, beautiful comment. Think of it as art, and the good it does to your soul. You obviously can’t visit every museum, attend all concerts, or read all the books. But you need to pick one once in while.

  28. Victor Muthoka

    Coz the internet needed to stream when on the road in my country is quite tricky to come by unless you’re spending on cellular, I take the long way around it: loading movies on my iPad to watch when on the road.

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