With so many different ways to stream audio and video content to speakers and TVs, you’d be forgiven for not being up to speed with Google Cast.
Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth and, more recently, Spotify Connect, have made the streaming market their own but the popularity of Google's Chromecast and Chromecast Audio devices look likely to change that.
With support from an increasing number of manufacturers, there are more and more Google Cast products coming to market, so now's a good time to take a look at what's available...
What is Google Cast?
Google Cast is the name for the streaming software used by the Chromecast and Chromecast Audio dongles, and all the Chromecast apps. So Google Cast isn't the same as Chromecast but the two go hand-in-hand.
At launch only a small number of apps were available and you would need one of the above Google streaming sticks to access them.
From 2014 the software has been available to all developers and manufacturers, allowing Google Cast to be added to any product.
If a TV or a pair of speakers has Google Cast already built in, there's no need for a dongle.
How do you stream Google Cast to your TV?
It’s pretty simple to stream content via Google Cast to an Android TV. First you’ll need to set up the Cast function by using the Cast app. Then connect your phone or tablet to the same wi-fi network as the TV, open up a Cast-enabled app such as YouTube, Now TV or Netflix and press the Cast button from within the app - it’s usually on the top right of the screen.
And that’s it... your content will be beamed to the big screen and you can control playback via your mobile device, in the best quality your broadband connection can muster.
Because content comes from the cloud and not from your mobile when using a Google Cast device, it won’t drain the battery of your phone or tablet, and any notifications or calls you get don’t interfere with whatever is being streamed to the TV.
You can also Cast content directly from Google’s Chrome browser for PC and Mac. You simply need to download the Google Cast extension for Chrome.
More after the break
What Google Cast TVs are available?
Any TV that runs the Android operating system will already have Google Cast built-in. Manufacturers that have installed Android OS on their TVs include Sony, Sharp, Polaroid, Philips and Vizio.
We recently reviewed the Sony KD-55XD9305 4K HDR TV, which runs on Android TV, and we were impressed by the system.
The latest iteration, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, will feature on the the new Sony ZD9 TV series.
All of Philips’ 2016 4K TVs run on Android TV as well as some affordable sets from Polaroid and Sharp and Vizio TVs in the US run it too. This means they’re all capable of supporting video, music and photos streamed via Google Cast.
Vizio’s P-Series TVs (above) are particularly interesting in that they rely solely on Google Cast for content, with no TV tuner inside.
But what makes the Vizio range noteworthy is that it also supports 4K Ultra HD streaming via Google Cast-compatible apps, such as Netflix. This is something that no other 4K TV with Google Cast can do; instead, those TVs will simply upscale content to "near 4K quality".
There’s no support for the Amazon Video app on this series just yet, but it is available on other Vizio TVs. There’s no word on when the P-Series will be coming to the UK.
Sony Google Cast TVs: XD9405, XD9305, XD8505, XD8577, XD8599 SD8505, XD8305, XD8005, SD8005, XD7505, XD7005, X9405C, X9305C, X9105C, X9005C, S8505C, S8005C, X8505C, X8507C, X8509C, X8305C, X8307C, X8309C, X8005C, W855C, W857C, W859C, W805C, W807C, W809C, W755C, W756C.
Philips Google Cast TVs: PUS8901, PUS7101, PUS7181, PUS6521, PUT6400, PUS6561, PUS6551, PUS6501, PUS6401, PFS5501.
Sharp Google Cast TVs: UH30, UE30 (only available in USA)
Vizio Google Cast TVs: P-Series, M-Series, E-Series (only available in USA)
More details surrounding Polaroid TVs with Google Cast will be revealed when they launch in Q4 2016.
MORE: Best TVs 2016
Google Cast on speakers
Google’s presence on TVs is small compared to the number of Google Cast-enabled wireless speakers on the market today. B&O, Harman Kardon, LG, Onkyo, Philips, Raumfeld, Sony and Vizio all have or are working on Google Cast speakers.
We first wrote about about Sony’s partnership with the streaming platform at CES 2015, when it was originally called Google Cast for audio. Since then, Sony has released a range of products including the STR-DN1060 AV receiver, SRS-X88 wireless speaker and HT-NT5 soundbar. You can see the whole range of Sony products that support Google Cast here.
LG has added the platform to its Music Flow series of multi-room speakers, Philips has it built-in to the new HTL-5150 soundbar and B&O has updated a number of its speakers to support the format, including the A6 and A9, along with the B&O BeoSound 35 all-in-one music system.
Raumfeld, Onkyo, Harman Kardon and Vizio have all promised Google Cast-enabled speakers and audio products in the future.
Sony Google Cast products:
Wireless speakers: SRS-ZR7, SRS-ZR5, SRS-X77, SRS-X88, SRS-X99, SRS-HG1
AV amps: STR-DN860, STR-DN1060
Soundbars: HT-RT5, HT-XT2, HT-NT5, HT-CT790, HT-XT3, HT-NT3, HT-ST9
LG Google Cast products:
Music Flow speakers: H3, H4, H5, H7
Soundbars: LAS751M, LAS851M, LAS950M
What Google Cast apps are available?
So what can you stream with Google Cast? Big name audio apps including Spotify, Pandora and Google Play Music are all supported, as is Plex for streaming locally-stored music collections.
7digital has confirmed its Android app is also now able to stream high-resolution audio to Google Cast-enabled speakers and audio products, including TVs.
One notable admission from the list of supported apps is Apple Music. Google wants the music streaming service to jump on board, but for now, Apple isn’t playing ball.
As for TV, Netflix, Google Play Movies and HBO Now are all present, although the latter is only available in the US. Hulu is onboard as are Plex and YouTube. You can see a full list of compatible Google Cast apps for both TVs and speakers here.
Does Google Cast work on iPhone and iPad?
Yes, is the simple answer to that. You'll still need to download the Cast app from the App Store and connect your iPhone or iPad via wi-fi to your TV, but otherwise using the Cast function is exactly the same as on Android devices.
There are some apps that are only available on iOS devices and are Cast-compatible, although it's unlikely any of them will bother Android users. Playing Tic Tac Toe for Chromecast anyone?
Additionally, there are some apps that only Android users can Cast to the TV. A full list of what Cast-compatible apps are supported by the two mobile operating systems can be found here.