Geeks2U Promise
We guarantee you'll love our fast, friendly service - or we'll refund your money.  
133,572 Happy Customers & Counting
Need tech support?
1300 769 448
Extended hours, 7 days a week
Home  /  geekspeak  /  Google’s Chromecast might outgun the streaming features on your Smart TV

Google’s Chromecast might outgun the streaming features on your Smart TV

chromecast

While the latest Smart TVs come with all the streaming bells and whistles, sometimes you’ll get better results from Google’s budget streaming media player.

Last year I bought a new television for the bedroom, just a basic 32-inch Sony Bravia W700B to sit in the corner so we can occasionally watch television in bed. Not that we watch a lot of free-to-air broadcasts in my house, the real attraction was built-in Netflix as well as the Plex media app for streaming video from Plex Media Server running on the Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive in my office.

With these features built into the television you wouldn’t think that I’d need to worry about any kind of external media player, but after a while the television’s shortcomings became clear.

I realised that we couldn’t watch high-def MKV video files in the bedroom, streamed from the NAS via the Sony television’s Plex app, because the video would choke and stutter. The same videos play without any hassles via Plex on the 4th generation Apple TV in the lounge room.

At first I thought the trouble was due to the weaker Wi-Fi signal in the bedroom, as the television occasionally encounters networking issues, but testing Google’s $59 Chromecast in the bedroom put that theory to rest. The same high-def MKV files play perfectly in the bedroom with the Chromecast plugged into the television.

The trouble might be due to Sony’s stingy video codec support, or perhaps the mediocre Opera TV Store version of Plex available for the 2014 Bravias. Either way, the Plex Media Server running on my NAS is forced to convert my high-def MKV files on the fly to a format that the television will handle (a trick known as transcoding).

While my NAS has the grunt to transcode standard-def MKV for the Sony television without too much trouble, it runs out of puff when trying to transcode high-def MKV files.

It’s easy to see the problem when I log into the NAS and watch its CPU and RAM usage, which skyrocket when I try to play a high-def MKV file using the Sony television’s Plex app. Play the same file in Plex on the Chromecast or the Apple TV and the NAS stops groaning under the load.

You can also look at the Now Playing section of the Plex Media Server’s web interface and click on the “i” to see whether a file is playing as a “direct stream” – as it does with Plex on the Apple TV and Chromecast – or whether it’s “transcoding” as it clearly does with Plex on the Sony television.

It’s not just Plex’s transcoding that’s the problem, many of the television’s streaming video features tend to be slow, clunky and unreliable. I’ve even noticed that when Netflix stutters on the Sony television, insisting it has encountered networking issues, the same clip plays without any trouble on the Chromecast. As a result the Chromecast has earned a permanent spot in the bedroom so we no longer need to fight with the television’s streaming apps.

Your mileage may vary between devices, this is a 2014-model Bravia and the newer models may be better behaved or have improved Android-style Plex apps. However you’re streaming video around the house or across the internet, the results will depend on your playback devices, how much grunt they have under the bonnet, the video codecs they support and the calibre of their streaming video apps.

If your so-called Smart TV tends to play dumb then it’s worth checking whether Google’s budget Chromecast player can do a better job.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Recent News

microsoft-surface-pro

Since the inception of its Surface line of tablet and 2-in-1 PCs, Microsoft has had to toe a careful line. It has high aspirations for its own in-house hardware lines(Can a bigger Surface tempt you into Microsoft’s tablet vision?), but at the same time the larger Microsoft group doesn’t exactly want its other hardware partners… More 

internet concept

Google is determined to see encryption used right across the web and it’s preparing to publicly shame businesses which don’t add HTTPS security to their websites. While the HTTP standard is great for building webpages to share with the world, it wasn’t really designed for those times when you need to ensure that no-one is… More 

You can’t get onto the Internet in any reliable way in Australia without dealing with a telecommunications company in some respect, whether you opt for a fixed line broadband service via ADSL, Cable or NBN, or simply utilise mobile broadband services. When these services work and you’re correctly billed, everything is fine and dandy. But… More 

Kicking in when your mobile phone reception flakes out, VoWiFi ensures that your calls don’t drop out when you run out of coverage bars. In a big country like Australia there are always going to be spots where the mobile coverage is questionable, not just when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere but even… More