How to Use Chromecast: The Ultimate Guide
There are various ways you can put your Google Chromecast to use, aside from the obvious— streaming music and video from your Android, iOS, and Chrome browser-enabled devices. Before I get into the setup and many uses of the Chromecast, we’ll take a look at the specs of this mini-hockey-puck-shaped streaming media device.
The Google Chromecast’s small form factor makes it just the right size to take with you wherever you go, so it packs a lot of punch in a small package. Here are the specifics:
- HD video streaming from the cloud
- Surround sound support
- 4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi
- Mirroring from Android devices, laptops, smartphones, and computers
- Compatibility with Android, iPhone, iPad, Mac, Windows, and Chromebook
Now that we’ve gone through the breakdown of specifics, we’re going to move on to getting your Chromecast set up and all the ways you can use it.
So, you’ve gotten home with your Google Chromecast and you’re itching to get it set up and start binge-watching Breaking Bad or listening to some tunes.
After removing the protective plastic wrapper on the side of the Chromecast package, pop that box open. The instructions are right on the inside flap of the packing (no extra paper instructions).
- Plug your Chromecast into an HDMI port on your TV set.
- Download the Google Cast app from Google Play or the Apple App Store for your smartphone or tablet.
- Alternatively, if you are using your laptop or computer with the Chrome browser installed, download the Google Cast extension for controlling the Chromecast from your laptop or computer. Then, go to https://www.google.com/chromecast/setup/ to get things up and running on your laptop or computer.
Open the Google Cast app, which leads you through a series of set-up steps to get your Google Chromecast connected and using your Wi-Fi network. Be sure that your computer or mobile device and the Chromecast are sharing the same Wi-Fi connection so that they can communicate with one another.
You can use the Google Cast app or Google Chrome browser extension to cast to your TV through your Chromecast device. The Google Cast app lets you see “What’s on,” see your “Chromecast Devices,” and “Get Apps” that work in conjunction with the Chromecast.
Some apps have casting abilities already built in, like YouTube, Pandora, and Netflix, to name a few. You’ll see the casting icon within the app, or website if you are using the Google Chrome browser to cast.
Mirror your Screen from Android
The Google Chromecast has the ability to mirror your screen exactly as you see it on your Android phone or tablet, Chromebook, and in the Chrome browser tab from your computer screen. Instead of your screen being in its current small form, it becomes full-screen on your television. I have yet to see mirroring capabilities on iOS either in conjunction with Chromecast or through an available app, unless it’s a Google app available in the Apple App Store.
Have some pretty awesome photos you want to see, or show off on your flat-screen TV? You can use the Chromecast to cast photos from your smartphone or mobile device straight to your TV. Use the Google Photos app from your device or computer with the Chrome browser, via the Photos app to cast them to your TV screen. A detailed walkthrough can also be found here.
You can also customize the backdrop or screen saver mode on the Google Chromecast. This lets you use your photos or set the device to use various pictures displayed randomly via the Internet.
Not only can you watch movies and videos with the Google Chromecast, you can also listen to your music with it. Have your stereo or surround sound system hooked up with your television or home theater set-up? Start streaming Pandora radio, Google Play music, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or any of the many other Chromecast-friendly music apps.
Chromecast and Windows 10
When you use your Chromecast in combination with the Google Chrome browser in Windows 10, besides casting, you can extend your desktop screen with it. This is very helpful and handy when you are working on large projects, personal or business-related, making your work area larger. Feel free to check out this post for further information about using Windows to extend your desktop display with Chromecast.
Chromecast and Mac
You can use your Chromecast with your Mac as long as you have the Chrome Browser with the Google Cast extension installed, or from an iPhone or iPad with the Chrome Cast app installed on it. You’ll only be able to use Chromecast-enabled apps, as Apple doesn’t natively support the Chromecast or screen mirroring (as they do on their Apple TV streaming media device).
Okay, so it’s not like playing The Division on your Xbox One or Bioshock Infinite from your gaming rig on Steam, but you can play family-friendly and party games. To name some that one might actually play with family or a group of friends: Angry Birds Friends, Scrabble Blitz, Monopoly Dash, Just Dance Now, or Big Web Quiz. Big Web Quiz is a trivia game based on pop culture and the entertainment industry of today.
While there aren’t a ton of selections, you can take advantage of this feature through a handful of participating companies with their apps and add some fun to your next get-together.
Chromecast and Xbox One
Don’t have an extra HDMI port to spare on your TV? Do you have a Xbox One? Well, then you’re golden. The Xbox One has two HDMI ports on the back of it. The main HDMI is the “HDMI Out to TV,” which is the one you use for playing video games and displaying them on your TV screen.
The secondary HDMI port is “HDMI in from Sat/Cable,” and you can use that port to hook up Google Chromecast and use it separately for full-screen casting, or snap it on the right side of your screen to listen to music, or watch a show while you’re gaming. A full how-to for connecting your Chromecast to Xbox One is available right here on the TechJunkie site.
Chromecast is Internet-Dependent
The main requirement for using a Google Chromecast is having an Internet connection. Now, say you’re not home, you’re at a friend’s house or traveling, and you have your Chromecast device with you. You want to use it wherever you are, and you can—with an Internet connection. Instead of going through the process of tethering your device to your computer, which you may not always have on hand, you can use a mobile hotspot from your smartphone or tablet. It’s easy to have this feature added to your mobile plan. It’s also a better alternative to using your LTE cell service and racking up outrageous data charges.
How Chromecast uses the Internet to Cast to your TV
The difference between the Chromecast and most other streaming devices is that you can cast a movie from Netflix to your television and do other things on your phone. You can multi-task while watching, let’s say, The Lego Movie.
The Chromecast takes direction from your instructions, like telling it to go to Netflix and stream a movie. It gathers the content from the Internet and sends it to the Chromecast device, not your actual mobile device, laptop, or computer when using Google Cast from the Chrome browser. You can still make and receive calls on your smartphone or put it in sleep mode while casting to your television screen.
Something interesting about Google Chromecast is that it does not have a remote—you actually use your smartphone, mobile device, or the Chrome browser to act as your remote control. (This is actually a bit of a relief since we already have about half a dozen remotes around here . . . I’m sure you know what I mean.)
What happens when you have some people over and one of them wants to show you the latest Bad Lip Reading video (which I highly recommend checking out on YouTube, especially if you need a laugh)? The Google Chromecast displays a PIN on the backdrop screen or your screensaver. Your guests can use the PIN to allow casting from their smartphone to your Chromecast to your TV. This way you don’t need to give out your Wi-Fi name and password to everyone, just provide them with the PIN and connection will be established to your Chromecast.
Cast Local Media
New apps are coming out all the time, and technology is ever-changing. These are a few tried-and-true apps to stream your local media collection through your Google Chromecast: AllCast (if you’re going to use it frequently, it’s worth getting the paid version), Localcast (another reliable way to bring your media collection to your TV screen and it works with a range of devices such as network attached storage [NAS]), and Plex (which works very well with the Chromecast and is a great program to use for setting up a home media server.
It’s necessary to point out that the Chromecast doesn’t support Amazon Video streaming with the Amazon Video app. The workaround is to use the Chrome browser with the Chromecast extension and cast the tab from your computer or laptop.
Another slight disappointment to some may be the lack of screen mirroring natively from an iOS device; if you’re getting the Chromecast to use with your iPhone or iPad with the hope of mirroring its screen, there isn’t a native solution. We have written up a simple guide on how to mirror your iPhone with your Chromecast. It’s not a native solution, but a simple workaround for getting it done that should prove satisfactory.
All in all, the Google Chromecast is a powerful multi-media casting device with many uses, and it’s an excellent choice for budget restricted individuals, without a doubt. If you’re a full-fledged Android user and fan, then I would definitely recommend it.
The lack of some functions with iOS and Amazon doesn’t deter me from standing behind my support for the Chromecast, but if you’re looking to have the Chromecast co-mingle with Apple, you may need to consider that you might be slightly disappointed with the lack of Apple functions (like you’d have with Apple TV).