A compendium of tips, tweaks and hacks for the Google’s diminutive Chromecast dongle
To celebrate the launch of Pixel Dynamo, you can win one of three Google Chromecasts, one of our favourite gadgets of 2013. Click here for details.
Once you’ve got your Chromecast plugged in and running, you’re probably wondering what else you can do with it. Fret not dear reader, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of tips, tweaks and hacks:
Using your Chromecast
- Install other Chromecast-compatible apps
- Stream video files from your Mac or PC to the Chromecast
- Present on a Chromecast
- Play Nintendo games
- Play Wiimote-style games using a smartphone
- Keep fullscreen tabcasted video running, while using other apps
- Watch and listen to podcasts
- Cast your desktop
- Find out which tab is currently casting
- Chromecast from a Kindle Fire
- Hijack your hotel television
- Launch Netflix playback from Google Now
- Bypass geographical restrictions with Hulu, Netflix, CBS and MTV
- Turn your TV on, or switch to the Chromecast using your smartphone
- Override your TV’s EDID for Surround Sound
- Stream to other devices
Using your Chromecast
Google maintains a list of all approved apps on their Chromecast sub-site. There are 14 listed at the moment, but Google held a hackathon before Christmas and many other developers are expected to bring apps to market in the coming weeks and months.
The range of apps is still fairly limited and many require a subscription. Plex, for example, is free to download, but requires a subscription to their online service to enable local streaming within the app. The developers claim that streaming will be made free for all in the future and this is just a way of previewing the facility to their subscribers.
*Requires an additional $3/month subscription, in addition to purchasing the app
Chrome isn’t just great for browsing the web, you can also browse your local PC and play media files directly within the browser tab. Simply enter “file:///” (Mac) or “file:///c:/” (PC) in the address bar, find a piece of media and you can tabcast it to your Chromecast. It works pretty well for normal MP4 video, but if you’re trying to play other formats such as MKV you may find you get video without audio because of the lack of support in Chrome for AC3 surround decoding.
Remember that tabcasting relies on the local computer to stream, unlike Chromecast apps such as YouTube and Netflix which hand off communication to the Chromecast. Playback might stutter if your machine or local network isn’t up to it.
Google Drive presentations now support presenting on a Chromecast. Instead of hitting the present button, click the little arrow to open the drop-down menu and select ‘Present on another device’.
Unfortunately, not all corporate networks will support the required peer-to-peer communication to pull this off, isolating wireless clients in the name of security. But you can always spin up a wireless hotspot on your smartphone for your laptop and Chromecast, allowing you to present in this way from pretty much anywhere.
Google provided some sample code last year to show developers what the Chromecast was capable of beyond simple video streaming. There aren’t any officially-sanctioned apps as-yet, but it clearly had the desired effect with projects such as this Gameboy emulator springing up.
It requires a bit of fiddling to get going, but gives you some idea of what might be possible once Google open the SDK up properly.
There’s also a NES emulator in the works:
Google has been experimenting with browser games for a while now, but due to latency created by tabcasting, not all of the options work particularly well. SuperSyncSports and RollIt are two brilliant examples of games which tie together smartphones and a Chrome browser, and don’t suffer from the slight delay created. Sure, it’s not quite a Wii-party, but it’s pretty freaking awesome nonetheless.