Chromecast has become a staple in living rooms across the country, thanks in no small part to the clever device’s rapidly growing app support. Capable of streaming Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Spotify, and literally hundreds of others, Chromecast is a worthwhile investment (just $35) for those looking to smarten up their TV on the cheap.
But aside from its staple video and music streaming, Chromecast offers a bevy of other useful features which can easily go overlooked. From mirroring your full desktop on your TV to turning your big screen into a personal photo album, there are plenty of tips and tricks you can use to get a richer Chromecast experience. To help you master your Chromecast, we’ve put together a breakdown of our favorite lesser-known features that allow you to get the most from your streaming adventures, whether you’re new to the device, or a Chromecast vet.
First things first: You’ll want to download the Google Cast extension for your Google Chrome Browser via the Chrome Web Store. This extension allows you to send content to your Chromecast from your browser, and it’s crucial when executing many of the tips and tricks listed below.
Setting up Chromecast
If you’ve already setup your Chromecast, skip to the next trick, but we wanted to help you get things rolling in case you’re new to the product and just pulling it out of the box. Here’s the essential equipment: a TV with an HDMI input, Wi-Fi accessibility, a free USB port or power outlet, and a computer, smart phone, or tablet with either Google’s Chrome browser or the Chromecast app installed. Simply plug the device in to your TV’s HDMI port, give it power, then visit the Chromecast setup page to download the necessary app, and the Chromecast will walk you through the rest.
Note: If after connecting your Chromecast to your Wi-Fi network, you still can’t “see” the Chromecast from your Chrome browser casting extension or compatible apps (such as Netflix), you may need to make some adjustments to your Wi-Fi router. Visit the aforementioned Chromecast page for troubleshooting help.
Use Chromecast as an audio streaming device
Bluetooth is great for streaming audio to newer hi-fi systems and wireless speakers, but what about all those notifications? You can bypass those, and still user your phone while you jam out thanks to a slew of iOS and Android music apps with Chromecast support, including Pandora, Google Play Music, and Spotify.
If you’ve got modern A/V receiver, amplifier, or powered speakers with an optical input, using the Chromecast to stream is as simple as setting your TV audio to “external speakers,” (typically in the settings menu under sound), and connecting an optical cable from your TV’s audio output to your audio device’s optical input. Have an older amplifier with only analog inputs? Just get an optical to RCA adaptor online and plug into the RCA input of your sound system.
But you want better sound, you say? While most modern TVs will do just fine pumping out your stereo signal, you may get better sound quality by simply connecting your Chromecast directly to an HDMI input on your A/V receiver and using your phone as both the controller and the viewing window to see what’s playing.
Mirror your Android phone using Chromecast
Fans of vertical integration will appreciate that Google has brought Android and Chromecast together, allowing users with most Android devices to “mirror” content from those devices to a big screen via Chromecast. The service is available on most Android devices with Android OS 4.4.2 or higher. To start mirroring, simply connect your Android device to the same Wi-Fi network as your Chromecast, open the Google Cast app and tap the navigation drawer in the top left. Tap the “Cast Screen” button, select your Chromecast, and voila! All that is on your phone is now available for viewing in the bright lights of your HDTV. To end casting, open the navigation drawer again, tap the Cast Screen button, then select Disconnect.
Experience 3D virtual reality without the clunky headset
This tip is a bit more expensive and complicated than others on our list, as you’ll need a 3D TV, an Android phone, and Google’s freemium cardboard app to pull it off. If you find yourself in this category, keep reading. To use the feature, you’ll first want to activate SBS mode on your 3D TV, typically via your television’s settings menu. Then, download the cardboard app on your smartphone and launch it. After that, simply mirror the content of your smartphone to your television as directed above, and put on your 3D glasses packaged with your TV, allowing you to enjoy a 3D experience akin to virtual reality from the comfort of your living room.
Score free offers from popular apps
Google often goes out of its way to thank its Chromecast users with an abundance of monthly freebies. The tech giant offers deals for apps like Hulu and Google Play among others, many of which include access to free movies, extended streaming trials, and months of unlimited music. Simply visit Google’s Chromecast offer page to see a list of available offers, or if you prefer, access them through the options menu in iOS or Android.
Stream a slideshow using Google Slides
Got a slideshow you want to broadcast on the big screen? If you use Google Slides, you can stream your presentations over Chromecast. First, make sure that whatever device you are streaming from is on the same Wi-Fi network as your Chromecast. Then, click the “Present” button in the upper-right corner of your slideshow to open a drop-down menu, and select “Chromecast.”
How to stream local videos
Although Chromecast doesn’t work like an Apple TV or Roku, you can nonetheless stream videos stored on your computer or network if Chrome supports the file type on your PC or Mac. With a Chrome browser open, hit CTRL+O for PC or Command+O for Mac and locate the video you wish to play. This gives you the option to choose local videos from an installed hard drive, an external hard drive plugged in to your computer, and some network locations.
Check out the natively supported file formats here or move onto our next tip for playing additional file types.