Technology Explained

What Is a Chromecast and How Does It Work?

Shubham Agarwal 08-04-2019

If you’re in the market for an affordable and simple way to stream content on your television, you’ve most likely come across the Google Chromecast. But unlike other media players, the Google Chromecast might seem a little odd since there’s no remote or any sort of TV interface.


So what is a Google Chromecast and is it the right streaming device for you?

What Is a Chromecast?

Using Google Chromecast with the Home app

Chromecast is a line of streaming dongles by Google. They can be plugged into any television or monitor through a standard HDMI port. Once configured, you can stream audio or video wirelessly to a bigger screen from your phone, computer, or even a Google Home device.

Google Chromecast connects over Wi-Fi and is entirely controlled by another device like a smartphone instead of a dedicated remote. Hence, there’s also no special TV interface or a steep learning curve. You boot it, pair the network, and you’re up and running in a few minutes.

A Chromecast basically acts as a bridge between your TV and your phone or tablet. It draws power from a Micro-B USB input, the adapter for which Google bundles in the box. It makes for a perfect gift for Android fans 10 Gift Ideas for Android Users Looking for that perfect gift for the Android user in your life? Here are the best gifts for any Android user. Read More .


How Does a Chromecast Work?

Plugging in the Google Chromecast

A Chromecast is built on top of Google’s own proprietary protocol called Cast. It’s designed to let devices (such as your smartphone) easily mirror their content onto a screen or a smart speaker. Announced back in 2013, Google Cast has since been integrated into nearly every major app and platform.

Whenever there’s a Cast-enabled receiver like Chromecast on the same Wi-Fi network as your phone or computer, the compatible app will show a Cast icon. You can tap that icon and beam the content you’re watching directly to the Chromecast.

Since the Chromecast itself is also paired with the internet connection, your phone shares the URL of the content. Because of that, the process is almost instant and you won’t face any delays.


Which Platforms and Apps Support Chromecast?

Google Cast is technically platform-agnostic since it’s based on Wi-Fi. Therefore, if the developer decides to add compatibility, the underlying platform won’t be an issue.

So for instance, you’ll find the Cast button on YouTube irrespective of whether you’re browsing the website on your computer through Google Chrome or the app on your iOS/Android smartphone. Beside Google’s own YouTube, many platforms have Cast compatibility including Netflix, Spotify, Facebook, and more.

There are a couple of services which don’t offer Cast support. Prime Video is one example but that’s only because Amazon itself has a Chromecast competitor called Fire TV. However, since you can mirror your entire screen, there is a workaround available for streaming Prime Video content through a Chromecast How to Watch Amazon Prime Video on Your TV With Chromecast With Amazon having added support for Chromecast, you can now watch Amazon Prime Video on your TV with a Chromecast. Here's how... Read More .


Hence, even if there’s a service that doesn’t Chromecast, you can employ the screen mirroring workaround.

What Can a Chromecast Do?

Chromecast lets you stream both audio and video to your television from a phone or computer in up to 4K resolution. In addition, you can mirror just about anything else like pictures from Google Photos.

Plus, if you’re using Android or Google Chrome, you can mirror your screen to demonstrate a presentation or show something else on a bigger screen. It doesn’t have an online service either. You can also cast local media files to Chrome through apps How to Play Local Files on Your Streaming Devices Learn how to play local files on streaming devices like Android TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV. Read More .

What’s more, a handful of games can even be played through Chromecast. That feature can come in handy for when you want to engage in a multiplayer round with friends at a party and also display it for others to watch. The collection isn’t as vast as one would hope but a few notable titles such as Monopoly and Angry Birds Friends are available.


When it’s ideal, you can even run an automated slideshow of your pictures on a Chromecast-connected screen. Apart from manual control, Chromecasts can be used through the Google Assistant as well.

So you can simply say “Play Stranger Things on Netflix on Living Room TV” to your phone or a Google Home device and the stream will be pulled up on the television without you lifting a finger.

Who’s a Chromecast For?

A Chromecast has several enticing features. But for bringing it to such a low price point, Google has made some cuts, which is why it’s not for everyone.

For starters, there’s no remote or a TV interface. So if you’re someone who prefers to browse all the available platforms in one place before deciding what to watch, a Chromecast is not for you.

Furthermore, you’ll be controlling it with your phone which is fine in most scenarios. But there are times when you’d like to quickly hit pause or switch channels. In those cases, a dedicated remote with physical buttons is much more convenient than unlocking a phone.

There’s also no common search you can utilize like you would on a Fire TV Stick or Roku. You’ll have to go into individual apps and look up content separately. While the Google Home app tries to solve this issue, it’s not perfect yet.

Which Chromecast Should I Buy?

Alright, you’ve realized a Chromecast is right for what you’re looking for. Now it’s time to decide which one to buy.

You’ve two options. The entry-level $35 Google Chromecast and the $70 Chromecast Ultra. Both come with roughly the same set of specifications. However, there are three key differences.

For double the price, the Chromecast Ultra allows you to stream 4K and HDR content. On top of that, it has an Ethernet port if you’d like to connect a router for faster bandwidths. The Chromecast Ultra is slated to support Google’s upcoming Stadia platform as well whenever it arrives. The regular Chromecast, on the other hand, is smaller in size and can stream 1080p content.

Unless you’re interested in Google’s gaming platform or streaming 4K content, the basic Chromecast should suffice.

How to Set Up a Chromecast

We hope you have a clearer understanding of what a Google Chromecast is and what it can do. If you’ve bought the device and wondering where to start with the configuration, we have a detailed guide on how to set up and use a Chromecast How to Set Up and Use Your Chromecast If you just got a Chromecast, this is the everything-you-need-to-know guide for setting it up. Read More .

Related topics: 4K, Chromecast, Mirroring.

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  1. DrFunOne
    April 9, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    This Article Is Incorrect. The Author Is Mostly Wrong About Chromecast

    The Chromecast streams content from mosrly the internet, not the phone, tablet, nor computer. Though it can stream from those devices, the Chromecast is mostly remotely controlled by those devices for streaming YouTube, YouTube TV, Netflix, whatever...directly from the internet, not from the devices themselves.

    Further, it's much easier to simply speak to your Google Home Mini, directing it to play a specific track from Spotify, or a movie from Netflix, or local TV channel from YouTube TV, or kitchen faucet repair tutorial on YouTube, it really nearly any accessible online multimedia content, on whatever Chromecast-connected TV your spoken command specifies...without ever even touching your phone, tablet, or computer. It is precisely this reason, alone, why Chromecast far outweighs Roku and FireTV in robustness and ease of use, and simplicity.

  2. Bart
    April 9, 2019 at 7:22 am

    What about CEC? I can actually use the remote of my TV to pause, resume and stop the cast.

  3. Joel
    April 8, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    How about rephrasing to say "WiFi with internet connection required?" Chromecast will not work with WiFi only. Google doesn't even say it's required, but as soon as you disconnect Internet the Chromecast shuts down.

    • Mike
      April 8, 2019 at 9:29 pm

      That's because it's primarily an internet streamer, despite the impression the reviewer gives. It *will* literally mirror, kit, content and local network dependent, but it's mainly designed to stream from the internet. The phone simply acts as a remote/controller telling the service eg Netflix to stream direct to the CC.

      Once the stream starts, the phone could be switched off or chucked out the window. Because it's not itself mirroring a stream. The stream goes from the cloud service to the single direct.

      So many reviewers get this key functioning wrong, one wonders whether they've actually used the product.

      • DrFunOne
        April 9, 2019 at 2:07 pm

        It's not even necessary to use a phone, tablet, or computer to remote-control Chromecast. Our family simply speaks commands that any one of the 3 Google Home Minis in our household sends to the Chromecast. For example, we merely say play track such and such from Spotify in Family Room, then Chromecast automatically turns on the stereo system, the TV, and displays the artist info on the TV and begins playing the track. For movies or other video content we can simply say Play Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 5 on HBO in Master Bedroom, and similarly, the show begins playing. I can speak to Google Assistant to pause, turn on closed captioning, turn up/down volume, etc. IT'S FANTASTIC... AND FAR SUPERIOR TO ROKU OR FIRE TV.