5 great things you can do with a Google Chromecast

5 great things you can do with a Google Chromecast

Summary: Some people wonder what in the world they'd do with a Chromecast. Friends, there are a lot of great things you can do with a Chromecast besides watching funny cat videos on your 42-inch HDTV.


My buddy David Gewirtz bought a Google Chromecast and now he's blaming me for it. The Chromecast, for those of you who don't know it, is a USB flash-drive stick-sized device that enables you to send anything you can see with the Chrome Web browser to your TV. David, however, isn't sure what to do with his latest gadget. Well, I have five great things that he, and you, can do with a Chromecast.

Say howdy to Chromecast, the smallest and easiest way to bring Internet video to your HDTV.

Like David, I have far more cord-cutting Internet-TV devices than any normal person would ever fill their home theater with. I'll see his Apple TV, XBox 360, PS3, directly connected Mac mini, and Roku box with my two Apple TVs, pair of Roku boxes, TiVo Premiere, and Internet enabled Sony and Samsung Blu-Ray DVD players. Even with all that gear between us, there are still good reasons to buy the $35 Chromecast.

2013's top four Internet media extenders (Gallery)

1) Watch any Web content on the big screen.

Not all Web content is created equal. The ordinary run of Internet media extenders, such as the Roku line, can show Internet video channels such as NetflixHulu Plus, and YouTube. But, some Internet TV shows are only available via websites, such as Hulu-only content and many of CBS's prime-time shows. If you want to watch these shows on your HDTV you need a Chromecast and any device that can run the Chrome Web browser, or a late-model Apple TV paired with a newer Apple computing device that can support AirPlay Mirroring

Yes, it would be nice if we could just easily stream everything and anything to our "smart" TVs, but we're still long, long way from being able to do that. For the next few years, if you want access to all Internet-enabled video you're going to need several devices but you'll not be able to see everything that's available from cable and satellite TV vendors. Darn it!

2) Watch "restricted access" Internet video on the big screen.

Living in the US, I can't easily watch my favorite current UK television shows like the second season of the BBC's The Paradise or the fourth season of ITV's Downton Abby. Were I living in the U.K., I wouldn't be able to access Hulu. Thanks to Web proxies, such as Media Hint, and virtual private networks (VPN)s, I can set my computers up so I can watch international TV shows.

These work by providing me with an Internet Protocol (IP) address in a country where the content is available. Then, with Chromecast, I can watch these programs on my "real" TV instead of one of my PCs or laptops. It's a lot more fun watching these shows on a big screen then even on the best of my computer displays.

3) Watch your own videos

For some reason, it's not well-known but you can use Chromecast to watch videos off your local or network drives. True, Chromecast has no media-server support as such, but it's easy to get around this. All you have to do is open a video file in Chrome with the command "Control-O." Since Chrome can natively play AVI, MP4, M4V, MPEG, OGV, and WEBM videos, you can then watch you own videos on your TV with no fuss or muss.

Personally, I've converted almost all my DVD collection into MP4 videos. So, almost my entire video library now lives on a mult-terabyte Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. This approach isn't for everybody, but for a pair of movie fanatics like my wife and me, it works quite well. 

4) Video-conferencing

I've been using video-conferencing since the 1980s and ISDN gave us the then remarkable speeds of up to 128-kilobits per second. That part of 80s technology I don't miss, but what I do miss is the big screens we used for videoconferencing in those days. Now, thanks to Chromecast, I can really see everyone I'm talking to in a Google+ Hangout, my preferred group video-conference service. On my 42" Sony HDTV, video-conferencing is once more a pleasure.

5) Replace laptop projector

I do some public speaking and consulting. A lot of that is in small meeting rooms. To make my points visually, I've used a series of Epson InFocus projectors over the years. These are nice, but, like any projector, they take up room, weigh down my laptop bag, go out of focus, and the bulbs always burn out at the worst possible times. Any business road-warrior knows the drill.

Now, thanks to the Chromecast, I just make sure I can get a modern TV in the space and I'm good to go. It is so, so much easier than futzing with projectors, that I don't know how I ever managed without it.

So, there you go, three fun and two business reasons why Chromecasts are great, little handy Internet to TV devices. Have fun with yours David and everyone else out there with a Chromecast to call their own. 

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Topics: Networking, Google, Web development

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  • Thank you!

    Good article that covers some lesser known functionality and ALL accomplished without a Gallery ! Please keep it up.
  • are we running out of stuff to write about!

    What a crock
  • Hangouts

    Steven - what are you using for the video transmission portion of your Hangouts when using Chromecast?
    • Hangouts

      I'm using 2.4Ghz 802.11n from the PC to the Chromecast and the LAN is Gigabit/802.11n 5GHz with a 100Mbps cable connection to the Internet.
      • Camera

        So the camera is attached to ...?
        • Camera

          I'm using one of my Logitech Webcams which I attach to the laptop of the moment.
      • You're casting your Chrome to the Chromecast, right?

        You're doing the hangout on your PC (including using your webcam on your PC), but 'casting to the ChromeCast, correct?
        • Correct.

          That's right.
      • Chromecast Question

        OK, so you are telling me that I can buy this gadget and all I have to do is plug it into a usb drive on my tv & I can watch TV from websites? This is what I'm looking for if that's the case, I want to get rid of my cable but want to still be able to watch stuff from the internet without connecting my computer to my TV, thanks for your help!
        • reply

          tsherwood, you plug it into your HDMI for video/audio and USB for power or you plug in the included usb charger and plug it in to a power source. Imagine the chromecast as a tiny PC that lets you play content from some apps (list keeps growing) and you can send anything on your chorme browser tab to the big screen as well. the chromecast takes over playing a youtube video for example or a movie from netflix, hulu- and your phone/tablet/pc are free to go on doing other stuff and not worry about processing the video. We have one in each room and it is great. you can even do Pandora radio (Hint: in your livingroom if you have a nice sound system/receiver - plug your Chromecast into one of the inputs and not the TV- that way you get best sound too) You just need wifi at home. we cut ways with Dish and are now liberated!
  • Video from Web Pages?

    What sort of frame rate are you able to achieve when using Hangouts via Chromecast? My impression was that passing a Chrome tab from a PC to Chromecast was a slowish process.
  • Replace laptop projector

    I had not thought of that use before. I will have to try it out.
    • Wouldn't that require a TV instead?

      If you have to use a projector, chances are it means there's no TV avaliable, otherwise you would just HDMI your laptop into the TV right now.
      • Our company has gotten rid of Projector in many conference rooms and ...

        gone to a decent sized TV. More straight forward for many users, you don't get the "clean filter" messages, and ambient light isn't as problematic.
  • A waste.

    The five great things boil down to really one: displaying a chrome (the browser) tab on the big screen. I have bought a chromecast, thinking of all the wonderful things that might be accomplishable with it, but as of now I consider it a waste of money.
    Juergen Hartl
    • Yea, its pretty much another Google thingy

      I totally agree, another half baked Google thingy to get you sucked into their ecosystem.
      • Not a waste

        This has basically replaced my Roku since I now stream Netflix and Google Play TV & Movies from it via my phone. Those two apps are not from the Chrome browser. And even if you just use Netflix and Hulu, you can do it from your iPhone and avoid the Google ecosystem altogether. Doesn't seem half-baked to me at all - works great!
      • I love it. I have 2 Chromecast

        I use it all the time for both youtube and Netflix. Have one in the living room and another in the bedroom. I love how it works from your mobile device and how it allows you to continue to use your device for other stuff while you're watching the casted content on your TV.
    • what are you talking about?

      It is advertised as a device that plays netflix, youtube, hbo go and hulu, etc using your phone as a remote control, for $35.

      What were all the wonderful things you thought it would do, that it didn't? How does it "boil down to showing a chrome tab" from your PC - an unsupported function. I've never even done that, and have no interest in it.
      • Many TV's do that now

        and many also have AppleTV and Roku style boxe that let you do the exact same thing without the need for Chromcast AND a phone or tablet.

        In other words without the need to get Google involved in your viewing habits.