The portability and power of Google’s Chromecast makes it a perfect tool for cutting the cord and ditching cable. It’s inexpensive, easy to use, and you can stream Web content to a television wherever you go, whether you’re traveling for business or just to a friend’s apartment.
But streaming video content from your laptop or phone is only the beginning of what you can accomplish with your Chromecast. Enthusiasts are already doing amazing things with it (check out this fellow who got Chromecast working on a vintage television). But you don’t have to be a technical expert to expand the capabilities of your device — here are a few Chromecast hacks you can use to improve your experience right now.
Optimize Your Playback
Occasionally users may find high-resolution video has a negative impact on their Chromecast playback. Sometimes the bottleneck lies in the device itself — but there’s a tweak for that! If you click on your browser’s “Cast” button and choose “Options,” you can change the tab projection quality. If you’re at 720p “high bitrate,” scale down to 720p or even 480p and see if that evens out the playback.
In some cases, the problem may not be with the Chromecast, but rather with the wi-fi connection. Certain older routers may not provide adequate connection strength to deliver quality streaming — but don’t let that deter you! One inexpensive solution is to pick up Google’s Ethernet adapter. Simply hook the adapter up to your router, plug the Chromecast into the TV’S HDMI port, and connect the Chromecast to the Ethernet adapter. Voila, you’re using Chromecast with no wi-fi at all!
Play Your Own Media
Chromecast is optimized to play streaming content from the Web — but you can also use it to play your own media files, either from the cloud or other devices. You can experiment with local video files by dropping them into a Chrome browser tab and seeing if they play. If so, you can tap the “Cast” extension button to send it to the Chromecast.
Casting from the cloud or your other devices is not officially supported by Google, but third-party solutions like Plex can help you manage your music, videos and photos. This way, you can stream your content — or your friend’s shared content — onto the Chromecast from just about anywhere.
The versatility of the Chromecast shines when you turn it into a democratic affair. One of my new joys in life is using it to share video with friends. After dinner and some good conversation, we gather for “Youtube Roulette,” where we relax around our friend’s 50-inch TV and connect to the Chromecast. Then we take turns queueing short videos. Everyone gets a chance to share something they find funny, fascinating or cool. If you love sharing videos, it’s a blast.
Enable Guest Mode
Sure, sharing Chromecast can be great, but maybe you don’t want to share your wireless password with everyone while you’re at it. Enter one of the easiest hacks to implement: Guest Mode. To activate, go into the Chromecast app and check the “Guest Mode” box. This will bring up a prompt giving you the option to turn it on. You’ll then get a four-digit PIN your guests can use to temporarily access your Chromecast. With Guest Mode, it’s easy to get everyone hooked up, and you don’t have to worry about changing your wi-fi password after the party!
Have Chromecast, Will Travel
If you’re traveling but don’t want to leave your media entertainment behind, the Chromecast may be your new best friend. As long as your hotel room has Ethernet and a TV with an HDMI port, you can be ready to rock with your favorite shows and media in just a few minutes. Just plug the Chromecast into a free HDMI port on the television, and hook up a portable travel router / adapter to the Ethernet port. Now settle back and enjoy your favorite content from the comfort of your hotel bed!
The Chromecast is not only a flexible and economical way to stream Web content to your TV, it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to start cutting the cord and free yourself from the high cost of cable. Compared to the other media players on the market, it’s a low-risk investment that can pay off in many ways. How are you using Chromecast in your home? Let me know in the comments!