For a long time now, Google's Chromecast has offered a more affordable way to turn your TV smart. At first glance, it all seems super simple β maybe too simple.
You plug the dongle into your TV, get your smartphone and press a little button to transfer your TV shows, movies and YouTube videos from your hand to the screen. This amount of simplicity can betray you, though.
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How could you possibly get more out of your Chromecast than you already do? Well, that's what we're here for. We've assembled some of our favourite tips and tricks to better use your Chromecast. Here we go.
Have a YouTube party with a shared playlist
Chromecast is all about shifting stuff from your phone, tablet or computer to your TV, but this doesn't mean that you can't have other people participate. YouTube, for instance, will let you create and play a shared playlist on Chromecast.
All you have to do is make sure everyone is connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the Chromecast and has the YouTube app downloaded. In the YouTube app, have people tap the cast icon on their chosen video. It'll then ask whether you want to play now or add to a playlist. Add it to the playlist to get them to contribute.
Use your computer while casting
You may want to use your computer to cast a video to your TV, but while watching you may also want to use your computer to do something else. If you're worried doing something else will kill your video feed, don't be. All you have to do is hit alt + tab on your keyboard to switch to a new task β and your video will stay casting.
Turn on your TV with your phone
Why bother with a TV remote to turn your TV on and switch inputs when you can just cast something to your Chromecast and have it all done for you? The Chromecast uses HDMI-CEC, which basically means that it can be used to control your TV.
The first thing you need to do is Google to see whether your TV supports HDMI-CEC. Many newer models do, but the manufacturers rebrand the standard to something else. Sony calls it Bravia Link while Samsung calls it Anynet+, for example. If your TV supports it, make sure it's enabled. Then, clicking the cast button in an app will turn on your TV and even switch your input to the Chromecast.
Enable Guest Mode
Usually, you need your guests to log into your Wi-Fi to use your Chromecast. Sometimes, you either don't want someone having your Wi-Fi password or you don't want to put on that whole song and dance of giving them your password.
Instead, head to the Google Home app and choose your Chromecast. Hit the three menu dots and enable Guest Mode. The Chromecast will then emit a special Wi-Fi beacon that will let anyone within 25 feet cast to it. Your guest will need to input a four-digit pin, which should be displayed on the Chromecast's Ambient Mode.
Ask Google Assistant
Naturally, Google Assistant is a potent weapon to use Chromecast. You won't have to pull out your phone or anything like that, instead relying on simple commands like, "Ok Google, play Stranger Things from Netflix on TV."
You will need to make sure you've linked your accounts, like Netflix and HBO, in the Google Home app. Click on your account, then head to Settings and then click TV and Video. Choose your service of choice and link them.
You can also set up Google Assistant to do other things. If you have a Nest Cam, for instance, you can use Assistant to cast your Nest Cam's video stream straight to your TV.
Cast your VR
Virtual reality can be a very solitary experience, but it doesn't have to be that way if you've got a Daydream View. Just open up the Google Home app, head to your account page, then scroll down to Mirror Device and then tap Cast Screen/Audio. Put your phone in the Daydream View and get your VR on. Whatever you see in VR will be reflected on the TV.
Customise Ambient Mode
Ambient Mode is a peaceful, relaxing way to keep your TV's display in motion. When your Chromecast isn't being used, it slips on Ambient Mode. You can customise what it shows by heading to the Google Home app, clicking on your Chromecast device, choosing Device Settings and then selecting Ambient Mode.
Here, you'll get to choose whether you show your Google Photos, selected art from Google, or Experimental, which will use new sources of wallpaper. You can also add in the weather and time. Google Photos will automatically choose photos it thinks you'll like, and even use your recent highlights or Live Albums.
You can customise these by heading back toward the Ambient Mode settings and choosing Personalize, which will let you select what photos from Google Photos you want to be included in your rotation.
Play some games
Chromecast isn't just for streaming video, photos and even slideshows to your TV. It can also be used for playing games, and Google even has a selection of games in Google Play you can try out. They include stuff like Just Dance Now, which will cast the game to your TV and let you use your phone as a controller. Just search Chromecast games to play on TV in Google Play to find them all.
One of the coolest features of Roku is that the remote comes with a headphone jack. You can keep watching on the TV, but the audio will be routed to the remote so that you don't disturb anyone else.
You can do this on Chromecast too with the LocalCast app for Android. It'll keep the audio on your phone and shoot the video to your Chromecast. Then all you need is a pair of headphones for your phone and you're streaming silently.
Chromecast on the go
Hotel rooms aren't the best places for smart streaming options. Luckily, it's not too difficult to bring your Chromecast along for the ride. You do need to make sure you bring along some sort of Wi-Fi hotspot β then just make sure your Chromecast and phone are both on it. Plug the Chromecast in to your hotel room's TV and you'll have no problem casting to your heart's content.