Google Chromecast is a device you can use to send things from a small screen to your big screen TV.
It's super easy to figure out, set up, and use. With it, you can send a YouTube video on your phone to a TV, or you can send a website on your computer to your TV. And that's just two of the possibilities. To help you learn what Google Chromecast is, how it works, and what it can do, Pocket-lint has explained everything you need to know about the affordable HDMI dongle.
What is Chromecast?
Google launched the first $30 (£30) Chromecast in 2013. It's an affordable HDMI dongle that lets you wirelessly "cast" content to a television. It basically makes most TVs smart. Then, in 2015, Google launched $30 Chromecast 2. It's faster, more responsive, and just as affordable. And it arrived with an updated Chromecast app that serves as a one-stop shop for finding compatible apps and specific content across those apps.
In 2016, Google introduced the $69 (about £50) Chromecast Ultra, which works identically to its predecessors but uniquely offers the ability to cast 4K streams. Google also offers a $35 Chromecast Audio. Unlike the other three Chromecasts, Audio lets you wirelessly "cast" to speakers. That means your old speakers will essentially be turned into modern day speakers capable of playing music streamed from your devices.
For more information on Chromecast, check out these guides:
- Chromecast 2 review: Make any TV smart, effortlessly
- What is Google Cast for Audio?
- Chromecast now has a guest mode: Here's how to turn on the feature
- Roku Streaming Stick vs Google Chromecast
- Amazon Fire TV Stick vs Google Chromecast vs Roku Streaming Stick
How does Chromecast work?
In order for Chromecast to work, you need to plug it into an HDMI input on a TV/display as well as an open USB port on your TV/display (or an open power wall outlet). You also need a compatible Android device or iOS device with the latest version of the Google Cast app installed, or you need a compatible Windows computer, Mac computer, or Chromebook computer with the latest version of the Chrome browser installed. It's important that your Chromecast and device or computer are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Otherwise, you cannot cast to your TV.
Set up Chromecast
Check out Pocket-lint's separate guide on how to set up Chromecast. The process involves plugging your Chromecast device into your TV's HDMI port and a power source (either via USB on your TV our a wall outlet), then in installing the Google Cast mobile app on your mobile device to begin the setup process, and following the app's setup instructions (also available here).
The app will automatically find your Chromecast and prompt you to connect it to the same Wi-Fi network connected to your mobile device. You can also set up Chromecast to work with your computer. Simply install the Chrome browser on computer, and then navigate to chromecast.com/setup from the browser to setup Chromecast (or you can quickly install the Google Cast extension).
Things you can do
With Chromecast, you can cast movies, TV shows, and photos from Cast-enabled apps on Android smartphones, Android tablets, iPhones, and iPads. You can also cast entire sites or tabs from the Chrome browser on Windows desktops, Windows laptops, Mac desktops, Mac laptops, and Google Chromebooks. There's no remote required. To manage your Chromecast, use the Google Cast app or Google Cast browser extension.
You can also cast your Android screen to your TV. Simply open the Google Cast app and tap the navigation drawer. From there, tap the Cast Screen button and select your Chromecast device.
How to cast
Check out Pocket-lint's separate guide on how to cast with Chromecast. But in a nutshell, all you have to do - once you set up Chromecast - is tap the Cast button from a Cast-enabled app such as YouTube on your mobile device, and the content will instantly appear on your big TV. From Chrome browser on your computer, you can also tap the Cast button in a video player like YouTube.
Although it's not required, you can install the Google Cast extension in order to get the Cast icon in your browser toolbar. From there, simply click the icon, then choose the Chromecast device you would like to cast to, and wait for the contents of your tab in Chrome to appear on your TV.
Which apps and sites are Cast-enabled?
Casting to your TV is a simple way to enjoy your mobile apps on a big screen. You can even use your mobile device or tablet as a remote and control everything from playback to volume. Within the Google Cast app, you can tap What’s On to browse content from Cast-enabled apps you’ve already installed. You can also tap Get Apps to find Cast-enabled apps you haven'y installed yet.
Visit the Google's website to see a list of all Cast-enabled apps. Examples include Netflix, Spotify, HBO Now, Hulu, Angry Birds with Friends, Watch ESPN, Google Photos, YouTube, PBS Kids, Twitch, Pandora, and thousands more.
Some websites are Cast-enabled. Currently, YouTube, Netflix, Google Play Movies, Google Play Music, and more are Cast-enabled (see the full list here), and Google said it is adding new ones all the time. You will you know if a website is Cast-enabled when you see the Cast button on the website within the video player. For sites that are not Google Cast-enabled, you can use the Cast extension to view the content on your TV.
Why should you care about Chromecast?
Sometimes it's just fun to experience things on a bigger display. Let's say you're hanging out with friends and want to show them all a funny YouTube video. Instead of huddling around your phone, you can cast it to your TV and enjoy it on the big screen. Similarly, maybe you want to show your friends a cool website. Instead of crowding around a laptop, you can cast the site to your TV.
It's easy to see the benefits of Chromecast. Plus, it's cheap and simple to use.