Google Chromecast: Stream Video from Your Computer Browser to Your TV

Chromecast

Google Chromecast allows you to wirelessly watch almost anything that you can bring up on your computer’s Chrome browser on your TV.

It doesn’t work for showing Power Point presentations or watching video stored on your laptop’s hard drive on your TV though.

With phones and tablets, Chromecast works with certain compatible apps like the YouTube player.

Chromecast is significantly cheaper than Roku or Apple TV, at only $35!  That’s because it uses your existing laptop to do much of the work.  Chromecast is only concerned with mirroring what is in your computer’s browser through Wi-Fi (you can purchase a wired Ethernet adapter separately for $15 from the Google Play Store).  There is no remote control because your laptop is the “remote”.

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Setup

Chromecast plugs into an HDMI port on your TV, so you will need a modern TV to use it (i.e., it won’t work with an old tube-type of TV without an expensive converter).

You can power it using the included AC adapter, or plug the power cable into a USB port on your TV. Although slightly less convenient, you might get better results when using the AC adapter, since the power coming out of many TV’s is poor quality. For my testing, I used the AC adapter.

Chromecast with Power Adapter

If you know how to select Wi-Fi networks on your computer, phone, or laptop, you should have no problem setting up Chromecast. The startup instructions are printed on the inside of the box, then the website or app takes you through the rest of the steps.

Plug in the Chromecast, then open a Chrome browser on your computer and go to the URL specified in the instructions.

Chromecast Plugged In
Chromecast plugged into HDMI port of TV

During setup, the Chromecast acts as its own Wi-Fi network, which allows you to connect to it from your computer and to enter your Wi-Fi password.  This much easier to do using your laptop than using a remote ala Apple TV or Roku!

After setup, my Chromecast required a firmware update, which took a few minutes, but was not difficult.

Next, install the Chromecast pluign in your browser and you’ll be ready to go.

Chromecast Ready

Performance

The first thing I tried was to watch video from the CBS.com website.  Once I got there, I pressed the “Chromecast” icon in my Chrome browser, and the video appeared on my TV screen!  I was watching “The Big Bang Theory” in no time! Picture quality was excellent, in full HD.

Next, I tried YouTube with no problems.  After that, I watched some Amazon Instant Videos I had purchased previously.  It worked great!

That is why I like Chromecast so much.  It lets you watch almost anything that you can see in a computer’s browser window (but not a phone or tablet, more later).  You don’t have to worry about whether there is an app provided by Roku or Apple.  You can watch almost anything from the Internet on your TV, if you are using a laptop or desktop computer.  A lot of video content (for example, the network sites and the free Hulu Plus site) are blocked for phones and tablets, so if you mirror your iPad to your TV using Apple TV, you don’t get that content.

Oh, and I should mention that while you are using Chromecast with your laptop, you can still use your laptop to do other things. You can open other browser windows, surf the Internet, or do whatever you would normally do on your laptop.  You just sacrifice one browser window for Chromecast.

iPad/iPhone Compatibility

While you’ll get access to the most content using a laptop or desktop with Chromecast, I also wanted to make sure it worked with and Apple iPad.

For an iPad or iPhone, you have to install the Chromecast app.  After I did that, I was able to watch YouTube video using Chromecast, but not much else.  I was not able to watch stuff from my Chrome browser on my TV.  It seems that only apps specifically designed for Chromecast will work (such as Netflix and Google Play).

This is a big limitation for mobile users.  Chromecast works best with a computer, where you are not limited to “apps”. You have the whole Internet available.  I would probably not recommend Chromecast to those who want to use it only with a mobile device. It’s best with a computer.

Android Phone/Tablet Compatibility

Certain Android devices will let you “cast” the device’s screen to your Chromecast. Check out this list to see if your device qualifies. I verified that this works on my HTC One M7 phone. It casts both in portrait and landscape mode. Pretty cool!

Reliability

My original Chromecast had some flaky behavior, and some friends and readers reported that as well. But so far, the new Chromecast has been flawless for me! I really think the hardware and software have improved.

Should You Upgrade?

If you have the original Chromecast, and it’s working well for you, no need to upgrade if you don’t want to. If, however, your Chromecast is flaky, loses connection occasionally, etc., it is worth upgrading. The new Chromecast offers better Wi-Fi antenna for more reliable streaming, faster processor for faster load times, and some other cosmetic features like more color choices.

Summary

Chromecast is good at doing one thing: mirroring content from a computer’s browser to your TV. You have almost unlimited access to the Internet on your TV and you’re not limited to “apps” (unless you’re using a mobile device).

But, Chromecast requires that you use your computer or mobile device to watch TV, which might be inconvenient.  If you want a more classic TV viewing experience (i.e., with a real remote control instead of a laptop), I would recommend Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV.

If you are more “techy” and don’t mind using your laptop to watch TV, Chromecast is great.

Chromecast won’t work with an old tube TV; you need HDMI.

I don’t really recommend Chromecast if you want to use it exclusively with your phone or tablet (instead of a computer), because you are limited to apps.

Click the image below to buy the new Chromecast now on Best Buy:


Get Google Chromecast at Best Buy.

What was your experience with Google Chromecast like?  Any questions?  Please leave a comment below! – Brian

  • Good info…thanks! My question:
    I can watch anything from my laptop through HDMI projected on my TV so what benefits would the Chromecast add if any?

    • Hi Kimberlee,

      The only advantage would be that Chromecast is wireless. If you’re happy using the HDMI cable, no need to get Chromecast.

      Thanks,
      Brian

  • Anonymous

    Very useful thanks

    thetb

  • Rachel

    Hi Brian. I am trying to watch USA through chromecast but don’t see that as an option. Any suggestions?

    Thanks,

    Rachel

    • Hi Rachel,

      The Chromecast will let you watch anything that you can see in your Chrome browser. USA does have full episodes on their website, but watching them requires a cable company login unfortunately:
      http://www.usanetwork.com/videos

      Some people use their friends’ logins to watch shows like that… (not saying I condone it, just sayin’)

      Brian

  • Caroline

    Hi Brian,
    I don’t have cable, Netflix, or Hulu. All I watch are shows on my laptop that I can access on their networks site (ABC and Fox) and the news (CNN). I just want to purchase something that will allow me to stream the few shows I watch online as well as the news. I have an iPhone and a Macbook, but I do not use my iTunes frequently. Would you recommend Chromecast for me, or Apple Tv since i have Apple products? If Chromecast, can I play music from my tv? Thanks!

    • Hi Caroline,

      Since you have Apple products, an Apple TV would be the way to go, but only IF your macbook supports Airplay. To see if it does, use this chart:
      http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5404

      If your Macbook doesn’t support Airplay, then Chromecast would be the way to go.

      Regarding casting audio from your computer to your TV using Chromecast, I bet there is a way to do it, but I wasn’t able to get it to work while fiddling around with it quickly..

      Thanks,
      Brian

      • Caroline

        Great! Thanks, Brian!

      • Valiant

        Hey Brian,
        I just learned about Chrome Cast thanks to you and oh my gosh! It’s exactly what I wanted but didn’t know existed until now! But I do have a mac laptop that has Air Play, and I see you recommended Apple TV over Chrome Cast for another viewer who wanted to stream a few shows.

        I’d like to stream Hulu, Netflix, and MHZ plus YouTube and other free online show sites and I’m confused as to why you recommend Apple TV over Chrome Cast when it costs so much more than Chrome Cast does.

        Basically I want to mirror what’s on my 2013 Macbook Air laptop (that doesn’t have an HDMI or VGA output to mirror with to my HDMI 3 (non-smart) TV with. What would you suggest? Also I don’t see a review of Apple TV. Is that correct? Thank you again!

        • Hi Valiant,

          Either will work for what you want to do. It’s just that sometimes Apple fans want to stay with the Apple device ecosystem.

          The other issue is that Apple TV will work stand-alone with your TV, whereas Chromecast always requires a computer.

          For example, if you had Apple TV, you could stream YouTube on your TV without having to turn on your computer.

          BTW, here’s my review of Apple TV:
          http://disablemycable.com/apple-tv/

          And an overview of all boxes:
          http://disablemycable.com/set-top/

          So, it’s just a matter of what you want and your taste.

          Best,
          Brian

          • Valiant

            Brilliant! That makes perfect sense:) Once again, thank you, Brian.

  • Diane A.

    wow..I have been wanting to unplug from dish for a while. with more an more shows getting soo bad Im really tired of paying for 280 channels an only watching maybe a dozen…when I hear of some friends disconnecting at first I thought it was weird an of course..”you have to be kidding me” to them response. I seen a segment on the news several months ago about a gentlemen who used another avenue of getting all the staitons I think the word he used started with an “A” but then court system said it was illegal an had to stop using that mehod. But I have been thinking about doing this an trying to get the hubs on board he luvs his golf an ESPN stations. we have a new wall mount HD an wireless built in..I have the M-GO and netflix already on the TV..so it looks like I will need the Chromecast plug an I loke the idea of the bluetooth remote..I hate wires so it will have to be wireless..should we STILL invest in a antenna for local stations I chkd an we would only get 3..but its one of the biggest stations which is NBC..which is fine with me. I think I am nervous about getting unplugged! I have had satellite an cable for 40 yrs..I called DISH a few months ago I told her she had to do SOMETHING about monthly bill!! I was up to paying 80.00…yea its the premium package all the ESPN an of course the major networks. they have you over a barrel!! I told her if she didnt help I was dropping them an looking else where! she came back and offered to take off 35.00…I have several family members who have already disconnected an my dad absolutly refuses to pay for the GARBAGE on tv! so if I get the chromcast port and the wireless bluetooth remote is that all I need?? thank you..I am glad I stumbled on this website! however I hope I can find your reply after I leave this pg! lol..:) you can email me with a responce if youd like.. any input to start will be appreciated!

    • HI Diane,

      Thanks for your email. I do like Chromecast, but keep in mind that you have to use it WITH a computer or laptop. You can’t just use it with a Bluetooth remote.

      If you want a device that connects your TV to the Internet that does not require a computer, try a Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Apple TV. More in this article:
      http://disablemycable.com/blog/amazon-fire-tv/

      Thanks,
      Brian

  • Anonymous

    Hey Brian. I have a new one for you. If you are using an android OS, you can download the free Avia app. They have a $1.99 plugin that will chromecast. So far, I have not found a format it cannot handle.

    • Awesome, thanks for the head’s up!! – Brian

  • Hi Brian, You say it won’t work on a non HDMI TV. What about using a HDMI to component video converter? Could you just plug the device into the HDMI input of the converter and then out fron the compnent end of the converter to the inn of the component of the TV? http://www.computercablestore.com/Vivid_AV_HDMI_to_Componen_PID51035.aspx

    • Theoretically, that should work. The quality of these little boxes is sometimes iffy. Just be sure it has a good return policy!

      Thanks,
      Brian

  • Jean Ann Terrell

    How do you watch PBS thru Chromecast? Icon isn’t on the iPad like when we watch HBO. How do you set it up to watch PBS? Thank you!

    • Hi Jean Ann,

      PBS does have some of its shows online. Check out my Internet TV Remote and click the PBS button. Be sure to also click the Chromecast button on the right when you are using it through Chromecast.
      http://disablemycable.com/remote_control.php

      Thanks,
      Brian

  • I am satisfied form the functioning of Chromecast. Last night we watched “Gravity” its browsing is good & then we watch a reality show its streaming is also good. But after that browsing is little slow is this the problem of my internet.?

    • Hi Samantha,

      Thanks for your comment! Hard to say what the cause of the slowness is. It might be your Internet connection, or just an old computer causing the problem. Remove any unused programs and make sure you have plenty of hard disk space and memory available on your computer.

      Thanks,
      Brian

  • Rob

    I have an apple tv 3 which streams everything off of my ipad 2 or iphone 4S. Recently I bought a laptop and a highdef 32inch television with an inexpensive (20 dollars) antena. One thing I would say to everyone here is an HDMI cord will allow you to mirror what ever you want from your PC, these are inexpensive as well. I use an HDMI cord to mirror my laptop which has Hulu,Youtube and Rabbit TV at the ready. This with the antenna is more than enough to see sports, recent tv shows and free movies.

    • Hi Rob,

      Great points, thanks for sharing!

      Brian

  • Rick

    What about recording shows? Do the DVRs and Tivos work in concert with Chromecast? If I record something like NCIS could I later stream it via chromecast?

    • HI Rick,

      No, traditional DVRs and Tivos don’t work with Chromecast, because Chromecast content is coming from a website, not cable or broadcast TV.

      There is a service that records shows from the internet called Play Later (see end of this article):
      http://disablemycable.com/dvr.php

      Thanks,
      Brian

      • Anonymous

        If you install the VNC Player plugin on your PC chrome browser, you can drop and drag almost any video into the browser and then share that to see on your tv.

  • Tania

    Ok, now we have the leaf and Chromecast as of last night….very exciting! Just watched the Big bang theory…great stream. Then watch something on the Disney channel for our girls and not such great stream. had to do a lot of buffering. Our computer is less than a year old so could it be my internet? Wonder if I have to upgrade that. We have DSL and I was thinking that would work ok…any ideas?

    • Hi Tania,

      Yeah, it sounds more like an Internet problem (but then again, it should work the same regardless of which website you are watching, so I am not positive). I had DSL (3 MBPS) for a while and it was just barely able to keep up. I switched to cable Internet which is able to stream with no problem, and not much more additional cost.

      Thanks,
      Brian

      • Tania

        Ok, great…thanks for the info. We will look into cable internet. I didn’t know cable was so much faster…good to know. We are starting all this out on a tiny flat screen someone gave us so we are able to do a little trial and error before buying a big tv.

  • kd

    Hi, great information. I am going to purchase the chromemaster. I cannot get PBS here tho the previous tenant did, and I suspect it is because the station frequency is not as strong as it once was. Is there any solution to his? It is my favorite. TY again. KD

    • Hi KD,

      To see whether you can get PBS in your area, enter you zip code into the Station Finder:
      http://disablemycable.com/station_finder.php

      If it is a green station, you should be able to get it (although that is not guaranteed, and not always the case).

      For reception tips, check out this article:
      http://disablemycable.com/blog/hints-for-better-reception-with-indoor-antenna/

      Hope this helps!!
      Brian

    • Rita

      I keep seeing these station finders recommended. I’ve found it totally inaccurate at several residences 2,000 miles apart. I’ve been able to get around 9 channels even tho the finders say none or almost none. That’s with a simple homemade antenna inside.

      • Hi Rita,

        That’s great that you got more channels than indicated!

        Yeah, the station finders are definitely not perfect. Usually it’s in the other direction – people can’t get channels that the station finders say they should. Glad it was the other away around for you.

        Brian

  • Bruce

    I’m testing some of the free programming on my laptop before I make my decision regarding Chromcast. I see a lot of buffering using MS IE. I installed Google Chrome and it a little better. Will I see the same buffering issues with Chromecast? I get part way through an episode and my browser just seems to die using IE or Chrome. Are there browser setting to help tune performance? I have a Comcast broadband connection and a relatively new Linksys router.

    • Hi Bruce,

      Hmmm… Yeah, you might want to debug the buffering problems that you are having before purchasing a Chrome.

      My advice would be to try your laptop at some other Wi-Fi network, like at a coffee shop, and see if you still have problems there. Then you can narrow the problem down to your computer or your Internet connection to start out.

      Thanks,
      Brian

      • Anonymous

        I suggest using the free version of CCleaner to clear your cache and temp files. Great app for free and really gets a system moving. I run this before any cast and buffering is a rare issue.

        • Wow, I just installed and ran CC Cleaner… We’ll see if it speeds up my browser, but it sure cleaned out a lot of old files and fixed a lot of registry issues for me! I look forward to seeing the results!

          Thanks for sharing this tip!!!
          Brian

      • Bruce

        After spending a day tweaking my wireless network I found that if I create a second network on my dual band router and use the 5ghz band for streaming only, I have no buffering issues. I viewed a couple of hours of buffer free video with no problems on the 5ghz band. So I went out and purchaced the Chromecast. Started the install process and could not get it to join the new network I created. Come to find out the Chromecast device dose not support 5ghz signal. It only works on the 2.4ghz band.

        • Hi Bruce,

          Thanks for figuring that out and sharing it with us. Yeah, I confirmed what you said – Chromecast doesn’t support 5GHz..

          I read that the reason that 2.4GHz doesn’t work well for certain people is that it is more prone to interference from other devices like microwave ovens, baby monitors, cordless phones, etc.. Perhaps you can see if you have any other wireless devices that might be causing the problems…

          Brian

  • Shannon

    I just discovered another hidden gem of a feature. If you click on the chromecast icon in your Google chrome browser, there is a down arrow. Clicking this allows you to cast your entire desktop! so, anything you open up on your PC gets cast to the TV. Only video however, it does not seem to support audio. Still a great feature to show off that slideshow or whatever won’t typically cast.
    I am going to purchase a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse so we can run my system from the living room when we want to relax but still need to be on the PC.

    • Hi Shannon,

      That is really awesome as well! Thanks for sharing!!

      Brian

  • w.r.

    I want to get away from cable and satellite. Can I use Chromecast with out a TV? I mean, why can’t I watch stuff on my laptop? Is Chromecast necessary for getting some channels on a laptop. My kids have laptops. Can i buy a Chromecast for each of them and have them each watch separate shows? Do you know if I need Chromecast for get the Disney channel or the Hub? I have moderately fast DSL wireless. Thank you!

    • Hi W.R.,

      If you don’t have a TV, you don’t need Chromecast. Chromecast is only used to watch content from the Internet on your TV. If you don’t mind just watching it on your laptop, just do that. You don’t need Chromecast.

      Thanks,
      Brian

  • Shannon

    Brian,
    Quite by accident I discovered a great trick today for the chrome cast.
    If you install the latest version of VLC player on your computer and then add the VLC extension and Google chrome cast extensions in chrome…
    You can press Ctrl and O to browse to local video, network, or external storage and play those videos through Chrome and it casts fine!
    Only issue I have found so far is that .MKV files have no audio, but mp4 and avii have no issues.

    • Hi Shannon,

      That is fantastic!! Thank you for sharing this cool tip!!

      – Brian

  • Lisa F

    I am running away from Dish satellite asap and have a few questions. Do you need a computer for each tv or will one computer be ok to serve several that has the Chromecast adapter? If you are mirroring the browser what about the sound? Do you leave it turned down on the laptop and just use volume through tv?
    Also if able to use same laptop (or what about an order desktop to stash nearby) on each browser page opened would you be able to play on different tvs in other rooms like our living and 3 bedrooms.
    2 of the kids have the older tube style tvs and I saw you said an additional piece was needed. Approximately how much would we be spending on those?
    And finally on to watching the local stations is it best to stream online episodes from day before or just buy an antenna like the one shown previous page?
    My addictions beside local channels are USA network, Lifetime of course Lifetime Movies, ION channel, TNT channel and hubs with his Espn for college sports and reg Espn. We haven’t ever had hulu or Netflix but they both sound like something new to try. Those will be able to be streamed correct?
    We already have a wii we could hookup in one of the kids rooms for movies and such.

    • Hi Lisa,

      Great questions. Here are my response:

      1. From what I have read on the Internet, you can only use one Chromecast per computer. You can’t control multiple Chromecasts from the same computer, unfortunately.
      2. The sound is handled automatically for you and comes out of your TV’s speakers. You can turn down the laptop speakers.
      3. It is not ideal to use a Chromecast with an old tube TV, because you’ll need to get an HDMI to composite video converter (around $50). But, it is possible if you want to do it.
      4. Antenna vs. Internet depends on the content you want. I use the antenna for news, PBS, and network shows and the Internet for AMC, and so forth.
      5. Some of the channels you mention, like Lifetime, have free shows online (see my Internet remote, http://disablemycable.com/remote_control.html). Ion is available on free broadcast TV (if the station is in range). ESPN and sports are tough… If you are a hard-core sports fan, cable or satellite might be your only option, but there are some alternatives on the Internet.

      Before going with Chromecast, I recommend spending some time online to see what is available and seeing if it meets your needs..

      Hope this helps, and good luck!
      Brian

      • Tania

        As far as sports are concerned (big hockey family here) we are going to sign up for the annual computer package and stream it to our tv…

  • Rita

    I have internet through Sprocket Wireless, tho I have to use an ethernet cable from modem to computer. Does this mean I could not use this device?

    • Hi Rita,

      You would be able to use this if you purchased a wireless Internet router (Wi-Fi). You can get a wireless router for around $50 these days. They are pretty easy to set up.

      Thanks,
      Brian

  • Marie

    Does this mean your laptop is then “tied-up” while you stream from it? You can’t use your computer for anything else during this? Or can you open up another browser and surf while keeping Google Chrome opened to whatever it is you are wanting to watch?

    • Brian

      Hi Marie,

      Great question. The answer is that your laptop is not tied up when using Google Chromecast. You can open other browser windows and surf in them as you normally would in your laptop. You can do anything else that you would normally do on your laptop as well. I’ll add this info to the article.

      Thanks,
      Brian