7 Google Chromecast Limitations All Potential Buyers Should Consider

CIO.com's Al Sacco goes hands on with Google's Chromecast dongle and shares a number of noteworthy limitations that potential buyers may not be aware of.

I ordered my Google Chromecast streaming dongle thingamajigger within an hour of its announcement last week, and it promptly arrived on my doorstep on Monday. I've been putting it through the paces and trying to envision unique uses for it ever since.

During my experimentation with the new device, I discovered a handful of limitations that potential Chromecast buyers may want to consider before making a purchase. My experience with Chromecast has been mostly positive, and these limitations aren't meant to dissuade you from buying a Chromecast. The list is intended to spotlight a few "quirks" that you probably wouldn't know about unless you spent some time with the device.

Here's my list of Google Chromecast limitations:

1) Chromecast System Requirements

Anyone interested in Chromecast should consider its system requirements before making a purchase. They are as follows:

Google Chromecast System Requirements

Chromecast may work for you even if your PC doesn't meet these requirements, but you probably won't be impressed with the overall experience. I tried "casting" from the Chrome browser on my 2008 MacBook running Mac OS X 10.8; it worked, but the video quality was so choppy that it made me dizzy. Also of note: Windows XP isn't supported at all, and the only Chromebook that's officially supported is the new Pixel model. So if you're running XP, own a pre-2010 Mac or another model Chromebook, Chromecast might not be for you.

Related Story: Google Unveils $35 Chromecast Device for TV and Music Streaming

2) Chromecast Hates Your Corporate VPN

Anyone who wants to use Chromecast via a secure corporate VPN while traveling, or via a proxy server, is out of luck. "Chromecast cannot communicate with your laptop over these networks," according to Google.

This is notable for travelers who want to use Chromecast in hotel rooms without exposing themselves on potentially risky hotel Wi-Fi. I haven't had a chance to use Chromecast in a hotel yet, but as far as I can tell, you should be able to use it with an HDMI-compatible TV, assuming the network is fast enough for streaming and you don't mind the security risk of "going unprotected."

3) Casting Chrome Browser Tabs Still in Beta

For me, the most valuable feature of Chromecast is its ability to "cast" Chrome browser tabs from your computer to your TV.

Google Chromecast Powered by USB
Google Chromecast Powered by USB

Unfortunately, the browser casting feature is currently in beta, and "some device configurations will be better suited for Casting a tab than other." In other words, casting from a browser tab is kind of touch-and-go at this point, and quality depends largely on the machine you're casting from.

I've used Chromecast's tab-casting feature on a number of computers, including my 2008 MacBook, a 2010 MacBook Pro (both Macs run OS X 10.8), a Chromebook Pixel and a ThinkPad T410s running Windows 7. All of these machines, except for the 2008 Mac, meet Google's stated Chromecast system requirements. Streaming on both the 2010 Mac and Chromebook works very well.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get my Windows 7 ThinkPad to detect my Chromecast at all-at least not using the Chrome browser extension, which is used to cast tabs. I downloaded the Chromecast app for Windows; it sees my Chromecast dongle on my Wi-Fi, but the Chromecast extension for Windows refuses to cooperate.

I did some cursory online research, and I see that I'm not alone. But other Windows 7 users apparently aren't having any issues, so I'm not exactly sure what going on. All I know is that I can't cast Chrome tabs to my Chromecast using my Windows PC, and I've tried all of Google's online troubleshooting suggestions.

Related Story: Chromecast for the Road Warrior

4) Chromecast Needs a Power Source

The Chromecast dongle needs its own power source. This isn't necessarily a limitation, but it can complicate your setup--especially if you already have dozens of gadgets plugged in behind your entertainment system and/or don't have another free outlet.

If your HDTV has USB ports that supply power, you may also be able to use them to power your Chromecast, depending on the electrical output. (I'm using a USB port to power my Chromecast without issue.)

5) Chromecast Casting Doesn't Support Full 1080p Streaming

At this time, you can't stream full 1080p HD content from a browser tab to your Chromecast; the gadget supports 720p by default and you can bump up your settings to "Extreme 720p high bitrate." But no 1080p streaming. This might not be an issue for everyone, but my TV supports 1080p resolution, and I'd like to get the best possible quality from Chromecast.

6) Chromecast Doesn't Like 5GHz or Dual-Band 2.4GHz/5GHz Routers

"In rare cases, users with a 5GHz router or dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz router may encounter performance issues," according to Google. My router does not fall under these categories, and I didn't have any issues. But these limitations could affect some users.

More on that from Google:

"Your Wi-Fi network configuration prevents devices from communicating with Chromecast. In order to resolve this issue, you will need to disable AP (access point) isolation, also known as client isolation, on your router & If you do not have access to your router settings, or if you are attempting to connect through a guest, hotel or public network with AP/client isolation, you will be unable to set up your Chromecast & If you are attempting to connect through a Wi-Fi extender, please check your extender settings. You will need to disable AP isolation on your Wi-Fi extender before setting up Chromecast to work with your Wi-Fi network."

7) Chromecast Mobile Apps Only for Android and iOS

In addition to casting from a browser, you can also use mobile apps to send content from your smartphone or tablet to Chromecast. Unfortunately, Android and iOS are the only mobile platforms with Chromecast mobile apps at this time. Sorry BlackBerry and Windows Phone users.

For more technical details on Chromecast, visit Google's support page. And for insight on Chromecast and the enterprise, read "Chromecast for the Road Warrior."

AS

Al Sacco covers Mobile and Wireless for CIO.com. Follow Al on Twitter @ASacco. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

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