By Patrick Lucas Austin
December 26, 2018

Lucky enough to unwrap a Google Chromecast for the holidays? Congratulations! As the new owner of Google’s media streaming dongle for your TV, you’re probably excited to plug it in and get to watching.

But beyond the basics, you can get more mileage out of your Chromecast if you make sure to take these tips into account.

Connect your services

Before you begin, download the Google Home app from your Android or iOS store to make setup easier. If you’ve already got the app, or use Google Home devices, it should detect the presence of a new device after you plug the Chromecast in and power it on.

Start by connecting all the services you use to the Google Home app for easy operation once your Chromecast is powered up and ready to go. Hit the settings icon, scroll down, then select the options like Music and TV & Video to connect the Chromecast’s default streaming service options to your existing accounts.

Add it to a group

Since your Chromecast is connected to your TV, it may also be connected to the best set of speakers in the house, be it a soundbar or surround sound system. If you’ve got a few Google Home devices in multiple rooms, consider creating a group to enable multi-room audio. Hit the Add icon in Google Home, select “Create speaker group,” and pick your devices. It’s easy, and devices can be part of multiple groups if you want to use your TV’s speakers on certain occasions, or want to play music in multiple rooms while someone is watching TV. You can adjust the audio of each device individually so it isn’t blasting in every room, too.

Consider getting one more accessory

Whether you’ve got a Chromecast or the 4K-capable Chromecast Ultra, your Internet connection matters. Since both use Wi-Fi, a weak signal from a faraway router could be the difference between an enjoyable evening streaming and one with buffering, quality dips, and the occasional disconnect.

To get the most out of a poor connection, you can always ditch the Wi-Fi and go for a more direct approach — as in, a direct connection using an Ethernet cable. Yes, it’s a little like buying a toy for your toy, but accessory replaces your included power cable and adapter, featuring a built-in Ethernet port on the adapter itself. That means you won’t have to worry about Wi-Fi signal strength, and can count on a more stable connection and higher-quality streams.

Make it easy to stream from your browser

Your Chromecast can do more than stream video from apps on your smartphone — you can also use the Chrome browser on your desktop or laptop to stream — or, as Google says, “cast” — content to the big screen. You can find the Cast feature by clicking Chrome’s three-dot menu icon. After selecting Cast, you can keep it on your browser’s toolbar by right-clicking the Cast icon and selecting “Always show icon.”

It’s great for showing a website to the whole room or for bypassing pesky streaming restrictions implemented by companies like Amazon, which doesn’t support casting to Google’s devices from its apps. Instead, use your Chrome browser and stream a video through there. Select the full screen zoom in Chrome’s menu, then select the full screen zoom in the video itself. Hit the Cast button, pick your TV, and enjoy your favorite show or movie.

Learn how guest mode works

Friends coming over for a get-together may have a few songs or videos they want to add to the communal playlist, so why not make it easy for them to get in on the fun? From the Google Home app, select your Chromecast, hit the settings icon, and scroll down to select “Guest mode.” Enabling Guest Mode means anyone can send media to your Chromecast without connecting to your Wi-Fi network. Guests can open Chromecast-enabled apps like Netflix, Spotify, VRV, or YouTube, among others, and connect to nearby devices either via inaudible tones or by entering the displayed PIN.

Put your smartphone on the big screen

Chromecast users with an Android device running Android 5.0 or newer can send what’s on their screen to their Chromecast. Screen mirroring is done through the Google Home app — just pick the Account tab, select Mirror Device, and then pick your smartphone.

Write to Patrick Lucas Austin at [email protected].

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