While more than 200 billion online videos are watched each month, only about 15 percent are streamed to an HDTV. Google looks to change that with the Chromecast, a small $35 dongle that attaches to your TV, and lets you stream and control video from YouTube and Netflix using your phone, tablet, or laptop.
The Chromecast device, which runs a simplified version of Chrome, is only about 2 inches long, and plugs into a TV via HDMI, and connects to your home network via WiFi. Then, using your phone (Android or iOS), you can select a YouTube or Netflix video, and stream it to your TV by pressing the "Cast" button. (It also works with Google Play Movies and TV, natch). It reminds us of the PLAir device, only with increased control.
The Chromecast streams content from the web, but you can control the content being watched via your smartphone, such as Pause and volume. You can also change the device controlling the content, provided they're on the same network.
Other neat tricks include the ability to continue playing content on your TV while another app is open on your phone, such as email or the web browser. It also will continue streaming content if your phone goes to sleep.
A Beta feature includes the ability to project any Chrome browser tab to your TV, such as photos on Google Drive. Unlike Apple's Airplay, you can't currently stream content on your phone or notebook itself, but Google is also publishing an SDK for iOS, Android, and Chrome, so that could be available in the not too distant future.
Look for our full review of the Chromecast soon.