The Chromecast can stream video from apps like YouTube directly onto your TV / Google

USB-stick sized dongle allows users to play digital content (including YouTube, iPlayer and Netflix) on their TV using their home Wi-Fi

Google has officially launched its media-streaming dongle in the UK.

The £30 Chromecast is the size of a USB stick and plugs into any TV with a HDMI port, allowing users to access apps such as Netflix and iPlayer over their home Wi-Fi and ‘cast’ their web browser from a tablet or a laptop onto the big screen wirelessly.

Out of the box the Chromecast will have access to content from YouTube, Google Play (music and movies) and apps like Netflix and the BBC. Google hasn’t released a full list of content in the UK but says that “more partners will be added from an ongoing basis”.

Google is marketing the Chromecast as the simplest option in the increasingly large selection of streaming devices that aim to make dumb TVs ‘smart’. It’s certainly one of the cheaper options on the market (only Sky’s Now TV box costs less) but each device has its own good and bad points.

The Chromecast is well suited to multi-tasking (it allows you to stream digital media onto your TV while still browsing the web on your laptop or tablet) but it doesn’t come with its own remote and the screen mirroring feature has had spotty reviews.  

The main rivals are the range of boxes built by Roku (£49.99 for a basic plug-in stick or £99 for the Roku 3 with more features and a remote control with headphone jack) and Apple’s £99 Apple TV. The latter is the right choice if you’re already committed to the company’s family of devices, but doesn’t do anything significantly better than the competition (beyond looking nice).

Google will be hoping that their low price-point will make the Chromecast more of an impulse buy and this makes sense if you'll only be using the device once in a blue moon (for a movie night say, or showing holiday snaps to your family for example). Whether or not it this will be enough for the device to find it a place in homes across the UK remains to be seen.