Chromecast looks like a USB stick and connects to your HDTV via one of its HDMI slots. It costs £30 and, now that Google has opened the SDK up to developers, we’re starting to see all kinds of new and useful features added.
Out of the box you get support for most of Google’s services (Play TV & Movies, YouTube, Chrome), as well as Netflix and, of course, BBC iPlayer.
So what else can you do with Chromecast? Quite a bit as it goes. As long as you have the device with you and a compatible TV, you can stream video and audio around your home, play classic games, mirror your PC’s display to your TV screen, and even hijack TV sets in hotels and avoid those annoying pay-per-view channels.
But the best thing about Chromecast is the platform’s open-source nature. The SDK is now in the hands of developers all over the globe, and that means pretty soon – like within the next few months – you’ll be doing things with your Chromecast you can’t even imagine right now. And that’s why open SDKs are the way forward, Apple!
Mirror Chrome On Your HDTV
It doesn’t matter whether you’re running Windows or OS X, so long as you have Google’s Chrome browser you can mirror what’s displaying inside a Chrome tab onto your HDTV’s display using Chromecast. All you need to do is ensure all devices are connected to the same network; once they are you’ll see a Cast symbol in the top right hand corner of Chrome and, as the saying goes, Bob’s your Uncle.
Make Your Smartphone A TV Remote
Chromecast uses HDMI-CEC technology, which, to cut a long story short, lets consumer products – your smartphone, for instance – interact with things like a HDTV, once the dongle is connected, of course, and plugged into a power source. Most modern TVs support this technology, too – although some like to use different names, just to make things difficult; Samsung's version is called Anynet+, for instance.
You may also need to go into your HDTV’s Settings to ensure the feature is enabled. This will vary from TV to TV; but once you’ve found it, it requires nothing more than a tap on the remote to switch it on. Once you’ve done this you’ll be able to use your smartphone, via Chromecast, as a remote for your HDTV.
Use Real Player Cloud
Remember Real Player from back in the early days of the Internet? Well, the company is now officially back (it never went away, FYI) and is currently in the process of reinventing itself as a consumer cloud company, specializing in video delivery from one device (phone, laptop, tablet) to another (Chromecast, PC, Apple TV, PS4).
But the really cool thing about Real Player Cloud is that it converts everything in the back-end, meaning you no longer have to bother with codecs – it’s all done in the background. All you need is a membership, the application, some uploaded video content and you’re free to begin streaming video to pretty much any internet-connected device you have – including Chromecast.
Turn Chromecast Into Budget Sonos System
You can use Chromecast to stream music from your phone, wirelessly, to your home’s biggest and best speaker system – and all you need is a cheap HDMI-to-VGA adapter, which you can pick up at Maplins for next to nothing. Before you buy, though, make sure the adapter also has an audio output, because this is what you’ll be using to hook your speaker system up to the Chromecast.
Once you have all the gizmos, you want to set them up like this: connect the HDMI-to-VGA adapter to your Chromecast, plug it into your HDTV, then, take a cable from your speaker system and plug it into the audio-output on the adapter. This, however, isn’t something I discovered myself – I came across it on YouTube. Check out GIGAOM’s full video demo above this paragraph.
If you don’t fancy Real Player Cloud, and want something a little more “open-source” –– i.e. completely free –– then AllCast could be the perfect fit for you. The application is available as a browser plug-in in Firefox or as a download from Google Play. Once installed, AllCast, as the name suggests, lets you stream media – music, pictures and video – from one device, say, your PC, to another, such as your brand-spanking new Chromecast dongle. AllCast also works with Apple TV, Xbox, Roku 3 and lots of other DLNA-enabled devices.
Use It In Hotels
I did this recently on a trip to the US, and it really did work a like a charm. Basically, all you need is a decent tethering plan, the Google Chromecast dongle and a decent HDTV in your hotel room. Once you have all of these things you can say goodbye to all those crappy pay-per-view channels and run the content you want on your hotel room’s HDTV. Just don’t try and connect it to the hotel’s Wi-Fi; most don’t support things like Chromecast, hence the need to use your phone as a hotspot.
That’s it for now. We’ll be adding more hints and tips as we come across them, but as said earlier: now that developers are involved, Chromecast is only going to go from strength to strength. So, if we’ve missed something, or you have something you want to share, let us know in the comments below.
Happy Casting, Mother Truckers!