Google Chromecast is a device that can be connected to a TV’s HDMI port and used to stream content from various streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube, and even Amazon Prime Video.
While the setup may seem simple, many people misunderstand how Google Chromecast actually works. You might think that you are streaming content directly from the device you are streaming from, but this is not the case.
In fact, there are many ways to stream content to Chromecast, as well as a wide variety of devices and services that work with it. This article outlines how Google Chromecast works and reveals the secret of the technology behind this powerful streaming device.
What’s Inside Google Chromecast?
Before we get into the services that work with Google Chromecast and how you manage them, it’s important to understand how Google Chromecast technology works.
The Chromecast device connects to your TV’s HDMI port. If you have 4K or high dynamic range (HDR) video, you can invest in a Chromecast Ultra. Ultra supports them and has an Ethernet adapter that supports such high data rates.
For most users, though, a regular Chromecast at half the Ultra price ($ 35) is enough.
Chromecast internal hardware includes all of the following:
- HDMI out
- micro-USB port for power
- 512MB SDRAM (2nd generation has 4 GB SDRAM)
- 2 GB flash.
- Dual band 802.11 b / g / n / ac Wi-Fi adapter.
- NFC and FM receivers
The device will ship with a USB cable that you can use to connect your Chromecast to any standard USB 2.0 port to power it. Many modern TVs include one.
How does Google Chromecast work?
So how does all of this work when you are streaming something to your Chromecast device?
Google built its screen sharing technology around the DIAL Service Discovery protocol. They also offer Google Cast software development kits (SDKs) and third-party application programming interfaces (APIs) for developing Chromecast-enabled apps.
The DIAL protocol is simply a technology developed by Netflix and YouTube to discover and run applications on the same network. The SDK and API are tools that programmers can use to integrate their apps with Chromecast technology.
Client apps and devices send HTTP requests to the Chromecast DIAL server. The Chromecast has its own version of the Chrome browser. It uses this to respond to HTTP requests and retrieve content from the Internet.
Many people mistakenly believe that their device is streaming content from the Internet and “sending” that stream to the Chromecast for display on a TV. This is not true. Devices such as mobile phones and laptops that can stream content only act as a “remote control” for the Chromecast.
This means that when you open a YouTube video and select the Chromecast icon, the following events happen.
- Your device sends an HTTP request to the Chromecast, telling it the URL of the content you want to stream.
- Chromecast uses its own browser to access the Internet and receive this content.
- The Chromecast will start streaming content. Your device can still stop, start, move forward or backward, and adjust the volume. However, all of the content streaming comes straight from the internet through the Chromecast device and to the TV.
You can see this in action by playing the video through your Chromecast and then turning off your phone or laptop. The Chromecast will continue to stream video anyway.
How to set up Chromecast
Since the Chromecast device pulls content for you directly from the internet, you’ll first need to set it up with valid credentials for your Wi-Fi network. This network must also have open access to the Internet. This is why a Chromecast device might not work on a corporate or hotel network where a second level of browser credentials are required to access the Internet.
To set up your new Chromecast, you need to install the Google Home app on your mobile device.
After installing the app, follow these steps to set up.
- Connect the HDMI output cable from the Chromecast to the HDMI port on your TV.
- Make sure your TV is switched to the correct HDMI input to which the Chromecast is connected. When you select the correct HDMI source, you will see the Chromecast display.
- Open the Google Home app on your mobile device.
- In the upper left corner of the application, click the + icon. Select Set Up Device and then Set Up New Devices.
- The app walks you through the steps to set up your Chromecast. This will involve choosing your Wi-Fi network and entering the correct network password.
Once your Chromecast is set up and ready to receive commands from your mobile device or laptop, there are dozens of ways to stream content.
How to Cast to Chromecast
Depending on what you want to convey, there are many ways to do it. Here are some of the options you have.
- Display what you see in the browser by casting the browser tab.
- Cast from a Chromecast-enabled website, such as YouTube
- Cast from Chromecast-enabled apps on a mobile device.
Broadcast from browser tab
Browser casting is one of the easiest ways to cast content to Chromecast.
Just select the three dots in the upper right corner next to your profile picture and select Broadcast from the drop-down menu.
A pop-up window will appear where you can choose which device (among all those connected to your Google Home) you want to stream.
Select the TV that the Chromecast is connected to. Your browser will immediately appear on the TV screen.
When you scroll or navigate to new web pages, the TV will show all your activities live.
Keep in mind that this is not the best approach if you want to stream videos from a website. Ideally, you should choose sites (like YouTube or Netflix) that offer a broadcast function in the form of a broadcast button (see below).
If you try to display the video using the broadcast function in your browser, the quality will be very low or it will not work at all. And in the case of YouTube or other Chromecast-enabled sites, they will automatically revert to the casting function.
Broadcast from a Chromecast Enabled Website
The best way to stream video content via Chromecast is to select Chromecast-enabled content sites. You can see the full list of providers that support Chromecast on the Google Chromecast Apps & Partners page.
It’s easy to launch content from these sites. You can usually find the broadcast icon on the video player itself. For example, on YouTube, after starting a video, just look for the broadcast icon in the bottom right corner of the video.
You will see a pop-up list of Chromecast devices on your network, as if you were casting browser tabs.
Just select the Chromecast you want to stream the video from and the video will play from the Chromecast device on your TV.
Another good site with Chromecast support is Spotify Web Player. When you play music from the Spotify website, you can select the device icon at the bottom of the window. A pop-up window will open and you will see Google Cast if Chromecast devices are detected on your network.
After you select Google Cast, you will see the usual device selection popup where you can choose the Chromecast TV you want to listen to music on.
Streaming music is great if you have a good audio system connected to your TV and want to use it to listen to music.
You can even play videos to Chromecast using certain Chromecast-enabled PC apps like VLC.
Cast from Chromecast-Enabled Apps
Casting from Chromecast-enabled apps
The most convenient way to use Chromecast is to control it from your mobile phone. No need to run a laptop or computer. Just launch any Chromecast-enabled app and you can start streaming right from your phone.
The Amazon Prime Video app is a great example of this. For years Amazon has refused to provide compatibility with Chromecast devices. That changed recently when Amazon made its Prime Video app with Chromecast support.
Now, when you are watching episodes or watching a movie from the Prime Video app, you will see a translucent broadcast icon in the lower right corner of your screen.
Just tap and select a Chromecast device on your network to watch this Amazon Prime video on your TV.
YouTube apps (including YouTube TV) have always supported Chromecast. You will find the Chromecast icon in the upper right corner of your screen.
You can also stream music from your phone using the Spotify or Google Music app. In Google Music, the broadcast icon is located in the upper right corner of the window.
In almost all cases, if your music or video playback app supports Chromecast and you have a Chromecast device found on your home network, you will see this Cast icon when you play a video or play music.
Of course, if you are one of those people who don’t like using Google products, there are many alternatives to Google Chromecast.