What Is Chromecast, and What Can It Stream?

Chromecast Dongle
Chromecast colors.

Google, Inc.

Chromecast is a hardware device developed and manufactured by Google that enables you to wirelessly stream media to your TV.

Rather than using a wired connection, you can use the Chromecast device to stream digital music, video, and images over Wi-Fi. If, for example, you have a movie on your phone but want to watch it on your TV, you can use Chromecast rather than a cable to connect it to your TV — and do so without wires.

Chromecast Design And Features

The Chromecast dongle (second generation) was launched in September 2015 and comes in a range of colors. Its circular design has a built-in flat HDMI cable that plugs into an HDMI port on your HD (high-definition) TV. The back of the dongle is also magnetic, so you can attach the end of the HDMI cable when it's not in use to keep the cable tidy.

The Chromecast device also sports a micro USB port at the other end of the device to power the unit. You can use either a spare USB port on your TV or the power supply that comes with it.

The first generation of the Chromecast looked a bit like a USB flash drive. Google released it in 2013 and still supports it, but the company no longer manufactures this version.

What You Need to Get Chromecast Working on Your TV

To stream media to your TV using the Chromecast device, you must have a Wi-Fi network already set up in your home. Using your wireless router, you can:

  • Stream from a mobile device. You can use your phone or tablet to stream content. Before doing so, you must install the Chromecast app or a Google Cast compatible app on your device.
  • Use it as local storage. If you have a music or video library, you can stream this, too. You can share folders on your computer, an external hard drive, NAS (network-attached storage), etc. You just have to make sure it's available as a shared resource on your home network.
  • Stream from the internet. If you're using your laptop or desktop computer to stream music and video, you need to use Google's Chrome web browser. The key advantage of streaming this way is tab casting — in simple terms, mirroring what you see on your device to the big screen.

Online Services You Can Use to Stream Music And Video

For digital music, you can use services from your Chrome browser or mobile device such as:

You can stream music videos and other content using these services (and more):

You can receive live television broadcasts through your internet connection using Chromecast as well. A few of the services compatible with Chromecast include:

These lists are always evolving as app providers expand offerings and compatibility, so if you're interested in using a Chromecast with a particular service, check its website for updated information.