These days, almost all new TVs are ‘smart’ – pity about the station programmers I hear you say? Well, I have to agree that finding anything half-decent to watch is difficult at times, even though here in Oz we have a few great channels (ABC Australia and SBS) that appeal to many of my generation. For those fortunate enough to already own a Smart TV with a reasonably fast broadband connection, the choice is much better. The ability to watch the ‘catch up’ services that all the channels now have is alone a good reason to invest in one.
But what if, like us, your telly isn’t that clever but you have no reason to replace it? This is where the amazingly cheap Chromecast comes into it’s own.
If you are a YouTube fan and have already found that the service isn’t just for the ‘younger set’ and that you can find a huge variety of channels to ‘follow’ or interesting videos and free documentaries to watch – having a Chromecast plugged into your TV means you can watch any video in comfort instead of watching on a laptop, tablet or even worse a smartphone. It really is an amazing piece of engineering. You can use to watch almost anything you want on your TV, but it does require some technical set up to get started, so this guide will make it simpler. Watching video or movies that you have stored somewhere is another matter but if this post proves popular, I’ll delve a little deeper in another tutorial. Pop a ‘yes please’ in the comments maybe?
Firstly, you must have an HDMI port on your TV – almost all LCD or Plasma TVs made within the last 10 years have them. Second, the Chromecast requires a USB socket to draw power from and again, most recent TVs have one of these available also. I have a Chromecast 2 and while this one draws more power than the first model did, our 5 year old Sonic TV had no problem powering the device. If yours won’t, just use the USB power supply included with it. The image here shows the Chromecast 2 powered by the TV itself.
Thirdly, you must have a WiFi internet connection with a decent signal strength in the room where the TV and Chromecast will be used – our WiFi router was a little too far away for a reliable connection, so be warned – check the signal strength with your smartphone first, if you get 3 WiFi bars or more you should be fine. In my case I used a second router I had on hand to boost the signal, but you can buy a cheap device called a ‘range extender’ to increase the strength of your WiFi connection if necessary.
Finally, you need to download a free app for your phone or tablet called Google Cast (the Google Play link is below this post).
Next, setting up is really the easy part (so long as you know your WiFi password!) – the steps are:
- Turn the TV off. Plug the Chromecast cable into the TV HDMI socket. Now insert the small USB plug of the power cable into the Chromecast socket and large end into the TV (or use the mains adapter if you prefer. Note that if the TV USB port is labelled ‘Service’ – don’t use it – use the adaptor instead.
- Turn the TV on and select the HDMI input – most TVs have an ‘Input’ button on the remote, just use that to select HDMI. If there are two or more, try each in turn until you see the light blue Chromecast ‘Set me Up’ screen.
- Now start the Google Cast app on your phone or tablet and you should see that it has found your Chromecast – tap the Setup button to continue.
- To ensure you are connecting to your device (not your neighbours – that could be embarrassing!) the device will show you a four character code and this should match the one shown on the app, so tap the ‘I see the code’ button to continue.
- Next you can rename the device if you like, I left mine as it is, but if you end up buying another you can call this one ‘Bedroom 1’ or ‘Loungeroom’ or similar.
- You will now see a screen where you can turn off ‘Guest mode’ (this enables your guests to show you a video from their device without knowing your WiFi password). Turn it off if you like and untick the ‘Send crash statistics to Google’ if you prefer also.
- Now the the app will ask you for your WiFi password – enter this in the space provided. Andys Tip: Tick the ‘show password’ box first so you don’t make a mistake here! Then tap to connect to your network.
- If all goes well, both the app and the TV will be displaying ‘connecting’ and then finally success, you have finished the setup.
This only needs to be done once as the device saves all the settings for you. Now you can enjoy using the Chromecast – tap the ‘What’s On’ menu item to see what connected apps you have available. As a minimum you will see YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV – which you can ‘cast’ but not usually for free. Having said that Play Movies have HD titles for under $5 if you want to give it a try. You can also cast Google Music so if you have already uploaded your music collection to your free Play Music account you can listen to music on the TV also (with nice album art included too). To watch anything on the TV, just find the content you want to watch on your phone or tablet then tap the ‘cast’ icon to send it to your Chromecast. Here’s what this looks like in case you haven’t seen this already –
There are an increasing number of ‘Google Cast aware’ apps being released all the time – here in OZ, the ABC iView app now supports Chromecast. To watch it and any other app that does just remember to have the TV turned on and connected to the Chromecast first. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t see the small blue ‘cast logo’ in iView until I realised this! Oops… shows that even us geeks make mistakes sometimes too.
Don’t forget that whichever TV station is broadcasting the Olympics where you live (Channel 7 in Oz for example) usually has a YouTube channel to watch selected events. My wife was happy when I showed her how to watch the Mens & Womens Artistic Gymnastics Finals on the TV using the Chromecast!
As I said, this is a cheap and cheerful device that won’t break the bank (just under $50 at the moment in Australia) so you could buy a couple – we plan to get one for the spare room telly for when the grandkids come down to stay – that works well. Just remember to watch your broadband data allowance as streaming HD content can soak up the megabytes for sure.
Do let me know in the comments below if you want a more in-depth post on watching your own content on Chromecast. As a ‘teaser’ did you know that you can simply plug in a USB hard drive with downloaded movies etc into your WiFi router? But more on this later if I’m asked!
Price : Free
Size : 10Mb
Needs : Android 4.0.3+