Hands-on: HBO Go comes to Chromecast

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Google just notched another big source of streaming video for Chromecast, with HBO Go support now available on iOS, Android, and the Web.

As with every other app that supports Chromecast, you don't have to do much to get HBO Go streaming on your television. As long as the $35 dongle is plugged into your TV and on the same Wi-Fi network as your phone or tablet, the Chromecast icon should automatically appear at the top of the app. Tap the icon and browse for videos like you normally would, and your selection quickly pops up on the television.

Of course, you need a subscription to HBO Go through your television provider to stream videos in the first place.

In a quick test on an iPad mini and Nexus 7, the app worked in predictable fashion, though there was an occasional bug on the iOS version where the Chromecast icon would disappear during streaming, requiring a relaunch of the app.

(Click to enlarge.)

As with some other Google apps, Chromecast support on iOS isn't quite as seamless compared to Android. You can't control volume using the hardware buttons on an iPhone or iPad, like you can on an Android device, but HBO Go's app does offer a software volume slider to compensate.

One thing that's slightly confusing is that to return to playback controls, you must first tap on the Chromecast icon, and then tap on the currently-playing video. Most apps show persistent playback controls as you browse through the app. On Android, at least, you can also control playback through the notification bar.

Stepping up the streaming

Google has been slowly ramping up support for more apps in Chromecast, after launching in July with just Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Music and Google Play Movies & TV. Hulu and Pandora both added Chromecast support to their mobile apps last month, and Google Play Music support was extended to iOS with the app's recent arrival on iPhone.

Numerous other companies have pledged Chromecast support, including Twitch.tv, Vevo, Vimeo, Songza, and Revision3. Some apps, such as Pocket Casts, are supposedly ready to go right now. But Google has not opened up Chromecast support to all third-party developers, and it's unclear when that will change. For now, Google is only letting a limited number of media companies through.

Even with the app floodgates closed, Chromecast now has a fairly broad selection of videos, and some solid music options on both iOS and Android. At $35, Chromecast remains a cheap and fast way to get streaming media onto your television.

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