Using Google means an easier online life—from email and online storage to news and digital maps. But the search giant can also take over your TV with the Google Chromecast $27.99 at WalMart, a streaming dongle that is behind only Amazon’s own Fire TV Stick on the company’s list of best-selling electronic devices.
Part of its appeal lies in its pure portability, but there’s also the price: just $35 to wirelessly stream Netflix, Spotify, HBO GO, Hulu Plus, and more from your mobile device or PC to the TV. Not to mention apps for music, working out, and catching up on sports. When the Chromecast was released in July 2013, it quickly sold out, and is still going strong. At this year’s Google I/O, Google’s Sundar Pichai said sales have topped 17 million.
While the ultraportable device is pretty much plug and play, there are a few tips and tricks that can make casting more magical.
The Chromecast is a handy gadget for streaming Netflix, YouTube, and other content from mobile devices to your TV, but it requires a strong Wi-Fi connection to deliver streams that don’t buffer. Not everyone has a super-fast Wi-Fi network, though, and for those people, Google now has an Ethernet adapter for Chromecast. The adapter looks like the existing Chromecast power cord, but the plug end now includes a small Ethernet port. Connect an Ethernet cable that’s also connected to your modem to that port, plug the USB end of the adapter into the Chromecast, attach the Chromecast to the HDMI port on your TV, and you’re ready to go. It’s $15 in the Google Play store.
Google often gives away free movies and other perks to those who have a Chromecast. Check out Chromecast’s Offers page to see all current ones.
If you use Google Slides you can show your presentation with Chromecast. Install the Google Cast extension in the Chrome browser. Make sure the device you’re using and the Chromecast are on the same Wi-Fi network. Go into your presentation and select the drop-down arrow on the Present button, and then click on the Chromecast.
Game Time Decision
It’s not a PlayStation 4, but the Chromecast can be used to play some fun family games. Test your trivia knowledge with Jeopardy, get your groove on with Just Dance 2015, or serve up some nostalgia with Sonic Jump Fever. Download games to your Android or iOS device to use your phone or tablet as a controller, while the game runs on your TV. About100 games for Chromecast can be found in Google Play alone.
Pretty As a Picture
Use your own photos—or choose from Google’s selection of beautiful art, landscape photography, and satellite images—to switch up your Chromecast background. In the Chromecast app, go to Navigation and select Backdrop. Choose whether you want to display your own photos or photos chosen by Google when your Chromecast is idle. You can also add weather information to the screen.
Similarly, Chromecast can serve as a modern-day alternative to old-school slideshows; no projectors here. Use an app like PhotoCast for Chromecast (Android and iOS) to show photos from your device, Facebook, Google+, and iCloud. If you want to just show photos from Google+, make sure that the Chromecast and device with the photos are both on the same Wi-Fi network. Then open the photos you want to show and click the cast icon.
TV As a DJ
To play music through your TV with Chromecast, download Google Play Music (Android or iOS). Open the app, select the cast icon, choose Chromecast from the device list, and select what you want to play. To expand your selection beyond your own music, you can join Google’s subscription service for $9.99 a month. It’s a decent substitute since you can’t use Spotify on Chromecast. Pandora works if you want more of a radio experience, though Google did just add free streaming radio to Google Play Music, too.
If you want to watch something on your TV but don’t want the sound to disturb others in the room, then download LocalCast for Android oriOS. It lets you cast video to your television while keeping audio on your device. Just plug some headphones in and you’re set, though the app description warns that it’s in beta and might be buggy.
Life Is But a Stream
Do you feel that your streaming is murky? When casting from the Chrome browser, you can change its quality. Make sure theChromecast extension is installed, and click the Cast icon on the top right side of your browser. Select Options, and a new tab will open, allowing you to change settings. Choose from standard (480p), high (720p), and extreme (720p high bitrate) to clear things up.
One of the chief complaints about the Chromecast is that it doesn’t support local media playback, so you can’t tap into content you have saved in the cloud. But with media management app Plex, you can stream music, movies, and photos via the Chromecast. Plex organizes your scattered content and lets you watch it from tablets, TVs, phones, and more. Sign up for the service, then download the Plex app, open it, and send your content to the Chromecast.
On Android, you can mirror your Android device to your television, meaning that you can cast whatever you see on your phone to the TV. It’s currently available on several devices with Android 4.4.2 (KitKat MR1) and above; see the Chromecast support page for a full list.
On your next vacation, forget about having to watch the limited channels available on the hotel’s TV. Using your Chromecast on the go isn’t quite as simple as it is at home, but it’s doable. Make sure to pack a portable wireless router, like the ZyXel MWR102 Travel Router $22.43 at Amazon and plug it into the Ethernet port in the wall. Then plug your Chromecast into the HDMI port on the TV and connect it and the device you’re using to cast to it. (If you’re at a Marriott, you might be able to get Netflix without the Chromecast, though.)
Keep Up With Apps
Apps are being added all the time, which means that your Chromecast is gaining new abilities and content. To find out what its latest tricks are, visit Google’s Chromecast page and click on New. Recent additions include Comedy Central and TED.
Whether you have housguests for a week or party guests for an evening, you might want to let them decide what to watch without giving them access to your Wi-Fi. You can now turn your Chromecast to Guest Mode in the device settings and anyone with a Google Cast Ready appthat’s open within about 25 feet of the Chromecast will be able to cast once the option shows up on their device. If this fails, the user can manually enter the four-digit PIN that will be displayed on the TV into the app’s settings on their device.
Tired of searching for remotes when you want to use your Chromecast? No need to get up. You can turn on your TV, switch inputs, and control Chromecast features using your mobile device. That is if the Chromecast is plugged into the wall with an AC adapter and you can enable HDMI-CEC on your TV. To check that your TV has HDMI-CEC, check the manual. It will either be referred to as HDMI-CEC or by a proprietary name depending on the TV brand: Toshiba (Regza Link or CE Link), Samsung (Anynet+), LG (SimpLink), Sony (Bravia Link or Bravia Sync), Panasonic (Viera Link, HDAVI Control, or EZ-Sync), Sharp (Aquos Link), Philips (EasyLink), and Mitsubishi (NetCommand for HDMI).
Source: PC Magazine