Playing with a Chromecast in Canada!

March 19th, 2014 Update – Chromecast is now available in Canada for 39.00 via Google Play Store or Amazon.ca

A couple of weeks ago on trip to the US I was able to pick up a couple Google Chromecast devices. I have been playing around with these for a about a week now and can describe what they are and what they aren’t!

s5-productheroIn late July of this year Google held an announcement regarding the Google Nexus 7 tablet refresh, Android 4.3 Release and they snuck the Google Chromecast in during the same announcement. The Google Chromecast is basically a dongle that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port and allows you to cast (stream) video and music from your mobile device or PC to your TV. The device was announced to sell for 35.00 USD and included a free 3 months of Netflix service. The Netflix offer was quickly discontinued shortly after launch. The device was also only being made available in the US through the Google Play Store, Amazon and Best Buy. At launch the device was only able to stream movies from Google Play Movies, YouTube, Netflix and a Chrome Browser on a PC as well as music from Google Play Music. As of today these are still your only options but Google is saying that they are working with other partners.

The device sold out virtually immediately at all sources within 48 hours. Knowing I was going to be Las Vegas for Photoshop World 2013 in September, I kept an eye on Best Buy in store stock levels. On the first day I was in Vegas I saw that one of the stores in the city had just received stock so I drove the 30 minutes each way to pick a couple up!

I was too busy to play around with them that week but I did go ahead and download the Chromecast App for Android using my US Google Play Account to both my Nexus 7 and Nexus 4. I was also able to download the IOS app for my iPhone using my US iTunes account as it is not in the Canadian iTunes store.

I have played around a little with the devices and can report back to what the Chromecast is and what it isn’t.

First of all what it is. The Chromecast is a really small, light device. It is about twice the size of a USB thumb drive and plugs directly into the HDMI port of your TV. If your TV HDMI port won’t fit the dongle directly, Google provides an HDMI Extension Cable in the box. Once plugged into your TV’s HDMI port the device also needs additional power and if your TV has a USB port you can plug the Chromecast into it with the supplied USB cable or use the included AC adaptor to plug it into the wall or power bar. Once you have the device and plugged and running, you run the setup from the Google page, it will find your Chromecast, help you connect it to your Wi-Fi network and configure Chrome on your PC to use it. I had no problems doing this in Canada at all.

So what does it do? Once your Chromecast is set up, it allows you to basically use your device as a remote control to watch Netflix, YouTube or Google Play Movies from your android or IOS device directly on the TV. It does not stream the content from your device to the Chromecast, it sends a link to the Chromecast and the Chromecast connects to the content directly and then streams the video to your TV. As I stated above as of right now the only apps that this works with are Google Play Movies, YouTube and Netflix. I can confirm that this works very well with Canadian Netflix and my own Google Play Movies. It can also stream form Google Play Music but I haven’t tested it and I believe you need a Google Music account to do this which is not available in Canada yet although there are persistent rumours that it is coming soon.

There is  one case however when content can actually streamed from your PC to the Chromecast device and that is via a Google Chrome Tab that you can stream to the Chromecast itself. Your computer transcode the video and sends the stream directly to the TV. This is one of the primary reasons that I actually got the devices was to send some web content from my 14” laptop screen to my big screen TV. This does require a little horsepower on the machine though as it has to transcode video and stream it to the Chromecast.

Here’s what the Chromecast is not, especially for those living in Canada. The Chromecast is not a way to stream your own content to your TV. There is one developer who released an app that allowed you to play your own content but that was quickly shut down be Google. He is developing another app that will be released soon that will give a little more functionality to Chromecast and I am anxiously awaiting that release. I have also recently seen reports that Google is working with Plex software to make local content available via Chromecast. If this comes to pass it will make the Chromecast a little more useful to some people.

If you are thinking that you can use the Chromecast to stream US Netflix again you are mistaken. While it is possible to stream and use US Netflix with the Chromecast, you have to be pretty tech savvy and have the proper equipment and services to accomplish this. Like I stated earlier, the Chromecast doesn’t stream the content from your device it get’s a link and goes out to get the content directly. If you have a VPN or a region blocker or changer on your device or laptop you likely won’t even be able to see the Chromecast when you are connected! To be perfectly honest it would just be easier to plug an HDMI cable into your device or laptop and go directly to your TV! it can be done though and there are a few instructions in this thread over at XDA Developers on how to accomplish this including the APK required to install on your android devices if you are outside the US. In short though  you need a way of intercepting DNS packets from the Chromecast (it is hard codes for Google’s DNS servers), an Unblock US account and a router that has DD-WRT firmware installed on it. I may try to  play around with this down the road but right now for our household, it is easier to just use an HDMI cable on an old Asus Transformer Tablet and a ProXPN VPN account to access US Netflix or like my daughter, use a chrome extension like Hola and connect your laptop via HDMI to the TV!

So why did I go through the bother of getting a couple of Chromecast units for myself if they are so restrictive? Well I can report that they do work just fine with the Canadian version of Netflix once the Chromecast app is installed on your device. In addition I wanted to be able to watch some of the Google Play movies I have purchased on my large screen TV and now I can do it with the Chromecast. In fact it I will probably purchase more from Google Play Movies now that I have the devices and can watch them on my big screen TV. I also wanted them to be able to stream video from Chrome to my TV. For example I have a subscription to Kelby Training and this allows me to play the training videos on my large screen TV instead of on my desktop or laptop monitor. There is a  caveat to this though, if you want full screen on the TV, the video also has to be running full screen on the browser but you can do other things while it plays in the background. Because of their small size and light weight they are good for travel to watch Netflix on larger screen TVs. I haven’t tried using them on a typical hotel Wi-Fi set up but am planning on doing that on my next trip!

So why might you want a Chromecast for your own home? The device can be used as an inexpensive way to add Netflix, YouTube or Google Play Movies streaming to a TV that has no other set top box connected to it. Using the Netflix app as a remote on y9ur device is also a little easier for searching and starting movies as you do have access to the virtual keyboard on your device as opposed to using a TV remote and the typical onscreen keyboard. There are also some VOD movies available on YouTube that you can stream to your TV as well.

For the most part I would think that for a majority of Canadians, a Chromecast really wouldn’t be worth the trouble of getting one unless you are dedicated into setting it up for use with the US Netflix service. As I stated before, there are far easier ways of doing this than using a Chromecast, at least right now. If the talked about Plex and Google partnership comes about then there would be  one more advantage to getting one of the devices in Canada in that you could stream your own content to a TV. Until this happens I would advise that you wait a little bit longer before trying to get one.

Questions or Comments? Go ahead and post them below. I would be happy to answer any that I can!

12 thoughts on “Playing with a Chromecast in Canada!
    • If you have a need for the device based on what I have written and are willing to pay the premium why not. I am heading back to Vegas next week and if you want one let me know via email and I can try and find one and pick it up. 40.00 CAN + shipping to you. As I quoted in the post for a inexpensive way of getting netflix on a TV they are great or if you want to watch Google Play stuff on a big screen, but since they can’t play your own content and are difficult to set up for stuff like US Netflix I wouldn’t rush out.
      Stephen

  1. Any news on obtaining the Chromecast iOS apk download for Canada. I have an apple iphone and looking to use the Chromecast provided as a gift from a US resident.

    • Unfortunately with IOS you can’t download apps without Jailbreaking the phone. My suggestion would be to set up a US Itunes account using another email address and getting the app that way. I have both a US and a Canadian Itunes account. For an address use a relative or friends US address or just pick a business and use their address. Good luck

    • Well it does look like changes have been made since I first wrote the post and I need to test it some more. I am in the US for a bit and have been using the Chromecast to stream US Netflix without issue from my android devices and laptop to the Chromecast. Based on your comment I wanted to do a quick test and I used the Hola chrome extension. Went to the UK version of Netflix and was able to stream a show from there to the Chromecast. In all fairness I tried one movie and a couple of TV shows and only one actually worked. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time to test this right now. I will do further testing when I return home. When I first tried this it didn’t work. So either the Chromecast has been updated or Hola has found a way around it.
      When I get home I will test it further and post an update. One thing to note is that if you are using a VPN to access the US sites then no that will likely still not work as using the VPN you won’t be able to see the Chromecast Device.

    • I had a little bit of chance to test this further. No you can’t cast the tab from the browser to the TV. The extension detects Netflix and doesn’t let you cast the tab. Today I tried using Hola and US Netflix and found this still doesn’t work. You can cast and it looks like it may work but it fails. If the show or movie you are trying to watch is available on your regional Netflix site that will work. Again I believe it has something to do with the hard coding of the DNS inthe Chromecast Device itself. On a side note I did try casting a Shaw on Demand online view-able movie via the cast this tab and it worked fine.

  2. I was given a Chromecast for Christmas; it was picked up the States, and I set it up here in Canada. As of now, there is indeed a Chromecast app in the iOS App Store. Setup was relatively simple. As of now, there are about 10 Chrome apps listed on the Chrome page as working with Chromecast, but a few work in Canada. I don’t have Netflix, and I don’t have any movies on Google Play, so right now this is a way to play YouTube on my big screen and control it from the couch. Not terribly useful, but at $35, not terribly expensive either.

    I hear that Google will be less restrictive with apps adding a Chromecast option in the near future, so at that time, this will be a more useful tool. As of right now, it’s a limited (but nice looking) toy.

  3. I recently received a CC – I have my iphone, xbox and ipad all geared to the US netflix and all 3 work fine with US netflix in Canada.

    Knowing this I wanted to use the CC to stream from the devices to TV? problem – seems that the CC still needs a re route from the router as all devices just need to fool Netflix they are in the US. So when I am on a device and US Netflix it wont cast onto the TV from CC as their seems to be some confusion on the CC stating it can’t play that title likely because it’s receiving Canada content info etc.

    If you have these devices and the DNS are changed then you might want to use a Apple TV or Roku device instead of CC since the CC does not seem to work in streaming US Netflix from Canada you would need a unblock service for an additional $5/month which would IMO defeat the entire thing.

    If there is a additional work around I am unaware of it.

    • CCP,
      You are right… As I explain in the post, because of the way the CC works, the CC doesn’t get the stream from the device (unless you are using the cast tab in Chrome), it goes out and pulls the stream directly from the content provider. In order to get US Netflix content it has to think that it and the device are on a US IP. This can be done using a VPN on the router and all devices connecting via the router. It is far easier and cheaper to use something like the Hola Extension in Chrome on a machine or a VPN (like ProXPN) on a device and connecting that to your TV via HDMI, which is what we do here.

      The CC, if you can get one for 35.00 is great if you are looking at adding Canadian Netflix (or want to stream some of your own content via apps like Plex) to an additional TV in the house or if you want to move it around easily. It is small and portable. If you are planning on trying to use it for US Netflix what I suggested above is much easier. I was very encouraged to see more apps with Chromecast support added recently (Plex is my favourite) and I think this will only get better. I believe this is an experiment that Google is working on and will eventually replace the Google TV project. I think we will see Chromecast technology built in to other devices really soon.

      For what it does (despite the limitations in Canada) it is a great little device. Way less than half the cost of a Roku (which I am not at all impressed with Canadian Support and Channels) and the Apple TV which BTW we have both. It is easy to move around and works well.

      I have recently purchased a couple more for use here. One for my office TV and one for my parents house so the kids can watch Netflix on their TV. Another thing that we have done and I mentioned in a previous comment is that we can order a Shaw VOD movie for online streaming over there (we have a subscription service) and cast the tab to their TV. I have also installed one at our family’s place in the US and it is far easier to use with multiple Netflix accounts than trying to figure out how to sign out of the Netflix app on the Samsung Smart TV when leaving (which is a dizzying key combination on the remote).

  4. So does Chromecast in Canada allow you to stream from your computer any of the following even if just straight off these channels Web sites (well at least the Cdn ones as I’m sure the US ones block everything on their Web sites):
    CTV, CTV2, CBC, CityTV, Global, NBC, ABC, CBS or Fox?

    • Thanks for the question!
      I just tested this again as I haven’t done it since I first got the device but yes this does work on a PC or Mac using a Chrome Browser with the Cast Extension installed. I find you are limited to 720P and with the updates that have been applied since the last time I tested it performance is a little better. A couple of things to note. Performance will be dependent upon your home’s wireless network. The faster the network the better the quality. Since in this case the CC doesn’t go to the site and stream the content like it does with supported apps, your PC or Mac is streaming the video then sending that stream to the CC.
      Another thing to note is that your video has to play in the Chrome tab. If you don’t go full screen you see the full browser tab, if you go full screen on the video the image will fill the TV screen.
      Hopefully that answers your question.
      S

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