Chromecast Tips & Tricks (video)

August 2, 2013
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chromecast angle aa
Are you one of the lucky people to have gotten a Chromecast before they sold out? In that case, we’ve got an article full of tips and tricks to get a little bit more out of your new device, but first, I’m going to answer some questions that were asked on my Chromecast review.

Does Chromecast stream local content straight from your device?

chromecast aa selecting tv

The short answer is no, any local content that you currently have on your device can’t be sent to the Chromecast. The way it works is when you hit that cast button on any supported app, such as YouTube, it relays the information to the Chromecast so it can find the content from the source itself.

Then, with the help of some HTML5 magic, the Chromecast connects to the actual service, finds your video or music, and plays it. After the Chromecast app is installed and all of your media programs are updated, this is all available. You can find how this all works in a more detailed manner here.

Cast that Tab

If you do want to stream content from a local source, this is somewhat possible from your computer.

As I mentioned in my review, you can cast a full tab from the Chrome browser, and what’s awesome is that a Chrome tab can display a lot of content — websites, flash content, and pictures, but let’s say you have some local videos you want to watch. If your Chrome browser has the needed plugins to view the content, that tab will play it, and then you can send it to Chromecast.

cast tab

Just browse your computer hard drive within Chrome (type file:///c:/ in the address bar) to your video and it will play it in the browser tab. Then, just Chromecast the tab. It’s simple, it’s easy to do, and it’s pretty awesome.

This really does allow Chromecast to bridge the gap between your computer and television. For example, I have a Plex Media Server that a friend setup, and all the content from there streams to my computer, which then, using Chromecast, streams to my TV. It really is an easy way to turn your living room into a central Internet media consumption destination with little hassle and little cost.

cast plex

Cast that Screen

The wonders of Chromecast doesn’t stop there, though. Hidden away in a small arrow on the side of the Chromecast extension is an option to cast not only a Chrome tab, but the entire computer screen. This is a feature in its very early stages of beta, and while it might be nice for presentations and picture viewing, it’s not very smooth.

cast entire screen

In fact, it’s a little choppy, though, with a beta feature, this is to be expected. I’m sure this feature will continue to get improved upon and enhanced, and eventually, becoming one of the key features of Chromecast.

Optimize Tab View

You may notice that the first time you try Chrome browser streaming, it isn’t perfectly smooth, and in some cases, you might have choppy video. There are ways of optimizing it to clear that up, though. Since your computer is basically transcoding on the fly, it also has to stream the finished product to your Chromecast. This is when a very fast Internet connection becomes important and recommended.

cast settings

In the browser extension, hit the “Options” button, and from there, you’ll see the way to clear things up. The transcoded footage can bet set to high bitrate 720p, regular 720p (the default settings), and 480p. For my decent Internet connection, 480p works beautifully. Sure, it’s disappointing that it’s high definition, but it’s in every way much better than choppy video.

That’s how you get more out of your Chromecast via your computer, so let’s get back to the actual hardware.

HDMI 1.4

While I don’t have a TV to demonstrate this it’s been reported that TV’s with HDMI 1.4 can route power to Chromecast without the need of a USB or wall plug. However, you might want to stick with the wall plug, because if you initiate a cast, there’s a added feature in the Chromecast that will power on your television and load up the source of media.

Know Your Setup

And we come to our final tip, a tip for those who struggled with the same problem as I did in my review. My DLP TV in the living room does have a 5.1 stereo system, but it doesn’t have an audio output available and thus requires the audio signal to come straight from the source.

chromecast aa splitter listing

If you noticed, all the Chromecast has is an HDMI, and some people commented saying I could use an AV receiver, but those can cost over 200 dollars. Since I only needed a way to split the Chromecast signal, I decided to find something for that specific purpose. I did, and it is this box that actively splits the video and audio signal into HDMI and SPDIF.

chromecast aa splitter

Perfect for my set up. Now, I can go from this to this. Like I said before, this adds more total cost to your Chromecast experience so be aware of your setup at home before you pull the trigger. To me, this was worth having my big screen available for all my viewing pleasure.

Video

Final thoughts

And that’s our tips and tricks for the Chromecast! It’s an amazing device, and it has a lot of potential, especially when developers begin getting their hands on the API. For the time being, the Chromecast will turn your living room into an Internet media consumption medium for a mere $35.

Do you have a Chromecast, yet? Any tricks you’ve found with the device? Let us know in the comments!

Comments

  • Jeremy

    Through the chrome browser Ctrl O will open up your local files to be viewed on your tv through “cast this tab”

    • AndroidBrian

      How well does it stream local media files?

      • Jeremy

        Same as anything from the “cast this tab” beta feature. Frame rate is not perfect but watchable. Seems to be dropping frames in comparison to YouTube or Netflix through the “cast this tab”. I know it will just keep improving. Can already see some with the update that rolled out yesterday.

      • nicholas vanni

        perfectly

      • Paul

        My MP4 was jumpy and choppy so ti’ll depend. Try it out and see how well it works. It won’t play ALL video file types but MP4 does work.

    • nicholas vanni

      its work

  • Pete S

    HDMI 1.4 won’t provide power. HDMI 1.4 MHL is what you’re thinking of, and according to Anandtech, even that won’t work. Or at least it isn’t supported by Google. I can’t test it either…

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7186/google-chromecast-review-an-awesome-35-hdmi-dongle

    ” I’ve confirmed with Google that MHL-HDMI is not in fact supported by the Chromecast, meaning it can’t be powered by a TV that includes the spec (which can deliver up to 500 mA at 5 V), straight HDMI can only supply 50 mA at 5V. I’ve yet to encounter a TV with MHL-HDMI myself, including on the 55-inch LCD TV I purchased just 3 months ago.”

    FWIW I was under the same impression (that HDMI 1.4 MHL could power the thing) until I read that piece.

    • Simon Belmont

      This. I was actually going to say this, but you put it extremely well.

      I just plugged mine into a USB WiseLink port on my Samsung TV. Works perfectly.

  • rasen

    I have a one question. How Chromecast is connecting with internet? Does it have a built in WiFi adapter? I’m asking becasue my TV is few years old and doesn’t have Ethernet nor WiFi. Will Chromcast work on such device?

    • Jeremy

      Built in WiFi

  • Tuss

    Is there a way to cast a document/presentation from google drive via your phone?

  • Easy

    “This is when a very fast Internet connection becomes important and recommended”
    Why do you need a fast internet connection for sending a tab to the TV? If I understand correctly, the PC sends the tab locally through WiFi to the TV and internet doesn’t come in the way.

  • Sam Fuchs

    Wasn’t most of this functionality already available with the remote feature built into the YouTube app? I’ve been doing what they’re talking about with videos for years, and while it’s true that it didn’t do media files, I can stream those with Viera remote on my smart TV.

  • Canadian

    When will these be available in Canada? Shutup and take my money Google! :)

  • captainkirk

    Can you post a name and model number or link to the box that actively splits the video and audio signal into HDMI and SPDIF? I want to use the Chromecast on my old DLP TV but have the same problem.

  • Nora Carrington

    If the Chromecast will cast a Chrome tab, can it be used to cast a tab playing Hulu+? Amazon Instant Video? It might be worth it to me just for Netflix, but if I could cast pretty much any video I have access to in Chrome (and I get it works differently and less well with tab casting than the built in Netflix and YouTube features), that would be fabulous.