The Chromecast should be the cornerstone of a growing smart home for a number of reasons, reasons we won’t go in to here because we just want to help you get the most out of the stripped-back streaming device.
Simplicity is the inherent strength of the Chromecast. It comes with no remote, has a quick and easy set up process and opens up a world of entertainment possibilities. However, you can do way better than just cast YouTube and Netflix to your TV. The Google Cast Protocol is baked into way more than just your favorite video and audio services — it’s likely in places than you might never have realized.
It’s worth noting that you could have one of a number of Chromecast models. The first-gen Chromecast hardware definitely resembles a USB stick but we’ve seen the design evolve in the better part of a decade to the bulbous dongle that we all know, love, and in a few million cases, have plugged into the back of our TV sets.
Considering this roundup is long overdue, it might mean we’ve got stuff that some of you already know but, hopefully, there are a few neat tips and tricks that will help you get a little extra out of your trusted Chromecast.
All of these tips will work with every Chromecast model and should even work with most Android TV devices unless otherwise stated. We also strongly suggest downloading the Google Home app so that you can start digging into the advanced Chromecast settings.
Cast any Google Chrome tab
One notable and reasonably basic tip for anyone with a Chromecast is the ability to Cast tabs from Google Chrome. It has been baked into Chrome on desktop for a while and opens up a far wider reach for casting online content.
When using Chrome you can activate the cast shortcut from the upper-right menu extension shortcuts or alternatively select the “Cast” option from the overflow menu and select where you would like to stream your tab content to. Some web pages will even include the ability to cast on embedded web players including Twitch, YouTube, and many others. That makes it far easier to just watch videos without casting a full webpage.
Mirror your Android display
One of the best things about the “Google ecosystem” is that Android plays nicely with all Google products, services, and hardware. It also means that you can mirror your Android display on your TV using the Chromecast. It’s not limited to Pixel phones either, every single Android phone running Android 4.4.2 or higher supports the screen cast feature.
Just swipe down into the notification drawer and you should have the cast quick toggle. If it doesn’t appear, you can add it by tapping the edit button and dragging into your quick toggle menu — making it even easier to access in the future.
Stream local files from your Android phone
There are a few ways to share stuff from your Android phone to your TV using a Chromecast but the easiest is most definitely by using the Google-developed Files app. It’s a fantastic file manager that now has native support for casting and makes it far easier than some other workarounds and third-party apps. You can cast videos, photos, and other files right to your TV simply by tapping the cast button from within the app — it will even prompt you when launching for the first time.
If you don’t want to stream local files, you can also stream photos and videos from your Google Photos library too, provided you have the app.
Give a Google Slides presentation
This is a fantastic tip for anyone with a Chromecast in an educational or professional setting, as it’s so underused. With Google Slides, you’re able to cast the presentation from your phone to your TV without the need for any extra wires or even a nearby laptop or PC — this does work by casting a Chrome tab though.
Your phone will work as the controller to skip forward and backward between individual slides. This also works on both Android and iOS, making it a powerful tool for education and professional environments that want to up the quality of presentations in quite an inexpensive manner.
Turn on your TV without a remote
No Chromecast devices except for some Android TV boxes come with a remote, which in the early days of in-home streaming seemed a little weird. Reliance on your smartphone was way ahead of its time but did you know that you can turn on your TV simply by connecting to your Chromecast device?
When your TV is off — and with your Chromecast connected — you just need to tap the cast button from within a supporting app (e.g. YouTube) and your TV will spring to life thanks to the fact that the Chromecast uses the HDMI-CEC protocol, which allows it to control your TV. After you’ve tapped the cast button and your TV has powered on, it should automatically switch to the correct input source too.
Enable Guest Mode
Guest mode is a great option if you don’t want to hand out your Wi-Fi passcode to infrequent guests. Guests can connect to your Chromecast by entering a PIN code rather than having to directly connect to your Wi-Fi network. It saves a lot of time and the code itself will change on a frequent basis for even greater security.
To enable Guest Mode you need to open the Google Home app, select the Chromecast you want to allow guests to access and tap the Settings cog icon and scroll to Guest mode and enable. As we mentioned, the PIN will dynamically change every so often for security purposes, while Guest mode also has a reach of just 25 feet, so passing strangers shouldn’t be able to connect without being pretty darn close to your TV.
Ask the Assistant to start streaming
If you have an Android phone or a Google Home device, you can connect the Google Assistant to your Chromecast within the Google Home during the initial set up process. This gives you added controls that you might not already be taking advantage of.
Within the Google Home app, you can link streaming services such as Spotify, Netflix, Crackle, HBO Now, CBS, plus a few more. Link with your Google Photos account and you can even ask the Assistant to show recent highlights from your uploaded photo and video library. Once linked you can ask the Assistant to “play the latest episode of Power” or “9to5Google’s latest video”, it’s smart enough to work out which service has the video or audio you want to catch up on.
Customize Ambient Mode
When you’re not playing a video or streaming anything, your Chromecast will run a basic slideshow of images from galleries, worldwide artists and photographers. You can actually change this by heading into the Google Home app, selecting the device you want, heading into device Settings and selecting Ambient mode.
From here you can change the backdrops to images from your Google Photos library, select if weather information is shown, alter device information, make slideshow speed tweaks and more on top. You can tailor until your heart’s content.
Play audio to headphones using LocalCast
Having audio blazing through your house late at night might not be ideal but so long as you have an Android phone and install the Localcast app, you can route the audio via your phone into any connected headphones. This is a perfect solution for late-night movie watching without having to wake everyone in the house — or the neighbors!
Use Chromecast with a Wi-Fi hotspot
Not many people know that you can take your Chromecast with you with the help of your Android or iOS smartphone, which is why this is a fantastic tip for the avid or even business traveler. Creating a Wi-Fi hotspot when in a hotel and connecting your Chromecast means you can create a closed ecosystem to start streaming content without having to pay extortionate pay-per-view fees or connecting to open Wi-Fi networks.
Play Google Stadia
This is the newest addition to the abilities of the Chromecast and we must admit, isn’t technically a tip in the traditional sense. However, if you have the Chromecast Ultra and the standalone Stadia controller, you can a growing library of triple-A titles on your TV without ever needing a game console.
We’ve gone into detail on just how Google Stadia runs in our full review but we could potentially see the game-streaming service to become available to the 3rd Generation 1080p Chromecast at some point in 2020 after the free tier launches. That said, there has been no confirmation from Google that this will be the case but we really hope to see it come soon!
Turn your Chromecast into a basic console
Unlike Stadia, which includes tons of triple-A games, you can actually turn your Chromecast into an Android game console with a few apps that are designed for Chromecast gaming. CastNES is a personal favorite for those looking for some nostalgia but there are plenty of apps on the Google Play Store that can cast directly to your TV with your smartphone acting as a controller — one of the most notable titles includes Angry Birds Friends, plus tons more on top.
The Experiments with Google site also includes some neat little games that you can cast to your TV by launching from your smartphone browser too if you want to play some experimental games.
Get the latest offers
Google and partners such as Netflix and regional services like NowTV often give away free trials of streaming services and platforms exclusively to Chromecast owners. You may even have some offers waiting for you right now! Just head to the Google Home app and open the side menu and select the “Offers” tab — any available offers will be listed here. While offers are timed, it’s worth checking back regularly to see if you have any deals and freebies waiting for you to claim.
More useful Chromecast tips
There are more than just a few apps that support casting to your Chromecast devices. Google even has a dedicated section for all of the apps that natively support streaming to your Wi-Fi connected dongle. You can see the entire list here.
Have any Chromecast tips and tricks of your own? Be sure to share them down in the comments section below.
More on Chromecast:
- Guest Mode disappears on Google Home speakers but hangs around on Chromecast devices
- Hulu gains voice control support for Google Chromecast, Smart Display devices
- Files by Google can now play local files on a nearby Chromecast
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