Google's Chromecast is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to wirelessly throw content from your phone, tablet or computer onto your television. While it may not seem feature-packed on the surface, there are a lot of things a Chromecast can do that aren't immediately apparent.
Below you will find 20 tips and tricks to help you get a better understanding of the Chromecast platform.
Use your photos as wallpapers
When you're not using your Chromecast, it turns your television into a giant digital photo frame, displaying photographs of beautiful scenery.
If you want to use your own photos, download the Google Home application to your Android or iOS device, open the Devices tab, hit the action overflow button for your Chromecast and select Backdrop settings. There you can enable Google Photos, Facebook and Flickr. If you no longer want to see the photos Google has selected, you can disable Featured photos, Earth and space and Art.
You also have the option to tweak the speed at which new photos show -- Slow (0.5x), Normal (1.0x) or Fast (2.0x) -- and you can toggle on weather information.
Get headlines instead of wallpapers
Within this same Backdrops settings screen, you can also opt to get news headlines. For this, there are two options: Curated News, which is chosen by Google, and news more tailored to your account via Play Newsstand. To control which feeds appear in your personal news feed, you will need to open the Play Newsstand application and edit which sites you want to follow there. Changes made within the app will automatically appear on Chromecast.
Browse Chromecast-compatible apps
You know the standard apps that support Chromecast -- YouTube, Netflix, Pandora, etc. But what else can you stream to your TV? To find out, all you have to do is open the Google Home app on your phone and select the Discover tab. Tap to collapse the Google Home section and browse the Chromecast & TVs section.
All the apps that support Chromecast can be found here, as well as in the mobile version of the Google Play Store itself under the Google Cast category.
Mirror Android devices
The Chromecast's highlight feature is streaming video from YouTube, Netflix and any other application that supports it. However, if you're an Android user, you can mirror your device display to any TV. Just pull down the notification shade and tap Cast. Select which Chromecast you want to use, and your entire screen will be streamed to the television.
Sadly, this doesn't work well for streaming local videos, as the frame rate is typically pretty low and audio gets out of sync very easily. What it does work well for is showing your locally stored photos to a roomful of people or browsing the web on a larger screen using the phone as a controller.
Mirror your desktop
If you want to do the same with your desktop, you only need Chrome installed. Casting features are now baked into Chrome itself, so you no longer need the Chromecast extension.
To mirror your entire computer desktop on a TV via Chromecast, open Chrome and click the action overflow button in the top right corner. Click Cast and click the downward arrow next to Cast to. Select Cast desktop, choose the Chromecast you want to use and, finally, click Cast to begin mirroring.
Keep in mind, this will not play the audio from your computer through the TV. Audio will still come out of your computer's speakers.
Stream local content
Since mirroring your desktop doesn't support audio and generally has a pretty terrible frame rate, you will need to use a different method to stream local videos and content to your Chromecast from a desktop.
On a Mac, just drag a video file into a Chrome tab or press Command + O and locate a video. From within Chrome on Windows, go to File > Open or press Ctrl + O and locate a video file to open it in Chrome. From there, enable the Cast feature as usual. This does tend to drop frames from time to time and audio can sometimes get out of sync with the video, but shy of using a third-party solution that costs money or uploading everything to a private YouTube channel, this is the easiest way to stream your local videos or pictures via Chromecast.
Stream owned content
The other option for streaming videos or movies that you own to Chromecast is using a service like Plex. Basically, you sign up for a free account, add your media to that account using the Plex Media Server app and download the Plex apps.
Once everything is set up, you can stream the digital movies you own to a Chromecast using a computer for free or via the mobile apps, which will require an in-app purchase of $5 (£4 or AU$8) or a monthly subscription of $5 (£4 or AU$8).
Power it using your TV... maybe
If you have a TV made in the last eight years or so, it likely has a USB port around back. Since the Chromecast is powered via USB, you can simply plug this cable into the open USB port on your television. In most cases, this USB port will be sufficient for powering your Chromecast.
Turn on your TV
You can use a Chromecast to power on your television, so long as it has support for HDMI-CEC. Just enable this in your television's settings menu. Then, if you use your phone or computer to cast something and your television is off, the Chromecast will power it on before starting to stream.
The confusing part about this is that each manufacturer calls HDMI-CEC something different. You can find all the different names for it and more about how to get it running here.
If you want to use this feature, then powering your Chromecast by plugging it into the TV (as mentioned above) is probably not the choice for you. With most TVs, power to the USB port is cut when the television is off. To use HDMI-CEC, you will most likely need to power the Chromecast independently of the TV.
Get an Ethernet adapter
If you're not having much luck with Chromecast streaming over Wi-Fi, you can opt to use Ethernet. Google offers an Ethernet adapter for the Chromecast for $15 (roughly £10 or AU$20), which comes standard with the Chromecast Ultra.
This adapter replaces the original power supply of an AC adapter with an Ethernet port. Plug the Micro-USB end into the Chromecast and connect an Ethernet cable to the power supply and an empty port on a nearby router. Your Chromecast will then be hardwired into the network.
Enable Guest mode
If you have friends or family over and they want to cast something to your television, you can make it very easy for them. Just enable Guest Mode by opening the Google Home app, switching to the Devices tab and hitting the action overflow button on the Chromecast you want to use. In that menu, tap Guest Mode. Any nearby devices should connect to the Chromecast without being on the same network.
The way this works is Chromecast sends a four-digit PIN to nearby devices by using an audio tone that you can't hear. If guests' phones don't detect the audio tone, they can simply enter the PIN manually.