For $35, you might not expect much from Google's Chromecast. As it turns out, this little TV dongle can do a whole lot more than just stream video from Netflix and YouTube, or view browser tabs on the big screen.
Unlocking the true potential of your Chromecast, however, requires a little ingenuity and some deep digging into the Chrome browser's Cast extension. With these hints, tips, and secrets for Chromecast, you'll be able to improve streaming video performance, mirror your entire PC screen, display locally stored files, and more. Not bad for a device the price of a few pizzas!
1. Reduce streaming quality to improve video casting
Chromecast works best when it's streaming Netflix and YouTube videos directly from the Internet, with your phone or tablet serving as a remote control. It's not quite as reliable when you're using the "Google CastChrome extension to mirror browser tabs. Depending on the strength of your wireless network and the power of your computer, you may have trouble casting videos from Chrome without the audio falling out of sync with the video.
If this happens to you, chances are you can solve the problem by turning down the video quality of the stream. Click the Cast button in Chrome and then click Options. Under Tab projection quality, select Standard (480p). Video won't look as sharp on your television, but hey, at least it'll be watchable.
2. Keep the full-screen video going
When you send a video from your phone or tablet to Chromecast, you're free to close the app and do other things at the same time. But when you're using the Chrome browser to watch a video on your TV, you must keep that video running in full screen at all times, or else it won't appear in full screen on the television.
Fortunately, there's a workaround for Windows users: Just hit Alt(+)Tab while the video is playing in full screen. You'll find yourself outside of the video window, while it continues to occupy the whole screen on your television. To get back to the video on your computer, click the untitled Chrome window in the taskbar.
3. Stream local files from a Chrome tab
It turns out that Chromecast doesn't always stream its content straight from the Internet. When casting a browser tab through Chrome on a Windows PC, Mac, or Chromebook, you can open local files in the browser, and they'll stream to the big screen over your local network.
To do this, you can enter file:///C:/ in Chrome's address bar (or (file://localhost/Users/yourusername on a Mac), and then drag and drop the file into Chrome--or press Ctrl-O or Command-O--to show your system's file browser. Hit the Cast button either before or after you choose the file you want, and Chrome will play the file as long as it's compatible with the file's codecs.
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