Google Chromecast tips: Ten ways to enhance your streaming experience

You're probably reading this because you own a Chromecast but don't know what to do with it beyond casting YouTube or Netflix videos from your device to a TV. Well, just know you're not alone - and that Pocket-lint is here to help.

Google released the Chromecast last year, taking the digital media player and streaming TV worlds by storm. It's an HDMI dongle that plays both audio and video content in HD by streaming (otherwise known as casting) from your computer or mobile device to your television over the internet. It's a super simple idea that actually has vast possibilities.

You can use Chromecast to magically turn on your TV, play motion-controlled games, stream locally stored video to your TV, mirror websites, and more. If you'd like to learn more about these little-known features, keep on reading. We've detailed 10 nifty tips that will immediately enhance your Chromecast streaming experience.

READ: Chromebook and ChromeOS tips and tricks

Turn on your TV and Chromecast without a remote

You can simultaneously turn on your TV and Chromecast and even change to the correct HDMI input without ever touching your TV remote. This is possible because Chromecast supports a common technology called HDMI-CEC. Although most HDTVs and modern sets offer HDMI-CEC, you might have to enable the feature under TV settings. We quickly searched our TV manufacturer along with the word "CEC" and found online user guides with instructions.

Once CEC is enabled on your TV, you will be able to cast anything from your computer and mobile device. Your TV will automatically turn on, then switch to the correct HDMI input for Chromecast, and begin streaming your content. Magic, right?

Stream local video using a keyboard shortcut

You could use apps like RealCloud Player, Plex, or Videostream to cast video saved on your computer to your TV...or you could use a keyboard shortcut. You must first download the Google Cast extension for the Chrome browser. Once it's installed, open your Chrome browser and simply press Control+O (Chromebook and Windows) or Command+O (Mac). Use the pop-up box to find and select your video.

Keep in mind you can select files from your local drive, connected external drive, and even network locations. During our tests, we were able to stream common file types like mp4, m4v, avi, and mpeg. After picking your file, it should load in your browser. You'll want to go to the Cast icon in the browser bar and select your Chromecast to instantly begin streaming.

Stream local video stored on Android devices

We've already discussed how you can stream local video stored on your computer, but this tip is slightly different: You can send photos, music, and videos stored on your mobile device to your TV. All you need to do is download the AllCast app on your Android smartphone or tablet. The free version of AllCast has a 5-minute viewing limit, so you'll want to pay $4.99 for the premium version to remove all viewing limits.

READ: Google Chromecast update finally lets you mirror your Android screen to TV

UPDATE: Google has just updated the Chromecast app with a much-requested feature: Android mirroring. You can now mirror your Android phone or tablet to the TV, meaning you can stream whatever is on your mobile screen to the big screen, such as apps or photos, by selecting Cast Screen from the navigation drawer in the Chromecast app. You'll also need to select your Chromecast device. Nexus device owners will notice the feature under their Quick Settings menu.

Mirror your entire screen or tab

This one should be well-known among Chromecast users, but it is still worth mentioning to all the newbies reading: You can beam whatever your looking at in the Chrome browser to your TV. You must first download the Google Cast extension for the Chrome browser. Once it's installed, open your Chrome browser and select the Cast icon in the browser bar. A small menu will appear, with a little arrow in the upper right-hand corner.

Click on the arrow to reveal options for casting your browser tab or your entire screen. The tab option will obviously only mirror what's visible in your browser tab, while the entire screen option will mirror your entire computer screen. Once you've made your choice, click on your Chromecast device name to start mirroring. This is a really handy feature for presentations.

Cast full-screen content in the background

It is fun to cast from your computer. But you must keep video and different things in full screen mode within the Chrome browser at all times in order for it to display in full screen on your TV. That's not so fun, because it makes playing with your computer while watching TV impossible.

Luckily, there is a workaround. When casting from your Chrome browser, press Alt+Tab to switch tasks. This will still stream your content in full screen...but in the background, enabling you to use your computer freely.

Adjust streaming quality

Did you know there's a secret settings menu for Chromecast? You must first download the Google Cast extension for the Chrome browser. Once it's installed, click on the Cast icon in your browser bar and select Options. A page will open with a few settings you can adjust such as tab casting quality. Simply select from Standard (480p), High (720p), or Extreme (720p high bitrate). Extreme is for people with newer computers and speedy Wi-Fi.

Similarly, you can also adjust the streaming quality for anything you want to cast. While casting, go to the Cast icon in your browser bar and select the gear icon in the bottom left-hand corner. You will again see options for Standard (480p), High (720p), or Extreme (720p high bitrate).

Add Emoji or symbols to your Chromecast name

This is a silly one that doesn't necessarily enhance your streaming experience but just makes you feel cooler in the end. You can use Emoji and character symbols to change your Chromecast name into something more imaginative. Go to your Chromecast options (using the Google Cast extension for Chrome browser), then click on your device name, and select Edit.

Under the Edit pop-up box, you will see a field for your device name. You can add Emoji (like these) by simply copying and pasting then from your browser and into the device name field. Alternatively, while using the Android or iOS Chromecast setup and configuration app, you can add Emoji to your Chromecast name using Emojis within your default keyboard. Android and iOS support Emoji natively.

Play motion-controlled games

You can play motion-controlled games using your smartphone and Chromecast. Don't expect to play Halo or something like that, because these are Chrome Experiments. Many games do support multi-player functionality however. One example title is Google's Super Sync Sports.

Go to Super Sync Sports in your Chrome browser, then cast the page from your computer to your TV, and sync your Android device to your computer. From there, follow the game’s on-screen instructions. You'll be able to wave, flick, and swing your smartphone to control the game, kind of like Wii.

Cast Netflix shows using Google Now

This tip is a hack for people good with programming the app Tasker. More specifically, use Tasker to set-up voice actions for Google Now. Implement an action that allows Google Now to cast Netflix shows from your mobile device to your TV upon a voice command. The variable will be whatever show you want to watch. Once done, you'll be able to say, for instance, "Play Dr. Strangelove on the TV" to auto-launch the Netflix mobile app and cast your show.

Check out the video above for a demonstration.

Factory reset Chromecast

You may never need to use this tip, but it's handy to know nonetheless: in case your Chromecast develops an issue where it doesn't work or function properly, you can revert the device to factory settings. Just access the Settings menu in the Chromecast app on your PC, Mac, or mobile device, and then select Restore Factory Settings. Simples. You can also restore the factory settings by holding down the Chromecast’s physical button for 25 seconds.

And that's it. Let us know in the comments if we missed any nifty tips worth including.



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