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December 25, 2016

Google Chromecast tips: 17 ways to enhance your streaming experience

by John_A

You’re probably reading this because you own a Chromecast but don’t know what to do with it beyond casting YouTube or Netflix videos from your device to a TV. Well, Pocket-lint is here to help.

You can use Chromecast to magically turn on your TV, play motion-controlled games, stream locally stored video to your TV, mirror websites, and more. If you’d like to learn more about these little-known features, keep on reading. We’ve detailed several tips that will immediately enhance your Chromecast streaming experience. Be sure to check out these reviews for more tips, too:

  • Chromecast 2 review: Make any TV smart, effortlessly
  • What is Google Cast for Audio?
  • Chromecast now has a guest mode: Here’s how to turn on the feature
  • What is Google Chromecast and why should you care?
  • Roku Streaming Stick vs Google Chromecast
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick vs Google Chromecast vs Roku Streaming Stick
  • What is Google Chromecast and why should you care?
  • Google Chromecast: How to set up Chromecast and get started with it

Turn on your TV and Chromecast without a remote

You can simultaneously turn on your TV and Chromecast and even change to the correct HDMI input without ever touching your TV remote. This is possible because Chromecast supports a common technology called HDMI-CEC. Although most HDTVs and modern sets offer HDMI-CEC, you might have to enable the feature under TV settings.

Once CEC is enabled on your TV, you will be able to cast anything from your computer and mobile device. Your TV will automatically turn on, then switch to the correct HDMI input for Chromecast, and begin streaming your content. Magic, right?

Stream local video using a keyboard shortcut

You could use apps like RealCloud Player, Plex, or Videostream to cast video saved on your computer to your TV. You can use a keyboard shortcut, too. First, download the Google Cast extension for the Chrome browser. Once it’s installed, open your Chrome browser and simply press Control+O (Chromebook and Windows) or Command+O (Mac). Use the pop-up box to find and select your video.

Keep in mind you can select files from your local drive, connected external drive, and even network locations. After picking your file, it should load in your browser. You’ll want to go to the Cast icon in the browser bar and select your Chromecast to instantly begin streaming.

Stream local video stored on Android devices

We’ve already discussed how you can stream local video stored on your computer, but this tip is slightly different: You can send photos, music, and videos stored on your mobile device to your TV. All you need to do is download an app on your Android smartphone or tablet that’ll let you do that. AllCast, for instance, but you’ll want to pay $4.99 for the premium version to remove all viewing limits.

You can also mirror your Android phone or tablet to the TV, meaning you can stream whatever is on your mobile screen to the big screen, such as apps or photos, by selecting Cast Screen from the navigation drawer in the Chromecast app. You’ll also need to select your Chromecast device. Nexus device owners will notice the feature under their Quick Settings menu.

Mirror your entire screen or tab

This one should be well-known among Chromecast users, but it is still worth mentioning to all the newbies reading: You can beam whatever your looking at in the Chrome browser to your TV. You must first download the Google Cast extension for the Chrome browser. Once it’s installed, open your Chrome browser and select the Cast icon in the browser bar. A small menu will appear, with a little arrow in the upper right-hand corner.

Click on the arrow to reveal options for casting your browser tab or your entire screen. The tab option will obviously only mirror what’s visible in your browser tab, while the entire screen option will mirror your entire computer screen. Once you’ve made your choice, click on your Chromecast device name to start mirroring. This is a really handy feature for presentations.

Cast full-screen content in the background

It is fun to cast from your computer. But you must keep video and different things in full screen mode within the Chrome browser at all times in order for it to display in full screen on your TV. That’s not so fun, because it makes playing with your computer while watching TV impossible.

Luckily, there is a workaround. When casting from your Chrome browser, press Alt+Tab to switch tasks. This will still stream your content in full screen…but in the background, enabling you to use your computer freely.

Adjust streaming quality

Did you know there’s a secret settings menu for Chromecast? You must first download the Google Cast extension for the Chrome browser. Once it’s installed, click on the Cast icon in your browser bar and select Options. A page will open with a few settings you can adjust such as tab casting quality. Simply select from Standard (480p), High (720p), or Extreme (720p high bitrate). Extreme is for people with newer computers and speedy Wi-Fi.

Similarly, you can also adjust the streaming quality for anything you want to cast. While casting, go to the Cast icon in your browser bar and select the gear icon in the bottom left-hand corner. You will again see options for Standard (480p), High (720p), or Extreme (720p high bitrate).

Add Emoji or symbols to your Chromecast name

This is a silly one that doesn’t necessarily enhance your streaming experience but it does make you feel cooler. You can use Emoji and character symbols to change your Chromecast name into something more imaginative. Go to your Chromecast options (using the Google Cast extension for Chrome browser), then click on your device name, and select Edit.

Under the Edit pop-up box, you will see a field for your device name. You can add Emoji (like these) by simply copying and pasting then from your browser and into the device name field. Alternatively, while using the Android or iOS Chromecast setup and configuration app, you can add Emoji to your Chromecast name using Emojis within your default keyboard.

Android and iOS support Emoji natively.

Play motion-controlled games

You can play motion-controlled games using your smartphone and Chromecast. Don’t expect to play Halo or something like that, because these are Chrome Experiments. Many games do support multi-player functionality however. One example title is Google’s Super Sync Sports.

Go to Super Sync Sports in your Chrome browser, then cast the page from your computer to your TV, and sync your Android device to your computer. From there, follow the game’s on-screen instructions. You’ll be able to wave, flick, and swing your smartphone to control the game, kind of like Wii.

Cast Facebook Live broadcasts

Facebook Live has added support for Google’s Cast tech. That means you can send a Facebook Live broadcasts to a TV. Just make sure your mobile device and the TV with Chromecast are on the same Wi-Fi network. Then, simply open a Facebook Live broadcast and hit the Cast icon that appears on the screen. It’s like casting any other content from your phone, such as a YouTube video, only it’s a Facebook live stream.

Cast Netflix shows using Google Now

This tip is a hack for people good with programming the app Tasker. More specifically, use Tasker to set-up voice actions for Google Now. Implement an action that allows Google Now to cast Netflix shows from your mobile device to your TV upon a voice command.

The variable will be whatever show you want to watch. Once done, you’ll be able to say, for instance, “Play Dr. Strangelove on the TV” to auto-launch the Netflix mobile app and cast your show.

Check out the video above for a demonstration.

Cast Netflix and YouTube using Google Home

Now you can ask Google Home to pause House of Cards on your TV.

Google Home could easily beat Amazon Echo – if it offered more integrations and skills. The addition of Netflix support is a major step in the right direction. Google’s voice-activated speaker now recognises when you ask it to play Netflix shows. With your voice, you can ask its assistant to skip episodes, pause and resume playback, switch on captions, and even rewind what you’re watching.

To get started, you’ll need the $129 Google Home and the latest version of the Google Home app. You’ll also need a Chromecast device plugged into your TV (the 4K-capable Chromecast Ultra version costs $69). You’ll then need a Netflix account to link to your Google Home. In the Home app, go to Devices > Home > Settings > More > Videos and Photos. From there, link your Netflix account to your Google account.

Keep in mind you can also do all this with YouTube videos. All you have to do is sign into your YouTube account through the Google Home app. Once you’re all set, you can start controlling Netflix or YouTube using your Google Home. You can say things like “OK Google, play House of Cards from Netflix on my TV” or “OK Google, pause Stranger Things on my TV” or “Play John Oliver videos from YouTube on my TV”.

Mirror VR using Google Daydream

It’s not really fun to watch someone experience virtual reality… After all, they’re in a closed environment of a headset.

But you can also see what the person wearing the goggles sees, if you use Google’s new Daydream View headset and a Chromecast, because you can mirror – or send – what’s on the headset to a television. The two devices just have to be on the same Wi-Fi network.

To get started, open the Google Home app on your mobile device, select Cast, and then choose the Chromecast device you want to display your VR images. When you’re done, put the phone into the headset, and then everyone can see what you see in the virtual world.

Get an Ethernet adapter

Chromecast requires a strong Wi-Fi connection, and so Google now has an $15 Ethernet adapter for Chromecast. It looks like the Chromecast power cord, but the plug end has a small Ethernet port to connect an Ethernet cable. Just make sure that the Ethernet cable is connected to your modem as well, and then plug the USB end of the adapter into the Chromecast, and attach the Chromecast to the HDMI port on your TV.

Switch up those Chromecast photos

You can now use your own photos – or you can choose from Google’s selection images – to switch up your Chromecast background. In the Google Home app, go to the Devices tab, then select the Chromecast you want to customize, and tap the hamburger menu in the corner. From there, select Backdrop Settings. You can pick a photo from Google Photos, Facebook albums, or Flickr, or opt to display news, satellite images, etc.

Enable a guest mode

You can let guests use Chromecast without giving them access to your Wi-Fi. Just turn your Chromecast to Guest Mode in the device settings, and anyone with the Cast Ready app can cast once the option shows up on their device (if they’re within 25 feet of the Chromecast).

Factory reset Chromecast

You may never need to use this tip, but it’s handy to know nonetheless: in case your Chromecast develops an issue where it doesn’t work or function properly, you can revert the device to factory settings.

Just access the Settings menu in the Chromecast app on your PC, Mac, or mobile device, and then select Restore Factory Settings. Simples. You can also restore the factory settings by holding down the Chromecast’s button for 25 seconds.

Join the Chromecast Preview Program

If you join the Chromecast Preview Program, you will get the latest Chromecast features before they’re released to the public. Google said the program is not a beta. It’s a preview of stable features. To sign up, open the Google Cast app on Android or iOS, then tap Devices, and select the one that you want to use for the program. From there, select Device Settings, then Preview Program.

Use the slider to select if you want to receive email notifications of updates as they are pushed to your Chromecast device. When you’re done, select Join Program and tap Okay.

And that’s it. Let us know in the comments if we missed any nifty tips.

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