Last week, Google rolled out Chromecast, its $35 dongle (yup, that's a thing, now) that sits in your TV's HDMI port like a flashdrive. It's got Netflix and YouTube integration and allows you to sling video on those platforms—and any tab from your Google Chrome browser—straight to your television screen.
The folks at The Verge—always a collective voice of reason in these situations—took the Chromecast out for a test drive, and by that I mean Nilay Patel fooled around with it on his office TV for a while. Subsequently, his review includes everything you'll need to know about the device. Mainly, that it's a little bulkier than you might suspect, but it functions well with YouTube and Netflix and performs well when you full-screen video in your Chrome tabs.
Netflix and YouTube have dedicated Chromecast buttons, but full-screen Flash video works just fine everywhere else: I tested The Verge's video player, Vimeo, ESPN, Hulu, and a few others, and hitting the full-screen button blew up the video to fill the entire TV screen. Music services like Pandora, Spotify, and Rdio all worked fine as well. You can also drag files from your desktop into Chrome and they'll play as well, as long as Chrome supports them natively. (Video in .mp4 format and .mp3 audio files work great.)
He suggests using it as a supplementary monitor to your typical screen and admits to needlessly throwing Chrome tabs and videos onto his TV with ease. Also, did we mention that it's only $35?
Once I had the ability to throw anything in my browser onto a TV with the press of a button, I found myself doing it all the time, for seemingly no reason. Having a button in YouTube that lets you play a video on a TV is particularly great; I use AirPlay in the iOS YouTube app all the time, but search and discovery is still so much better on a laptop that it makes for a whole different experience. Same with The Verge's video hub — I spent a few hours catching up on everything we made in the past week while writing this review and going through my email, and having control of everything from my laptop was far better than my usual system of having an iPad next to me just for streaming video over AirPlay. It's kind of like using your TV as a gigantic second monitor. [The Verge]