Chromecast is an economical little device developed by Google that lets you send content from your Android or PC to any TV screen by connecting the Chromecast to your HDMI slot and using your Wi-Fi connection. Although this feature might seem a bit humdrum given the number of other gizmos that can do the same thing, you’ll quickly discover the loads of other useful features for the Chromecast that can turn your TV into a versatile multimedia center. Here are a few of the many uses you can give it.
Viewing browser tabs on your TV
If you want to view browser content via your desktop computer you can only use (what else!) Google Chrome, and will need to install the official Chromecast extension. That done, you’ll see a new icon in the upper right part of your browser screen and when you pop it out you’ll see an option to send a certain tab to your TV.
TV à la carte
Loads of TV channels have official apps that interact with Chromecast, so you can play their online content on the big screen whenever you want to enjoy programs and series right from your living room television. In any case, you could always create your own streaming center with tools like TorrenTV, which lets you view videos as they download via this torrent client.
Sending photos, music, and home videos
Say a friend shows up at your house and you want to show him the latest photos you took last weekend. The best way to do it actually isn’t to put them on a pen drive or show them on your smartphone one by one, but instead to send them to your TV. Although the official Google Photos App lets you do this, not all smartphones support this service, and thus you can always turn to third-party tools like LocalCast for Chromecast/DLNA, a file explorer than can send any type of multimedia content to an external screen.
We’ve talked here before about gaming via Chromecast, in particular about party games where each player interacts with the game via their own Android device and then everyone’s inputs are displayed on the TV. Be it the classic cinema quiz or more physically rigorous titles like Just Dance, there seems to be a gold mine to dig out here.
Cloning the screen of your Android
It’s possible to mirror your smartphone so that everything happening on your smartphone screen will appear on the television at the same time, with this feature going hand-in-hand with all the functionalities outlined above. You can activate it within the official Chromecast app for Android: If you pull out the menu on the left sidebar you’ll get the option to “Send screen”.
When you have selected your Chromecast as a TV input, it will display pretty landscapes as your screen background. You can also use the Chromecast app to select your photos as wallpaper, turning your TV into an electronic photo frame, or even info like the weather forecast if you’ve enabled the geolocalization options in the settings menu.
Interacting with Google’s multimedia services
The characteristic Chromecast icon is visible alongside most of Google’s official apps. YouTube, Play Music, or Play Movies can all easily send their content to the TV screen, adapting their interface to the two screens. YouTube, for instance, lets you send videos to play instantly, queuing them up like a playlist if you send several in a row.
HDMI-CEC technology is a standard that lets you control the menus on your TV from an external device by sending the information via a video cable. When you connect your Chromecast to the HDMI slot on your TV, you can do this kind of interaction. Depending on the TV’s manufacturer, it should detect Chromecast as an external control device, functioning as a bridge to your smartphone so you can use one of the many remote control apps out there.
View online presentations
Google Drive can also interact with Chromecast. If you have a multimedia presentation stored on your online account, you can broadcast it directly from the big screen and swipe between slides at the rhythm you choose. You could also use Chromecast to display PowerPoint files and the like on any external screen with an HDMI outlet.
Loads of compatible apps
The list above covers just a few of Chromecast’s many functionalities: from its official webpage you can have a look at all the apps on Google Play that are compatible with the device, be they streaming services like Wuaki.tv or Twitch or online music from popular apps like Rdio or Deezer.