Google Chromecast is a device you can use to send things from your small screen phone 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 you can do with it, 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. In its purest form it basically makes most TVs smart. In 2015, Google launched the $30 Chromecast 2. It's faster, more responsive, and just as affordable, arriving 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 £69) Chromecast Ultra, which works identically to its predecessors but uniquely offers the ability to cast 4K streams. Google also offers a $35 (£30) 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
- Chromecast Ultra review: 4K casting is perfect... yet pointless
- What is Google Cast for Audio?
- Chromecast now has a guest mode: Here's how to turn on the feature
How does Chromecast work?
The important thing to realise about casting is that it isn't about sending the content from your phone to the Chromecast dongle. In many cases, all you're doing is using your phone to tell the Chromecast device what content to play. Chromecast then uses its own connection to retrieve that stream in the best quality it can.
That means that if you connect a Chromecast Ultra to a 4K TV, for example, it will play 4K content that you can't view on your phone.
However, if you're mirroring your phone on the TV, or viewing a website, then you're sending that directly from your phone or computer directly to the Chromecast and both need to stay connected.
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 - now called Google Home - installed, or you need a compatible Windows computer, Mac, or Chromebook 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.
Setting-up Chromecast is really simple. The process involves plugging your Chromecast into your TV's HDMI port and a power source (either via USB on your TV or a wall outlet), then in installing the Google Home 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 and tablets, iPhones and iPads. You can also cast entire sites or tabs from the Chrome browser on Windows computers, Macs and Chromebooks. To manage your Chromecast, use the Google Cast app or Google Cast browser extension.
Importantly, there's no user interface and no remote required - all the control comes from your phone or computer.
You can also cast your Android screen to your TV, a feature added in recent versions of Android.
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, 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.
What 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 use your mobile device or tablet as a remote and control everything from playback to volume.
Within the Google Home 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.
- HBO Now
- Angry Birds with Friends
- Watch ESPN
- Google Photos
- PBS Kids
- BBC iPlayer
- and thousands more
There are lots of entertainment options for casting, but using Chromecast to share your photos from your phone is a really option.
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.