Note: Since the writing of this post, Alex received his Chromecast and wrote a detailed post explaining how Connectify Hotspot can vastly improve your Chromecast experience on-the-road. Click here to read the update post.
I just preordered my Chromecast, and I’m excited.
For those who missed it, the Chromecast is Google’s new HDMI dongle. You plug it into your TV or monitor and you can stream any content that you’re looking at in Chrome (in Windows, Mac, or Android) right to that monitor. No cables or drivers are required; just a little 2” long, $35 device you can toss into your bag.
The reviews are starting to come in, and they’re exactly what I expected: Applications like Netflix, Google Play, and YouTube stream smoothly, while users are reporting issues with choppy playback when using various other services.
Why? Simply put, Netflix, YouTube, and a few other popular streaming services have been modified so that they can be “handed off” directly from the PC to Chromecast. This handoff allows the video to go straight from the Internet to your Chromecast, leaving your computer out of the loop.
But for everything else, all those applications that have not been specially modified to work with Chromecast, it’s a different story. In these cases, you have to launch the service using the Chrome browser: the content is streamed to your computer’s web browser, which then streams it to the Chromecast. This is pretty much how Apple’s AirPlay works as well, and all this hopping around can result in degraded video performance.
For example, let’s say you’re at a hotel, and you want to watch a show on Hulu. The path from Hulu to your hotel TV looks like this:
Internet -> Wi-Fi router -> Laptop -> Wi-Fi Router -> Chromecast
That’s right, the video has to go over the Wi-Fi network three times (two down and one up) — Wi-Fi router to Laptop, Laptop to Wi-Fi router, Wi-Fi router to Chromecast. I’m not making this up! That’s how the Chromecast works. Basically, unless you’re streaming content from one of the major services, you’re likely to see glitchy video, plus you’re probably slowing down Internet access for everyone else in the hotel!
This is where Connectify Hotspot can come to the rescue. By turning your laptop into a Wi-Fi hotspot, Connectify Hotspot lets Chromecast skip all those connections back to the hotel router entirely. The best part, you probably don’t even have to set up anything when you get into that hotel room. If you’ve previously connected the Chromecast to your laptop’s Hotspot, it will already know how to connect no matter where you go. Just pop the Chromecast into the back of the hotel TV; it will find your computer’s Connectify Hotspot and join automatically.
Once the video streams to your PC over the hotel Wi-Fi, your PC can send the video straight over the Connectify Hotspot Wi-Fi network to the Chromecast. It doesn’t need to go through the hotel’s router, and because you’re in the same room, you can actually get closer to the maximum data rates. These can range from 54 Mbps to over 300 Mbps depending on your laptop’s Wi-Fi chipset (all of which is way more than enough to support a high-quality video stream.) The video zips right over to the Chromecast more than 50x faster than it would have over the hotel Wi-Fi. You’re also doing a lot less to clog the airwaves, so Wi-Fi access won’t slow to a crawl for everyone else on your floor.
The Chromecast’s small size and low price could make it an ideal travel companion, but convenient access shouldn’t come at the price of high-quality video. Picking up Connectify Hotspot before you hit the road can make your Chromecast extra-fast.
Alex Gizis is CEO of Connectify. Follow him on Twitter @alexgizis and visit www.connectify.me.
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