Chromecast is a useful way to watch video on your TV, but at present, the device doesn't have many content providers. PlayOn's Chromecast app, an upcoming service from the media server intermediary, will add more than 60 channels to Chromecast, provided you're willing to shell out a little extra money.
PlayOn allows users to stream content from computer-based Internet browsers to their TVs through a system such as an Xbox 360 or a Roku box.
Similarly, the Chromecast app lets users stream video content, but through Chromecast instead. PlayOn states that the app will add more than 60 channels to Chromecast's library, which is currently limited to Netflix, YouTube and native Google services.
In addition to Netflix and YouTube, PlayOn will also support channels for Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Aereo, HBO GO, Redbox, Vevo, and a number of network and cable channels. These range from mainstays such as CBS, NBC and ABC to specialty networks such as Comedy Central, History Channel and Animal Planet.
PlayOn is touting its "tabcasting" feature — dubbed PlayCast — as a main draw. Tabcasting is a native Chromecast feature that allows users to stream anything on a computer Web browser directly to their TVs. However, tabcasting is generally laggy and does not properly sync video and audio.
PlayCast looks to eliminate the lag by running a more lightweight, streamlined tabcasting protocol. While Chromecast requires Chrome for this functionality, PlayCast can stream content from Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera.
Operating PlayCast is also fairly simple. Install the PlayCast plugin to your browser of choice, connect your computer and your Chromecast to the same network, and select the PlayCast channel. You'll then be able to stream channels from your TV or tabcast.
Tom's Guide had a chance to check out the PlayOn Chromecast app firsthand at the Pepcom Holiday Spectacular tech showcase on Sept. 20 in New York City. The setup was simple enough: A PlayOn representative plugged a Chromecast into a TV, connected both the Chromecast and his mobile phone (which can be used as a remote control) to the Wi-Fi network, and selected an episode of "The Daily Show" to stream.
The show took some time to load, but this was mostly due to the congested Wi-Fi in the event space. Once it was up and running, it displayed in HD (the app supports up to full 1080p resolution) and synced up the video and audio perfectly.
PlayOn is currently aiming for an October launch for PlayCast, and will come standard with a PlayOn subscription. This service retails for $6.99 per month, $29.99 per year or $59.99 for a lifetime subscription, and will also function on Roku boxes and Xbox 360s.
At $35, Chromecast is a cheap alternative to a streaming box like a Roku or a game console like a PS3, but its limited streaming venues do hold it back somewhat. PlayOn's app may not be a perfect solution, given that it isn't free and adds a few extra steps between you and your content, but it beats having only four channels to watch.