I had the opportunity to test out both Apple TV and Google Chromecast for my school recently. Here’s what I found:
Like many Apple products, Apple TV is awesome. It was very easy to use out of the box; one power cord, one HDMI cable, one remote, five minutes to connect to the Wi-Fi. One downside is that it took over an hour to download and install all the updates, but in Apple’s defense, this particular unit had been purchased over a year ago and had been sitting on the shelf since then. I successfully hooked it up to three different TVs and a variety of projectors. I had no trouble synching the device with my iPhone and the school set of iPads. Apple products all come ready to work with Apple TV (just click on Air Play). If you’re looking for a wireless way to run an Apple device over a projector, this is definitely the way to do it.
Pros: easy to set-up and use; fast, seamless projection.
Cons: it’s pricey; it won’t remember multiple wi-fi passwords so if you move from one network to another, you’ll be entering passwords a lot (with a small remote).
One thing Chromecast has going for it is that it’s tiny and designed to be wireless. While it is tiny, the premise that it doesn’t need a power source other than the HDMI port it’s plugged-into isn’t entirely true. I have yet to find a TV or projector with a powered HDMI port. Without a powered port, the next step is to hook up the (provided) USB cable to the USB port on the TV or projector. Again, many of our projectors and TVs do not have powered USB ports, so I had to resort to using the (provided) plug. Connecting devices to Chromecast is an awkward procedure due to the fact that there’s no remote control. Chromecast actually creates its own temporary Wi-Fi network to which you first have to switch your device (Chromebook or smartphone with Chromecast app) in order to set the password for the Wi-Fi network you’ll be using later. Once the Chromecast device is programmed, the disappointment continues. You’ll need to install the Chromecast extension on each browser you’d like to use, and far from mirroring what’s on your screen, it really only allows you to use your device as a remote control for Netflix, YouTube, or other “Chromecast optimized” services. While you can cast a browser tab to the screen, the lag time is noticeable and videos are so slow and choppy as to be unusable. In fact, outside of Netflix and YouTube, there’s very little you can do with a Chromecast. One cool feature is that you can be working on one browser tab while casting a different tab, and once you get the Chromecast configured, you can actually cast to it from wired desktop computers too.
Pros: it’s cheap.
Cons: awkward, long set-up process, not very useful.