When Google launched its Chromecast digital media dongle two years ago, it was widely lauded for its low, low price and … well, not much else. But as the device has improved with software updates and an-ever wider range of content compatibility, there’s only one major issue left that dogs Chromecast users. And Google is apparently fixing it now.
That issue is of course Chromecast’s lack of a remote control.
Today, Chromecast users find content on their Android or iOS smart phone or tablet and then “cast” the content to their HDTV using software that connects to the Google dongle. From there, you can control playback using onscreen controls on the device.
This seems perfectly reasonable, and indeed many who have read my previous complaints have told me that they have no problems using Chromecast this way. Plus, you know, the price. Chromecast only costs $30.
Fair enough. But the reason the lack of a remote is such a problem is that remotes are instantaneous, and devices often are not. So if the doorbell rings, or the phone rings, or any other of life’s little interruptions happen, you may need to wake up your device, enter a PIN, and possibly even navigate back to whatever app you were using in order to do the simplest thing in the world: pause the playback of the content. Devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick (which is just $10 more, at $40) or any Roku device ($50 to $90, depending on model) all provide a remote, and I think this basic functionality puts them over the top. The Xbox One with Kinect ($455 and up, or $175 for the Kinect add-on) is even better: You can simply say, “Xbox, pause” to instantly pause content playback.
Chromecast has always supported a technology called HDMI-CEC, where CEC stands for “Consumer Electronics Control.” Put simply, this technology lets you control multiple devices with a single remote control, like the one you got from your cable company. The idea is that a living room full of HDMI-CEC compatible devices—your HDTV, your Blu-Ray Player, your stereo receiver, whatever—can all theoretically be controlled by a single remote.
To date, Chromecast’s support for HDMI-CEC has indeed been theoretical. But according to users on Reddit, that has changed with the release of the latest 27946 firmware update. Now, many Chromecast apps—including Google Play Music, YouTube, HBO GO and others—all support play and pause control from a TV (cable/satellite) remote control. Google hasn’t posted about this change, but based on this Reddit chat and a related Google support page, HDMI-CEC is now working on Chromecast. At least with certain remotes, and certain Chromecast apps. (Some important apps, like Pandora and Netflix, apparently still don’t work.)
Hopefully, Google will explain what’s happening soon. But this change indeed makes Chromecast more interesting, especially when/if full support occurs across popular remotes/TV systems and apps. That said, I’d love for Google to sell a $10 remote designed specifically for Chromecast. It’s just such an obvious need.
Tagged with Chromecast