Google currently sells two versions of its media-streaming device—the Chromecast Ultra and Chromecast With Google TV. The latter gave Google’s dongle a much-needed makeover, adding a remote and an on-screen menu. Many people, however, are probably still casting via legacy devices; the Chromecast has been around since 2013. Its functionality is also built into many of today’s top smart TVs.
However you “cast” your content, part of the Chromecast’s appeal lies in its portability and ease of use; just plug it in, connect to Wi-Fi, and you’ll be streaming Netflix, Spotify, HBO Max, Hulu, and more from your mobile device or PC to the TV in no time. Not to mention apps for music, working out, and catching up on sports.
Later this year, those with the Chromecast With Google TV will be able to use their phones as a remote for the streamer on Android 11 and 12 via the Quick Settings menu. 9to5Google reports that the remote feature is coming to iOS via the Google Home app, too.
While the ultraportable devices are pretty much plug and play, there are a few tips and tricks that can make casting more magical. Check them out below.
Make Your Meetings Bigger
We hate to bring up video meetings, but if you’re tired of staring at them on a small screen, make them more like entertainment and bring them to your TV. You can cast your Google Meet meetings while still using your computer for your camera, microphone, and audio. Just download the Meet app, open your meeting using Google Calendar or the Meet app, and select Cast this meeting. You’ll be able to choose the Cast device you want to use in the Cast tab. To stop casting, select the three-dot menu and click Stop Casting Meeting.
Cast Google Slides to Your TV
If you use Google Slides, you can show your presentation with Chromecast since Google Cast is built into Chrome. Click the Present option on the top right of your presentation, select Present on another screen, and pick your Chromecast device.
Mirror Your Android Device to the TV
If you want your Android screen to appear on the TV, for work or entertainment, screen casting is supported on devices running Android 5.0 and above (sorry, iPhone users), though your mileage may vary depending on which phone you have (the screenshot above is from a OnePlus 5T). Open the Google Home app, tap your Chromecast device, and tap Cast my screen on the bottom and then Cast screen. Tap Stop mirroring when you’re done.
Bring Apple TV and Google TV Together
There might be a huge rivalry between Apple and Google, but you don’t have to get involved in the conflict if you have a Chromecast With Google TV. The Apple TV app, which includes Apple TV+, is available in the Apps section of your home screen. It’s the kind of friendly cooperation you’d find on Ted Lasso.
Banish Buffering With an Ethernet Adapter
The Chromecast is a handy gadget for streaming Netflix, YouTube, and other content from mobile devices to your TV, but it requires a strong Wi-Fi connection to deliver streams that don’t buffer. Not everyone has a super-fast Wi-Fi network, though, and for those people, Google has a $20 Ethernet adapter for the Chromecast with Google TV. (A similar adapter for previous-gen Chromecasts appears to be out of stock.)
The adapter looks like the existing Chromecast power cord, but the plug end includes a small Ethernet port. Connect an Ethernet cable that’s also connected to your modem to that port, plug the USB end of the adapter into the Chromecast, attach the Chromecast to the HDMI port on your TV, and you’re ready to go.
Cast Music to Your TV
Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon Music
If you’ve got an impressive sound system hooked up to your TV, why not use it to listen to your favorite tunes? A variety of music-streaming services can cast music to the Chromecast, including Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon Music. Make sure your device is on the same Wi-Fi network as your Chromecast, and either look for the more devices button or the Chromecast icon and select your Chromecast from the list that pops up. Disconnect from your music app or via the Google Home app.
Chromecast Guest Mode
Whether you have house guests for a week or party guests for an evening, you might want to let them decide what to watch without giving them access to your Wi-Fi. On older-model Chromecasts, turn to Guest Mode. (Guest mode is not available on Chromecast with Google TV.) Open the Google Home app, select your Chromecast, tap the settings cog on the top right, scroll down to Guest Mode, and tap it to toggle on.
Then, when guests want to cast something, they can tap the cast icon in a supported app, select Nearby device, and enter the four-digit PIN that appears on the TV or that you provide them.
Do Not Track
It’s impossible to turn off all tracking since the Chromecast is merely a conduit for content, but you can limit what it sends to Google. In the settings menu of your Chromecast device, look for a setting that mentions sending device stats and crash reports to Google, and toggle it off.
Add Photos to the Chromecast Background
Switch up your Chromecast background with Ambient Mode. You can use your own photos, or choose from Google’s selection of art, landscape photography, and satellite images. In the Google Home app, tap the icon for your Chromecast. Tap the gear icon and scroll down to Ambient Mode. Here you can choose to have your Chromecast display images from Google Photos or a gallery of Google-curated images and artwork. Tap Experimental for a low-bandwidth mode. You can also add the weather and time to the display, and set how fast the Chromecast cycles through each photo.
Cast Google Photos to the TV
Similarly, Chromecast can serve as a modern-day alternative to old-school slideshows; no projectors here. Google Photos has Chromecast support, so you can cast your pics from Google Photos on iOS, Android, and the PC to your TV. Look for the Cast icon on the top of the Google Photos app and tap to connect.
Where’s the Remote? It Doesn’t Matter
Given that the Chromecast plugs into a port on your TV, you’ll need to switch the input on your TV to go between the cable box, the Chromecast, and whatever else you have in your home entertainment setup. If your TV supports HDMI-CEC, however, your TV can make the leap as soon as you hit the cast button from a supported app; no old-school remote needed.
Some TV makers might call it by a different name (Google has a rundown here), but if your TV supports it, go to the TV’s settings, select the HDMI-CEC option, and enable it. Note that your Chromecast must be using a wall outlet for power and not plugged into a USB port on the TV.
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Listen on Your Headphones
If you want to watch something on your TV but don’t want the sound to disturb others in the room, download LocalCast for Chromecast. It lets you cast video to your television while keeping audio on your device. Tap Route audio to phone on the Now Playing screen, and plug in some headphones. This LocalCast feature has long been in beta, and the developer warns that there may be bugs, but the app is free, so it’s worth a shot if you need to keep the noise to a minimum. (If you really need this option, though, a Roku may be a better bet.)
Ask the Google Assistant for Help
The remote that comes with the Chromecast With Google TV includes a Google Assistant button; press it to search by voice or ask Google’s virtual assistant to open supported apps. If you have an older Chromecast and a Google smart home devices like a Nest display, connect them and say things like “OK Google, play The Woman in the Window on Netflix.” Other compatible services include Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, and YouTube TV.
Making Things Family-Friendly
Families with the Chromecast With Google TV can set up separate profiles for their kids, so parents don’t have to worry about unsupervised screen time. Parents can specify which apps their kids can access (like YouTube Kids), select a theme, and even manage screen time. “When it’s almost time to turn off the TV, your kids will be greeted with three countdown warning signs before a final ‘Time is up’ screen appears and ends their watch time,” Google says. Kids are smart, so parents can PIN-protect their own profiles.
Create a YouTube TV Queue
The only annoying thing about watching YouTube on a Chromecast is that you have to pick up and put down your device every time you want to watch another video. Or do you? Open the YouTube app, tap the Cast button, select your Chromecast device, and choose a video to watch. A pop-up box will appear, giving you the option to play the video right away or add it to your queue. Add however many videos you want to watch to your queue and then settle in. Tap the up arrow at the bottom of the screen to view or edit your upcoming video selections.
Cast Plex to Chromecast
One of the chief complaints about the Chromecast is that it doesn’t support local media playback, so you can’t tap into content you have saved in the cloud. But with media management app Plex, you can stream music, movies, and photos via the Chromecast. Plex organizes your scattered content and lets you watch it from tablets, TVs, phones, and more. Sign up, download the Plex app, open it, and send your content to the Chromecast.
Stream DVDs With Vudu (for a Price)
If you have stacks and stacks of DVDs and nothing to play them on or just want the convenience that comes with streaming, you can use Vudu to convert old media to new. Download the Vudu app (Android, iOS), sign in or sign up for an account, then go to the menu and select Disc to Digital, and scan the UPC code from the disc. Then you can watch your DVDs as a stream on the Vudu app on Chromecast—at a cost of $2 per title for standard definition and $5 per title for high definition.
Chromecast Preview Program
If spoilers never dissuade you, then you’ll want to join the Chromecast Preview Program. This will get you the latest Chromecast features before they’re released to the public. Google says the program is not beta but rather just a preview of stable features.
To sign up, open the Google Home app on an Android or iOS device. Tap your Chromecast and the gear icon on the top right and scroll down to Preview Program. Select it and tap Join Program and agree to receive emails about new features. To opt out, return to this page and tap Leave Program.