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 Chromecast and Chromecast built-in (previously called Google Cast) devices.
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 looks likely to change that.
With support from an increasing number of manufacturers, more and more Google Chromecast built-in products are coming to market, so now's a good time to take a look at what's available...
What is Chromecast?
Plug these into your TV (or speaker), and they enable you to stream video, pictures and audio (or just audio, in the case of the Chromecast Audio) from your smartphone or tablet. Using it is a piece of cake, though the same can't be said for Google's naming system.
Chromecast built-in is what Google calls the same streaming abilities, but incorporated into a product like a TV or speaker. So if a TV comes with Chromecast built-in, it's ready to stream content without the need for a Chromecast dongle.
What is Chromecast built-in?
Still with us? Good. But this is where it gets complicated.
Chromecast built-in used to be called Google Cast (and, in some instances, Google still refers to it as such). Hence if it refers to the ability to 'cast' content, it just means stream it to a Chromecast or device with Chromecast built-in.
Even more confusingly, the app used to set up and manage this streaming is called Google Home. Way to simplify things, Google!
The reason for all this confusion? Progress, and Google's inconsistency. At first, Google launched the Chromecast dongle, which only had a small number of compatible apps. But since 2014, it has made the software available to all developers and manufacturers, allowing Chromecast built-in to be added to any product.
Along the way, the many name changes have caused industry onlookers to scratch their heads. Thankfully, you can identify any product with Chromecast built-in by looking for the logo. At least that part is simple enough.
How do you stream to your Google Chromecast built-in TV?
It’s pretty simple to stream content to a Chromecast built-in TV. First you’ll need to set up the 'cast' function by using the Google Home app. Then connect your phone or tablet to the same wi-fi network as the TV, open up a Chromecast built-in-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 looks like a wi-fi symbol inside a square.
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. Happy days.
More after the break
Because content comes from the cloud and not from your mobile when using a Chromecast built-in device, it won’t drain the battery of your phone or tablet. Any notifications or calls you receive won’t interfere with whatever is being streamed to the TV either.
You can also stream content directly from Google’s Chrome browser for PC and Mac. Simply download the Google Cast extension for Chrome.
What Google Chromecast built-in TVs are available?
Any TV that runs the Android operating system will already have Chromecast built-in. Manufacturers that have installed Android on their TVs include Sony, Sharp, Polaroid, Philips and Vizio.
One such set is the Sony KD-55XD9305 4K HDR TV. We were left impressed by what it could do with Android TV.
The latest iteration, Android 7.0 Nougat, should come installed on Sony's new TVs for 2017.
All of Philips’ 2016 4K TVs run on Android TV as well as some affordable sets from Polaroid and Sharp. In the US, Vizio TVs run it too. All are capable of supporting video, music and photos streamed via Chromecast built-in.
Vizio’s P-Series TVs (above) rely solely on Chromecast built-in for content, with no TV tuner inside. They don't support the Amazon Prime Video app just yet, but other Vizio TVs do. There’s no word on when the P-Series will be coming to the UK.
Sony Google Chromecast built-in TVs ZD9, XE9405, XE9305, XE9005, XE8505, XE8577, XE8588, XE8596, XE8599, XE8005, XE8077, XE8088, XE8096, XE8099, XD9405, XD9305, XD8505, XD8577, XD8599, SD8505, XD8305, XD8005, XD8077, XD8088, XD8099, SD8005, XD7505, XD7005, XD7004, XD7504, X9405C, X9305C, X9105C, X9005C, S8505C, S8005C, X8505C, X8507C, X8509C, X8305C, X8307C, X8309C, X8005C, W855C, W857C, W859C, W805C, W807C, W809C, W755C, W756C
Philips Google Chromecast built-in TVs POS901F, PUS7601, PUS7101, PUS7181, PUS6521, PUS6561, PUS6551, PUS6501, PUS6401, PFS5501
Sharp Google Chromecast built-in TVs UH30, UE30 (only available in USA)
Vizio Google Chromecast built-in TVs P-Series, M-Series, E-Series (only available in USA)
More details on Polaroid TVs with Chromecast built-in will be revealed when they go on sale later this year.
MORE: Best TVs 2016
Google Chromecast built-in speakers
Google’s presence on TVs is small compared to the number of Google Chromecast built-in speakers on the market. B&O, Harman Kardon, LG, Onkyo, Philips, Raumfeld, Sony and Vizio all have, or are working on, Chromecast built-in 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 have Chromecast built-in here.
LG has added the platform to its Music Flow series of multi-room speakers, Philips has it built-in to the 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.
Sony Google Chromecast built-in products
LG Google Chromecast built-in products
Music Flow speakers: H3, H4, H5, H7
Soundbars: SH6, SH8, SH7, HS9, HS8, HS7, HS6
What Google Chromecast built-in apps are available?
So what can you stream with Google Chromecast built-in? 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 Chromecast built-in 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 Chromecast built-in apps for both TVs and speakers here.
Can you 'cast' from an iPhone or iPad?
Yes, is the simple answer. You'll still need to download Google Home and the Chromecast built-in-compatible app from the App Store, as well as connect your iPhone or iPad to your TV via wi-fi. 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 stream to the TV. A full list of compatible apps supported by the two mobile operating systems can be found here.