Google helps simplify your online life—from email and online storage to news and digital maps. But it can also take over your TV with Chromecast.
If you have a 4K TV, the Chromecast Ultra will set you back $69; the standard version is $35. Whichever one you choose, part of the Chromecast's appeal lies in its portability and ease of use; just plug in, connect to Wi-Fi, and you'll be streaming Netflix, Spotify, HBO, Hulu, and more from your mobile device or PC to the TV in no time. Not to mention apps for music, working out, and catching up on sports.
If you're still holding onto the first-generation Chromecast, you won't be able to take advantage of any new features going forward since Google will no longer be updating the firmware for that model, so now's a good time to upgrade and get a refresher on what this gadget can do. While the ultraportable device is pretty much plug and play, there are a few tips and tricks that can make casting more magical. Check them out below.
Ethernet Adapter for Chromecast
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 has a $15 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.
Watch Amazon Video on Chromecast (Finally)
For years, you could not cast content from the Amazon Prime Video app to your TV using the Chromecast since Amazon had its own streaming dongle. Prime subscribers had to instead cast movies and TV shows from their Chrome browser.
That changed this summer when Google and Amazon called a truce and Prime Video was added to the list of apps that support Google Cast. Just fire up the Prime Video app and look for the cast icon.
Chromecast Guest Mode
Whether you have house guests 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. Turn your Chromecast to Guest Mode in the device settings, and anyone 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.
Do Not Track
It's impossible to turn off all tracking since the Chromecast is merely the conduit for content, but you can limit it. Open the Google Home app and select Devices > Chromecast. Select Settings and uncheck Send Chromecast Device Usage Data and Crash Reports to Google.
Add Photos to the Chromecast Background
Switch up your Chromecast background with Ambient Mode. You can use your own photos, or choose from Google's selection of art, landscape photography, and satellite images.
In the Google Home app, tap the icon for your Chromecast. Tap the gear icon for the Device settings menu and scroll down to Ambient Mode. Here you can choose to have your Chromecast display images from Google Photos or a gallery of Google-curated images and artwork. Tap Experimental to pull images from Facebook or Flickr. You can also add the weather and time to the display.
Cast Google Photos to the TV
Similarly, Chromecast can serve as a modern-day alternative to old-school slideshows; no projectors here. Google Photos has Chromecast support, so you can cast your pics from Google Photos on iOS, Android, and the PC to your TV. Look for the Cast icon on the top of the Google Photos app and tap to connect.
Cast Plex to Chromecast
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, download the Plex app, open it, and send your content to the Chromecast.
You've probably used your phone as a remote for your cable or Chromecast, but you might not know that you can use it to bypass the process of having to change the input to cast if your TV supports HDMI-CEC. Google the model of your TV and the trade name for HDMI-CEC that matches the brand:
Samsung - Anynet+
Sony - BRAVIA Link or BRAVIA Sync
Sharp - Aquos Link
Hitachi - HDMI-CEC
AOC - E-link
Pioneer - Kuro Link
Toshiba - Regza Link or CE-Link
Onkyo - RIHD (Remote Interactive over HDMI)
LG - SimpLink
Panasonic - VIERA Link or HDAVI Control or EZ-Sync
Philips - EasyLink
Mitsubishi - NetCommand for HDMI
Runco International – RuncoLink
If you have it, then use the TV remote and go to Settings and select the HDMI-CEC option and enable it. Now when you cast to your TV, you don't have to change the input. You can start casting to your Chromecast from another device and the Chromecast will send a signal to the TV, forcing the TV to switch to the Chromecast. The TV remote control will now also work to pause, play, and stop whatever you're watching on the Chromecast.
Use Chromecast in a Hotel
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 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.)
Play Games on Chromecast
It's not a PS4, but the Chromecast can be used to play some fun family games. Get your groove on with Just Dance Now or serve up some nostalgia with NES emulator CastNES. Or play Pictionary on the big screen by downloading Doodlecast to an Android device and then just casting the screen. Download games to your Android or iOS device to use your phone or tablet as a controller, while the game runs on your TV.
Listen on Your Headphones
If you want to watch something on your TV but don't want the sound to disturb others in the room, download LocalCast for Chromecast. It lets you cast video to your television while keeping audio on your device. Tap Route Audio to Phone on the Now Playing screen, and plug in some headphones.
Ask Google Home to Play Netflix
If you really want to make your Chromecast feel at home, sync it up with your Google Home to control some TV content via voice. Here's how to connect your Google Home, TV, and Chromecast; when they're linked, you can say things like, "OK, Google, play Narcos from Netflix on Chromecast."
Other services that work with Google Home include CWTV, CBS All Access, HBO Now, Viki, Crackle, Red Bull, and Starz. Google's own YouTube TV and Google Play Movies & TV are also supported.
Mirror Your Android Device to the TV
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.
Stream DVDs With Vudu (for a Price)
If you have stacks and stacks of DVDs and nothing to play them on or just want the convenience that comes with streaming, you can use Vudu to convert old media to new. Download the Vudu app (Android, iOS), sign in or sign up for an account, then go to the menu and select Disc to Digital, and scan the UPC code from the disc. Then you can watch your DVDs as a stream on the Vudu app on Chromecast—at a cost of $2 per title for standard definition and $5 per title for high definition.
Create a YouTube TV Queue
The only annoying thing about watching YouTube videos on a Chromecast is that you have to pick up and put down your phone or tablet every time you want to watch another. Or do you? Open the YouTube app, tap the Cast button, select your Chromecast device, and choose a video to watch. Instead of selecting play, tap TV Queue. Find another video and do the same and repeat until you have a full playlist. Hit Play on the first video in the queue to start watching the playlist.
Watch YouTube Kids With Chromecast
YouTube Kids lets junior watch age-appropriate videos from the Google-owned video site. The app restricts content on the app, even on search, and tech-savvy kids can now cast their favorite videos to the TV.
Chromecast Preview Program
If spoilers never dissuade you, then you'll want to join the Chromecast Preview Program. This will get you the latest Chromecast features before they're released to the public. Google says the program is not beta but rather just a preview of stable features.
To sign up, open the Google Cast app on an Android or iOS device. Tap Devices, locate the one that you want to use for the program, and select it. Now select Device Settings, then Preview Program. Use the slider to select whether or not you want to receive email notifications of updates as they are pushed to your Chromecast device. When you're done, select Join Program, then review everything you've selected and tap OK, Got It.
You may not be successful in enrolling; should you not see Preview Program under settings, then Google isn't accepting members at the moment and you can try again later.
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