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Best $35 You Can Spend Towards Your Education

Best $35 You Can Spend Towards Your Education

Many of you might already own a Google Chromecast. If you don't yet I would highly recommend picking one up. They are inexpensive ($35) and it's one of my favorite gadgets of the year. Here are some of my favorite things you can do with Chromecast and why I say it's the best $35 you can spend towards your education.

The Google Chromecast device was launched earlier this year in July and quickly became one of the items in high demand and sold out at many stores. Fortunately supply has been replenished and this holiday season you'll find them all over for sale. While many compare the Chromecast to Apple TV or Roku, I'd venture to say they are actually quite different. Personally I own all three and use them for different things. The Apple TV and Roku are primarily used in my house just to watch movies or shows on Netflix. The Chromecast however is plugged into a TV that is anchored to the wall right next to my desk in my office and while I can do the same things (Netflix, Hulu) I primarily use it for a different purpose.


What I love most about the Chromecast is the YouTube app and Plex app. We all know that YouTube is full of funny videos of people falling, babies laughing, and cats. But it is also a huge repository of millions of educational videos, many of them perfect for photographers trying to learn how to shoot, light, pose and edit better. Of course they are all FREE. Being able to watch these videos while doing my other work is extremely valuable and has helped me learn some great tips to be a better photographer and business owner.

The Plex app, which was recently added to Chromecast allows me to tap into my computer functioning as a media server. There I can access all the video tutorials I have purchased in the past. For example, now rather than watching How To Become a Professional Commercial Wedding Photographer on my computer I can have Plex access it from my computer but play it direct to my TV via Chromecast. It makes the viewing experience much more enjoyable and frees up resources and monitor space I would have otherwise been using if I were viewing the videos on my computer.

What I have found to work best is use the queue function of the apps to put a number of videos in queue that way one plays after another without having to search for new ones each time one finishes. To make it easier I have subscribed to some great educators on a number of different topics so the YouTube app for example shows me what new videos they have put out recently. Takes me just a few minutes to queue up 20-30 videos and I then have hours of education value being streamed to me throughout the day or as in the case of the Fstoppers instructional content I'll have 14+ hours of awesome content to keep me company.

Google Chromecast is cheap, works flawlessly and is easy to install. It literally just plugs into an HDMI input on your tv and then you connect the power supply (or USB direct to the TV). It will connect up to your wireless internet and allow you to then control it using your computer or mobile device. I'd predict that this little device will soon come pre-installed in many televisions. When you've had enough educational videos for the day you can also use it to listen to music via the Pandora, Songza or Google Music apps or catch up on your favorite shows with Netflix, Hulu, HBO. There are quite a few more apps compatible with Chromecast and many more in development that will hopefully be released soon. But for $35, this has definitely been one of the best investments I have made for the year.

Trevor Dayley's picture

Trevor Dayley (www.trevordayley.com) was named as one of the Top 100 Wedding Photographers in the US in 2014 by Brandsmash. His award-winning wedding photos have been published in numerous places including Grace Ormonde. He and his wife have been married for 15 years and together they have six kids.

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Ahhh, wasn't aware that Plex was available for the ChromeCast. That'll make it more useful to me for sure. Thanks for this.

Google released their Chromecast SDK and had a programmer's camp of some sort this weekend, so expect a lot of Chromecast apps in the next few weeks. I just got my Chromecast a couple of weeks ago and I just love it!

Love my Chromecast. It's a bit buggy at times, but I'm sure Google will continue to make that minor investment well worth it.

Just about every tv that has been made in the last 8 years has HDMI in or VGA in and could easily be hooked up to a computer. Chromecast isn't some magical way to hook up your computer to your tv. I had the ability to run RCA cables from my computer to my TV when I was 16 in 2000. Chromecast is a more expensive HDMI cable that eats up your bandwidth that can't do all that an HDMI cable can do (assuming that you are using it from a computer).

I may be crazy, but I just don't see the big deal about chromecast. Is it cool? Sure. But I can do more with much cheaper options (HDMI cables are a few bucks on amazon). Or I could just use a smart tv, smart blu-ray player, xbox 360, xbox one, ps3 or some other device I probably already own to do the same exact thing.

I was thinking the same thing.

I have never looked into the Chromecast. Is there any advantage to using it compared to connecting your computer via an HDMI cable?

Yes! That you don't need to connect your computer to the HDMI cable.
And that it isnt your computer playing the content on the screen... its the chromecast device. So when you have send the youtube video you want to watch, its the chromecast device that is playing and streaming it, not the computer or mobiledevice.

By your guys logic there isn't any advantage to WiFi over a LAN-cable or a cellphone to 'landline phone'...

So the advantages are:

It's a wireless connection and the Chromecast device is actually using its resources rather than computer resources to play video. So, you can turn off your computer while videos are playing? I had not realized that. I had understood it to be just a wireless connection to from the computer to the TV.

You're looking at a function rather then it's potential.

POWER : Almost immeasurable and is of far more efficiency then leaving a computer, PS3 or XBOX. Like about $4 of power consumption a year!! THATS insane. PS3 is almost like leaving a 150 watt light bulb on or a computer at 500 to 1200 watts like my MacPro 8Core Xeon

MOBILITY: Not sure if taking a PC, PS3, XBOX is something you like but if I can just pocket a thumb like device and attach to any TV anywhere and viola have my subscription accounts with is a huge plus.

LEGACY: Not all TV's have smart function and if they do they have a "undercoating on a new car premium" cost added in the sticker.

POTENTIAL COST SAVING ELSWHERE: I can buy a industrial one HDMI input no speaker LCD/LED (like the ones used as pro video boards) for thousands less then the bells and whistle model and hook up a Chromecast into my AVReciever and BOOM! Save thousands and add SmartTV function after the fact for 35bucks.

smart TV is an option, but I assure you'll spend more than just $35 on your TV to get it. plus, there are people who don't NEED a new tv, but want their old tv to function as a smart tv.

chromecast was perfect for me. sure, I could've fished wires through my wall and connected my tv to my computer, but I assure it it would've taken more than $35 of cable to run that 100 ft. could've gone with a smart BD player, then I'd have an additional option than just the smart apps, but then I'd have to mount that somewhere, since the TV is on the wall in my bedroom.

if you don't see the need for chromecast, then it wasn't meant for you.

I don't see what the big deal is. I get all the instructional videos I want simply searching YouTube. Doesn't cost me a dime.

....so you magically have a free invisible device that cost no money to view these youtube videos? WOW, MAGIC!

Well, then, I suppose I should have said it doesn't cost me 350 additional dimes. By the way, if you don't have a smartphone, computer with internet link, or TV with cable internet, you can go to your local library and watch those YouTube videos, for free...

I use a 3 monitor setup. youtube on one & Lightroom & other apps on the other ones.

I can't figure out how to make Plex look for my local videos, though. How did you set it up?

You have to install the plex server application on your computer.

Oh yes, I did that shortly after I wrote my original comment. Thanks, though!

It's a fantastic device, although it's a bit sad that it's currently only available in the US. A few ebay and amazon marketplace people sell it here in Europe for a higher price, bu it was still worth it. It's a great user experience.

I have the PLEX app on both of my Roku boxes, along with Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu Plus.

We canceled cable over a year ago, and beefed up our internet speed to the 2nd highest speed offered by AT&T. Good times :)

I would jump on this is I didnt already own an xbox that lets me do all the same media functions. Must admit $35 vs $200 is a big difference and you do get more for your money but its great to google getting into the game at a very affordable price.

I planned for this long before the conception of chromecast. I made a conscious investment in the Google LED tv by sony. This TV is android powered with full built in google integration, google chrome, all the android apps etc. I was pleasantly surprised the other day while on my tablet and I accidentally hit a button. Suddenly my tv started displaying what I was viewing on my tablet. Pretty future proof imo but the chromcast is a great solution for non smart tvs!


hmmmm... you own apple tv and roku, and you still need chromecast??!!!! Well, my appletv already have youtube, plus I can just use airplay from my computer to my tv (using appletv ofcourse)

I suppose that if you have gotten nothing of use from this articel you should just NOT USE IT.

For me it offered a few things I had not thought of.
I personally dont like running anything off of my work machine so this kind of setup is nice to have.

mirrored Apple TV

That one is your best 35$, but this is your best 80$: :)

(Sorry for the Hungrish.) ;)

Chromecast is a great novelty item that Google has launched in the wake of their failed GoogleTV appliance - however it certainly lacks the functionality of the Apple TV or even the Roku devices.

All of the benefits listed can be found - in aces- with the Apple TV and Roku. Further more, the Apple TV gives you access to all of the Apple University online Lectures and Content - some very excellent Photography lectures can be found there.

Sure, it's only $35 - but if you want a full featured product look at Apple TV (especially if you have iOS devices) or Roku. You will be much happier.

"Sure you could only spend $35 and get lots of functionality, but if you spend $100, you'll get more."

I think that if the student can spend money for education - if he or she spent it on essays from the site https://au.edusson.com/write-my-papers must be the best choice - because this company can write the best papers ever!

I ordered one and returned it. Kinda dumb for my uses.

I prefer Apple TV because it can do everything you just described plus anything and everything on my computer.

This was one of the best devices I've purchased in a LONG time...that includes the $700 receiver it's plugged into! The beauty of it is it's simplicity. There isn't even really an interface, the framework is built into the separate apps that access it. Content is streamed directly from the internet, and the app now becomes a remote control for it all. Now developers are free to bake all sorts of Chromecast goodies in their apps. I use it ever single day...