We’ve got our first Chromecast device in, so here’s a quick look at what it does, and how it does it!
First of all, the Chromecast is a little dongle that plugs into an HDMI port on your TV. This little dongle does need power, but if your TV is new enough to have a USB port you can power it using that. Otherwise, you’ll need to plug it in.
After it’s powered on, the Chromecast will direct you to visit a specific webpage and input a specific code, after which Google somehow miraculously configures the Chromecast to hop on your WiFi network without you even telling it which one to get on or what the password is! Freaky.
Get the Googlecast Apps
Once the dongle is plugged in, the TV is turned to that HDMI port, and Google has done its magical setup number, the fun begins… well, almost. First you need to install an application to really make it work! So, a quick trip to any of the major App stores will let you get your fix:
- Get the Chromecast App for Android
- Get the Chromecast App for iOS (iPhone / iPad) (No app needed!)
- Get the Chromecast App for Mac
- Get GOOGLE CAST for the Chrome Browser (tricky name change)
That last one is a little tricky. Notice that the Chrome app is NOT called Chromecast. It’s called Google Cast. So make sure you get the right one.
That’s all the app love for now, but later hopefully they’ll be coming out with Windows and Linux support.
Watching Content on TV with Googlecast
Ok, depending on your device you are about ready to get going. So let’s tackle them one at a time. ALSO, currently you can only share using YouTube, Netflix, Chrome and Google Play. Hopefully ALL apps will soon be able to be shared as easily.
How to Chromecast with Android
On an Android device (phone, tablet, etc.) you’ll launch the Chromecast app and it’ll find a Chromecast device. After that it will ask you to name it and tell it which WiFi network you really want it to use. Follow the simple instructions until you’re done.
Here’s our first little quirk! We have a LOT of devices and when we tried to connect another device to the Chromecast that was already set up it acted like it wanted to set it up all over again. But then wouldn’t even let you do that.
The solution? Keep killing the app and restarting it until it works! Which in my case was about 5-6 times. That’s what you get with version 1 folks!
After you’ve launched the Chromecast app and it locates a Chromecast device you can then switch over to another app like YouTube, where you find a video you want to play, and simply click the little Chromecast share icon at the top.
Once it begins playing on the TV you’ll see the local copy pauses and tells you where it’s playing.
How to Chromecast with iOS (iPhone / iPod)
First of all, for iOS there is nothing special to do other than make sure you have the latest versions of the apps! So for example, if we’re talking about Netflix you simply launch the app, pick a show to watch, and then once the screen comes up just select the Chromecast Share button in the lower right corner and pick a Chromecast dongle to send it to!
How to Chromecast with Mac OSX
On the Mac you can optionally install the Chromecast app. First, launch the app and go through the setup. Chromecast will find all of the installed devices.
To be honest, I don’t have any idea why you’d actually want to do that right now! Because I’m not aware of any apps that can take advantage of OS integration on the Mac, other than the Chrome web browser – and as you’ll see there is already an extension that takes care of that!
But I’m guessing that this app needs to be installed on Mac for other vendors to make their apps Chromecast compatible. For example, if iTunes or some music app wanted the ability to Chromecast. So probably doesn’t hurt to go ahead and install it, even if you aren’t exactly using it.
How to Chromecast with Chrome
Finally, you can share tabs from your Web browser with the TV, but there are a LOT of catches! This is definitely NOT like the AppleTV AirPlay sharing.
After installing the Chromecast Chrome extension you’ll have a little share icon up in the app tray. On any tab if you click the icon it should bring up a menu that lets you choose between available Chromecasts to share with.
When you do share it, ONLY that one tab will be shared on screen. This means:
- You can browse to other tabs in your browser and they will not be shared.
- You can minimize your browser and the page will stay on the TV.
- Closing the tab that is being shared will disconnect the Chromecast link.
- Scrolling, zooming or resizing the window will be reflected on the screen.
- Following links while in a shared tab will mirror the activity on screen, however navigating to another website within a shared tab just causes the TV screen AND the browser tab to simply go blank.
There are a few other little bugs at the moment, or at least things which don’t work right. For example, there isn’t any way to restrict which devices are allowed to access a Chromecast. If you have access to the network – you can take over the Chromecast.
On a related note, many devices at once can request the Chromecast to do something. And it will process every single order it gets! We had three people accidentally all asking for things at the same time, and each person was frustrated by a system that just kept starting one thing and then changing the screen as soon as the next request came in.
So users are going to have to play nice and share for now. And we definitely aren’t going to see Chromecasts installed on any public TVs any time soon, because it would be chaos. Having said that, I’d definitely say it’s worth the $35 to get one of these devices at the moment.
So, that’s where we’re at with the initial launch of the Chromecast. It offers a little bit of functionality for a little bit of money. There are still a number of bugs, and 99% of all apps and operating systems are not yet supported. But we’ve seen the future and hopefully it’s going to get a lot better, very rapidly!