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Chromecast Tips and Tricks: How to get the best out of Google’s streaming TV stick

Google Chromecast is a great streaming device with loads of hidden features, and our full Chromecast tips and tricks guide will help you to get the most out of your Google's gadget.

Here at Recombu, we love Google's streamer - we've done an in-depth review, compared Chromecast to Apple TV and shared our favourite Chromecast apps (and a few to avoid) so far. And now we've compiled some tips and tricks so you can get the most from your new streaming device.

 

Chromecast Tips: Use Google Home for casting notifications

Since the Google Cast app was renamed as the Google Home app, it’s had some nice new features added. One particularly useful addition is Chromecast notifications. This means that any Android device with Google Home installed will be notified of casting, and given full controls.

So for instance, if you start playing music from your tablet in one room, you’ll be able to pause it later using your phone in another room.

Chromecast Tips: Get in early with the Preview Program

If you want to try the latest updates for the Chromecast before they get a public launch, you can sign up to the free Chromecast Preview Program.

While you’ll get all the latest test software updates ahead of time, you'll actually only be a few days or weeks in front of everyone else. However, the real advantage here is that these updates aren’t beta, but the final software version. That should mean that each update you receive will be as bug-free as an official rollout, so you’re not risking bricking your device.

If you want to get involved with Google's Preview Program, you can sign-up via the Android or iOS Google Cast app in Device Settings.

Chromecast Tips: Turn on your TV with your laptop, tablet or phone

With the Chromecast Browser Extension or compatible mobile apps (like Netflix and YouTube) you can turn your TV on remotely. 

When you’ve found a video or web page you want to show off on your TV screen, provided you’re connected to the same WiFi network that your Chromecast is, you can turn your TV on by tapping the Chromecast icon. 

For this trick to work, you’ll need to have your Chromecast drawing power from the mains, instead of one of your TV’s USB ports. 

If your TV also is HDMI-CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) compatible (check your manual if you’re not sure), you’ll also be able to automatically switch to the requisite HDMI channel, making it really easy to wake your TV up and start streaming what you want to watch all from one click or tap of a touchscreen. 

Just make sure you don’t do this while your housemates are watching the football. 

Chromecast Tips: Low bandwidth? Switch to a lower quality bitrate

If you’re living in a busy home where you don’t have a great deal of free bandwidth (or you just really need to buy a new router), here’s a useful tip. 

Right click on the Chromecast icon in your browser and click Options. You should then be taken to a screen which looks like this: 

Chromecast Tips and Tricks: How to get the most out of Google’s TV stick
Chromecast Tips and Tricks: How to get the most out of Google’s TV stick

If you’re having problems displaying web pages on your TV, you’ve got the option to decrease the tab projection quality. Alternatively, if you’ve got plenty of bandwidth (like we do) then you’ve got the option to crank it up to ‘Extreme’ levels. 

Note that while 1080p HD isn’t an option here, this doesn’t mean that you can’t stream Full HD video on Chromecast from apps like YouTube, Netflix and Red Bull TV. 

What this means is Chrome mirroring (casting a tab in your Chrome browser to your TV) is currently capped at 720p.

The first generation Chromecast suffered speed issues thanks to its single 2.5GHz WiFi. The second gen upgrade has had 5GHz added too meaning far less lag thanks to a wider spectrum of bandwidth to chose from. That new 802.11ac WiFi means interference from other signals is less of an issue resulting in an overall better experience.

Despite the upgraded speed, if you experience severe lag you can reduce the quality of 'casted tabs and screens. 

Chromecast Tips: Enable audio mode when streaming music

If you've got a fancy soundbar on your TV and you want to listen to tunes on Spotify, you can enable an audio mode which will adjust bandwidth and frame rates yet again - video quality is sacrificed in order to make sure your playlists and songs aren’t interrupted. 

If you want to stream music via Chromecast, switch Audio Mode on first

Of course if you have Chromecast Audio you won’t need to worry about this so much as you should have it all set to your liking anyway.

Chromecast Tips: Cast individual tabs to your TV, carry on working on other tabs

If you’re in a work situation where you want to show off a video or a spreadsheet to colleagues while you continue to check your emails, Chromecast is perfect for this. 

The Chrome browser extension for Windows and Mac OS lets you find the web page you want online and ‘cast just that tab to your TV. 

This leaves you free to open up other tabs in the background while everything continues to display on the big screen uninterrupted.  

Chromecast Tips: Cast entire screen (desktop mirroring) 

Another option available to you right now is a desktop mirroring option. This lets you effectively use your TV set as a wireless monitor, transforming your living room into an office if you so wish.

We found for things like browsing the web Chromecast is generally fine, but playing video and trying to use intensive programs like Final Cut Pro X, especially when playing fullscreen HD video, things work less well.  

Chromecast Tips and Tricks: How to get the most out of Google’s TV stick
Chromecast mirroring: Complete with an annoying pop-up message 

For the time being, if you really want to use your big TV as a monitor (because you’re too stingy to fork out for a Thunderbolt) your best option would be to invest in an HDMI cable or if you really need to go wireless, make use WiDi, WiFi Direct or Miracast adapters, if your TV or laptop supports any of these standards.

Chromecast Tips: Use Google Now to cast

This has to be one of the coolest things you can do with Chromecast. Using programming app Tasker you can setup a series of commands that allows you to fling Netflix shows to your TV just by saying it, using Google Now.

Say “Ok Google, play Stranger Things on the TV” and the phone will open the Netflix app and cast the show right to your big screen.

Chromecast Tips: Cast with a shortcut

Cast directly from your computer using a simple shortcut. First make sure you have the Google Cast extension installed in your Chrome browser. All you then need to do is open your Chrome browser and press either Control+O on Windows or Command+O on Mac to open a pop-up video selection box.

Then just select what you want and it’ll start running from within your browser. That applies to locally stored video, connected drives and network locations. Tap cast in the browser and that video will be flung to the big screen.

Chromecast Tips: Hard reset

Sure, you’ll probably never need it but should you want to reset the Chromecast it’s helpful to know how. There are two options for this.

The first is to reset the device via software using your app, PC or Mac by selecting Settings and then Restore Factory Settings.

The other option is to physically press down the reset button that features on the Chromecast device itself.

These methods will lose WiFi and everything else saved so you’ll essentially be starting again as if you’ve just got your Chromecast out of the box. Should be a fix for most issues then.

Chromecast Tips: Anything else? 

As more updates and hacks become available we’ll update this page. 

While those lucky enough to get early versions of Chromecast were able to have fun rooting their devices, Google has since locked this option out via a forced over the air update (from build 12840 onwards). 

New units shipped also now have the bootloader locked from the word go, meaning hacking your Chromecast and getting it to give you content from other parts of the world like the US, is now closed off to your average user. 

As we hear of any updates or neat workarounds we’ll update this piece and link off to any future features. 

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