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Everything you need to know about the ridiculously affordable Google Chromecast

Google’s first foray into the world of streaming devices was a complete knockout when it debuted in 2013 — and the device’s latest iteration pulls zero punches when it comes to functionality. The company swapped the stick-like build of the original for one that better resembles a puck, and in doing so, created a product that’s far easier to utilize when working with hard-to-reach ports. The small device remains just as convenient (and affordable) as ever though, and continues to provide users with a simple way to cast their favorite content from their computer or smartphone to the big screen in their living room. And the new Chromecast app is just as handy, especially when you factor in a sleek interface and intuitive voice search.

Related: Become a master caster with these 21 Google Chromecast tips and tricks

While the Chromecast’s popularity has spread far and wide already, those who have yet to be initiated into its world may still have a lot of questions about how the device works and what it can do. We cover all of that below, and have recently added an updated list highlighting all the best apps that currently support the device.

What is Chromecast, and how does it work?

As previously mentioned, the Chromecast is a puck-like device with a circumference roughly the size of can of soda. The latest version comes in three distinct colors — dubbed Black, Coral, and Lemonade — each of which features three built-in antennas, a malleable HDMI cord, and support for 802.11 ac and 5 GHz bands. The device runs off a simplified version of Google’s Chrome OS, and has only 256 MB of memory, which is nothing. However, it doesn’t need to have a ton of memory because it’s not much more than a glorified gateway. It gets plugged into your HDTV’s HDMI port, connected to your home’s Wi-Fi network, and acts as a portal for the content on your mobile devices to be cast onto your TV.

Google Chromecast

Here’s how casting works: Using apps on your mobile device or computer, you essentially hand off, or cast, content to the Chromecast. Using the information it receives about what you want to watch, the Chromecast finds the material on the internet and streams it directly from the source. This way, your phone or tablet’s resources aren’t hogged up with streaming tasks, and battery life doesn’t take a huge hit. Think of your mobile device or computer as a remote control for the Chromecast. One exception to this rule is when the Chromecast mirrors your Chrome browser on your computer. In this case, the Chromecast is depending entirely on your computer as the source for what it displays. The other exception is an app called AllCast, which we dig into a little bit further along.

What devices work with Chromecast?

Thanks to its “all devices” philosophy, Chromecast can run on Android tablets and smartphones, iPads and iPhones, and Chrome for Windows and Mac OS X. However, those with BlackBerry or Windows phones are out of luck… for the most part. An app called Tube Cast offers some limited YouTube functionality for Windows phones over Chromecast; but for now, it’s safe to say that functionality is extremely limited at best.

Google Chromecast is available at:

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