There’s no shortage of ways to watch streaming television in 2017. Somewhere in your house, you probably have some sort of set-top box, be it something from Roku, Amazon, or even an Apple TV. Most modern gaming consoles outside of Nintendo’s Switch function as a streaming device, and if you’ve somehow managed to avoid buying any streaming boxes, your television probably has the same functionality built in anyway. And yet, with all of these different devices, the one streaming option we keep coming back to is our trusty Google Chromecast. Be it the affordability of the device ($35 for a streaming stick), the ease of use, or the lack of menus and updates, Chromecast is one of our favorite ways to stream content from our phones to larger displays. It’s a reliable service that nearly every video provider has built into their apps on Android phones and tablets—save for Amazon Instant Video, of course.
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Unfortunately, Chromecast’s lack of menus and other options means dedicating a whole HDMI port to the streaming stick might be a bit of a waste, especially if you own other devices like cable boxes, Blu-Ray players, or game consoles. But luckily, Xbox One owners can utilize their system’s entertainment properties to make watching content through your Chromecast a little bit easier. Combining the utility and media features of your Xbox One with the simplicity of your Chromecast is a great combination that makes your whole media experience feel a little bit more cohesive, allowing you to play games, watch Blu-Rays, and yes—stream content right to your phone. Let’s take a look at how it’s done.
Understanding the Ports on your Xbox One
The original Xbox One was unveiled in 2013 with a focus on the media capabilities of the system, including the ability to watch cable television through the Xbox’s interface and the interactivity of using an upgraded Kinect to control your media landscape with your voice. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the core Xbox audience—made up primarily of gamers—didn’t quite take to the idea of presenting almost exclusively how the system plays media, and the overall unveiling of the system was considered a disappointment. Since then, Microsoft and the Xbox team have done as much as they could in their power to roll back some of the media-first features. Kinect is all but dead, no longer bundled in the system and requiring an adapter on newer systems to even be supported, and though newer Xbox One models do include 4K Blu-Ray players (making the Xbox One S one of the cheapest players on the market to date), Microsoft has been all about games, for fear of further alienating their audience.
Here’s the good news: despite the downplaying of its media features, all three models of the Xbox One still support HDMI-in. Most electronics that aren’t monitors or displays feature an HDMI-out port, meaning video and audio services can be outputted through that port into a display. The Xbox One, however, supports both HDMI-out and HDMI-in. While this might be confusing for some users who don’t know the difference between the two ports during setup, it means the Xbox One can be used to display a television signal through the interface of your console. It’s pretty neat stuff, considering it isn’t offered on most other devices.
Now that there are three different models of the Xbox, it might be confusing to figure out which port you’re looking for on each device. Here’s a quick guide for figuring out what you need to find on each system.
Xbox One (original)
If you’ve been an Xbox One owner since day one, you have in your possession the original Xbox One console. It’s a bit bulkier than the other two, with a design often compared to a modern VCR, but with clean lines and a nice design, it’s still a great looking machine. We’ll be using photos of the original Xbox One console in our guide below, but this is a diagram straight from Microsoft, displaying the port selection on the back of the original machine.
You can view the original guide for this console here (scroll to the bottom of the article, past the information on the Xbox One S), complete with all the labels for each port, but here’s all you need to know: port number 2 is your HDMI-out port, which means you’ll want your cable to go from here into the input on your television. Port number 4, meanwhile, is the consoles HDMI-in port. This is what we’ll be using with our Chromecast in the steps below.
Xbox One S
With the release of the Xbox One S in 2016, Microsoft took some major steps in reinventing the shape and feel of the original console. The new revision from Microsoft features a new body that is 40 percent smaller than the original Xbox One, along with a small increase in speed and 4K Blu-Ray support. The port selection along the back of the device has been simplified overall, now featuring a more streamlined layout of ports and the removal of the dedicated Kinect port. Luckily, Microsoft has kept the HDMI input on the back of the device, moving it directly next to the HDMI-out port in the layout.
This makes things incredibly simple, as you can see in the diagram above. Port number 2 is the HDMI output signal, meaning you’ll be using that from your console to your television for picture and sound support. The port next to it is your HDMI input, which is what we’ll use for our Chromecast device in the steps below. Here’s an important distinction between the original Xbox One and Xbox One S: if you’re using a first-generation Chromecast device with the Xbox One S, you’ll want to use the small HDMI extender to ensure that you aren’t blocking the HDMI-out port next to it. Second-gen Chromecast users should be fine, as the utility of the extender with the first-gen device is already built into the design.
Xbox One X
Alright, so the Xbox One X is still a couple months away from release as of writing, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help out future owners with their Chromecast support. If you’re unfamiliar with this new model, the One X is a substantial upgrade over the original Xbox One, making it the most powerful console ever to launch on the market. In addition to the 4K Blu-Ray support first offered by the One S, this newest model adds native 4K game support to it arsenal, making it the first console to do so (the PS4 Pro approaches native 4K but doesn’t quite reach it). The design of the Xbox One X hasn’t changed too dramatically since the launch of the One S last year—interestingly, it’s a bit smaller than 2016’s refresh, despite the more powerful hardware.
While we don’t have a helpful diagram straight from Microsoft yet, based on the image of the back of the device above, we know that the port layout and selection for the One X is incredibly similar to what we’ve seen on the One S. The first HDMI port to the far left, next to the power adapter, is the HDMI-out port, which will run into your television, while the HDMI input is right next to it, just as we saw with the One S above. Again, first generation Chromecast users will want to use the HDMI extender supplied with their device to ensure their Chromecast stick isn’t in the way of the HDMI-out cable.
Connecting Your Chromecast to the Xbox One
Once you’ve determined your IO layout, connecting your Chromecast to your Xbox One is easy. To start, locate the HDMI-in port as detailed in the guide above; as a standard rule, it’s always the HDMI port located closer to the right side of your console. Insert the Chromecast dongle into that port. If you’re using a first or second generation Chromecast, you’ll need to either plug your USB connector into the AC adapter provided in the box, or alternatively, use the USB ports on the back of your Xbox One to power the Chromecast. Any Chromecast Ultra users (the Chromecast that supports 4K playback) will have to use the included AC power cable designed for their device.
Setting Up the Xbox One to Cast
Once you’ve plugged your Chromecast into the HDMI-in port on your Xbox One, One S, or One X, we’ll be turning our attention to the software on your Xbox One. Turn on your system and find the TV app on your device’s home menu. Once you’ve selected this, a display will appear on your device inviting you to “Watch TV on your Xbox.” Traditionally, this system is used to allow cable boxes to input their video feeds into your Xbox One, in order to utilize the Xbox’s own menus and guides into your cable service. Once you’ve opened the application, select “Set up your cable or satellite box.” While the Chromecast is by no means a DVR, all we’re trying to do is get the Xbox One to recognize the device as a media input.
Once your Xbox One has detected your Chromecast (by displaying a simple message saying “We’ve detected a signal from your cable or satellite box”), select the “Next” button on your display, which will show a few more setup screens before finally allowing you to use your Chromecast through your Xbox One.
Benefits to Using Your Chromecast through Your Xbox One
What makes using your Chromecast and Xbox One together so great is the ease of use of balancing two different media universes. Your Chromecast makes it easy to stream most of the content directly from your phone, including video from Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and more. What’s better, though, is that you also get the benefit of being able to stream content that would otherwise be inaccessible through Xbox’s apps, like your Google Play content. Nearly every media app on the Play Store has built-in support for Chromecast, and the only major app that doesn’t—Amazon Instant Video—has an app for the Xbox One.
And that’s the best part of sharing your Chromecast and Xbox over one input. Anything the Chromecast can’t do, like playing games or streaming original Amazon Prime shows, can be handled by the Xbox’s own suite of applications. If you’d rather browse through Netflix using the standard interface, the Xbox application works perfectly, but if you’d rather start streaming straight from your phone, it’s easy to do that too. Being able to use both the streaming capabilities of the Chromecast and the standard interface of the Xbox makes it a media-based match made in heaven.
There are a few other benefits to using your Chromecast through your Xbox, of course. Consolidating HDMI ports on your television is always good, allowing you to save a spare port for any other electronic devices you might have lying around the house. You also don’t have to switch inputs or cables between the two devices; just launch the TV app on your Xbox and you’re ready to go. One of the coolest features of the Xbox interface, Snap, allows you to display your Chromecast on one side of the display and use the remaining part of the screen to play a game or display a second app. And if you’re a Kinect user, you can launch your Chromecast just by asking Kinect to open the TV application.
There’s a lot to love about both the Xbox ecosystem and the ability to easily stream content through your Chromecast from your phone, but what makes them both even better is the ability to pair the two ecosystems together. A lot of users overlook the ability to use HDMI-in on the Xbox One, a feature not many other devices can claim to have. So instead of missing out on the instant streaming features from your Chromecast or the simplified menu systems of the Xbox, do what’s best for your media libraries: combine the two platforms together and live in a truly blissful media existence.