Thursday, 10 April 2014

Google Chromecast Hits UK: Smart TV for the Masses [Review]

Google Chromecast: What is Chromecast? 

This week I am reviewing my Google Chromecast, my latest gadget addition to arrive this week. Finally released to the UK market, the 2.8 inch device is essentially an HDMI dongle that plugs into a free HDMI port on your TV or projector and can be powered by traditional power socket or alternatively via USB (which your TV may also have available).  It can then be used to stream content from different sources such as mobile or PC, directly to your TV whilst being controlled from your smartphone, tablet, PC or Mac.

Google Chromecast: Installation & Setup

Their has been much hype on Google's entry into the 'Smart-TV' market but Google has certainly made an impression with this little gadget. Straight out of the box, weighing a mere 34g, I felt the device is small and light enough to carry around with you, or to simply leave connected to your chosen display device. Chromecast comes without a dedicated remote, as it uses your existing computer, mobile or tablet as a remote. You are directed to an app in the app market of your chosen OS (Android/iOS) which once downloaded, guides you through the initial wifi setup. Once completed, the Chromecast updates itself to the latest release of software and it is ready to go.

Google Chromecast: Services

Google has worked hard with a number of service providers to support some of the most popular services in the industry. Netflix, RealPlayer, iPlayer, YouTube, Plex and Chrome are amongst some of the apps that work straight out of the box, simply load the app on your phone and 'Cast' it to your Chromecast. Within seconds, your video is seamlessly broadcast to your TV. Google Chrome for Desktop has also had some additional features added, allowing you to "Cast" an entire tab over to your TV for browsing on the big screen. 
Google Chromeast: Compatible Devices

Chromecast can be controlled with Android, iOS, Windows & Mac.

Google Chromecast: Quality

Measuring 72mm x 35mm x 12mm, this little device certainly packs features into a very tiny form factor. The Chromecast is a pleasure to pick up, touch and carry with you and the sturdy build quality can be seen in all areas of the design. 

Google Chromecast: UK Price and Where To Buy

Google launched the Chromecast HDMI dongle in the US way back in July 2013. After a long wait it is finally available in the UK for a price of just £30. At such a competitive price point, it is now possible to bring the future of streaming media to all devices around the home.

If you're keen to get your hands on one then the device is available to buy from the Google Play store and other retailers including Currys, PC World and Amazon.

Google Chromecast: My Verdict

Google has come to market with a fantastic bit of kit, providing many features offered by Smart-TV's, but at a very competitive price point. Whilst still in its early stages, it's platform is open to third party developers which will bring plenty of new and upcoming services to the platform. It's small size and portability means you aren't restricted to just using this at home and can easily be taken out and about with you, making it ultra portable. It's simplicity and popularity amongst users has made it one of the fastest selling gadgets of 2014 and at only £30 - it's a steal.

Amazon Prime: Why Prime Is Worth Every Penny

Amazon is a company that has built itself a very successful name throughout the internet, for supplying quality products, competitive prices and fantastic customer service. I challenge you to find somebody that has not heard of the company that continues to grow and continues to widen it's range of products and services all of the time.

I have always been an enthusiastic, yet cautious Amazon shopper for a couple of years... the convenience, wide range of products and product availability, plus the outstanding customer service Amazon prides itself on naturally led me to it's latest shiny offering - Amazon Prime.

Amazon Prime is a pioneering product for the company. In the UK, Amazon originally saw Prime as an offering allowing Amazon customers to "Get unlimited, FREE one-day delivery on millions of products" and this continues to be the case. With the vast amount of shopping I already undertook via Amazon and other sites, normally paying additional delivery charges and regularly waiting 3-5 working days for my shopping to arrive, for me Amazon Prime was an offer I couldn't refuse... or at least try! 
Amazon didn't disappoint me. I originally enrolled on a 30-day free trial, which Amazon are happy to let you use without restriction or any charges to try out the service (you can get your own free trial, here). From the moment I upgraded, I could already see the benefits. Forgot a last minute gift? No problem, Amazon can deliver tomorrow. Need something urgently for a project? No problem, Amazon will deliver tomorrow. Increasingly, I found myself turning to Amazon for more and more of my shopping. More often than not, the item prices were very competitive and in addition I would not have to pay any shipping charges AND I could receive my item tomorrow, with the addition of courier package tracking on most deliveries. 

Recently, Amazon has increased the offerings included within Prime. For an annual fee of £79 per year, you can now receive the following:
  • Enjoy all the benefits of Amazon Prime Instant Video.
  • Borrow books from a choice of over 500,000 titles from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
  • Get unlimited, FREE One-Day Delivery on millions of items.
Amazon Prime Instant Video piggybacks off Amazon's existing company Lovefilm. It's a Movie/TV on-demand streaming service, which includes unlimited instant streaming of over 15,000 movies and TV shows, which you can watch anywhere, anytime with unlimited access throughout the UK. Another bonus feature of Prime Instant Video allows a UK user to watch exclusive hit TV shows before they air on British TV. Bonus!


Amazon Prime has two pricing models. £5.99/month for Amazon Prime Instant Video only, or £79 annually which includes the one-day deliveries and 'borrow-a-book' from Kindle, which allows you to borrow a wide range of books from the Kindle store, for free. I'm not a Kindle user myself, so this didn't really have any benefit for me, however I decided to sit down and review my existing expenditure:

Before Prime:
  • I would purchase a minimum of 2 items a month from Amazon, at about £3.95 P&P per item. This equals £7.90/month on carriage charges (3-5 day deliveries).
  • I already have a LoveFilm subscription which I was paying £7.99/month.
  • Total paid per year = Minimum of £190.68 a year!
After Prime:
The total of these two above points alone meant I was spending a minimum of £190.68 a year! Crazy. Thankfully, with Amazon Prime, this has saved me at least £111 a year and I get an upgraded 'VIP' delivery service for the items I was going to buy anyway!

Is Amazon Prime Right For Me?
The usefulness of Amazon Prime is different for each and every person. I now regularly make 5-10 orders a month, now incorporating my free, fast-tracked delivery whilst watching the movies provided by Amazon Instant Video on the big screen! It's entirely down to your personal preference, however if you often find yourself paying over the odds on P&P charges, get frustrated with delivery times or find you struggle for choice, Amazon Prime is a good bet for you.

Amazon provide a free, 30-day trial of Amazon Prime (including Amazon Prime Instant Video). Try it out, give it a spin, see what you think. It would be great to hear your thoughts and I hope this article has been useful and informative to you!

Good Luck!