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 or Chromecast built-in (previously called Google Cast) devices.
With support from an increasing number of manufacturers, and more and more Google Chromecast built-in products coming to market, 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 or audio (or just audio, in the case of the Chromecast Audio) from your smartphone or tablet.
And it’s not just for those with Android devices. Unlike AirPlay (which can only be sourced from Apple products), Chromecast can be used by a smartphone or tablet with any OS.
What is Chromecast built-in?
'Chromecast built-in' is what Google calls the same streaming abilities integrated 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.
Chromecast built-in used to be called Google Cast (and still is, in some instaces). If a product refers to its ability to 'cast' content, it means streaming it to Chromecast-equipped or Chromecast built-in device.
The app used to set up and manage this streaming is called Google Home (which is separate from the voice-controlled speaker of the same name). This could all be simplified, we're sure you'll agree.
The reason for all this inconsistency? Progress, mostly, and Google's piecemeal approach. Google first launched the Chromecast dongle with only a small number of compatible apps. But since 2014 it's 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 need to set up the 'cast' function 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 at 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.
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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?
All of Philips’ 2017 4K TVs run 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 or if the P-Series will be coming to the UK.
Sony Google Chromecast built-in TVs A1, 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
Sharp Google Chromecast built-in TVs UH30, UE30 (currently USA-only)
Vizio Google Chromecast built-in TVs P-Series, M-Series, E-Series (currently USA-only)
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Google Chromecast built-in speakers
Google’s main entry into Chromecast built-in speakers is its own Google Home. You can stream music from your phone to the Home using Chromecast-compatible apps, or use the Home to activate Chromecast built-in on connected televisions, speakers or Chromecast dongles.
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 latest STR-DN1080 AV receiver, STR-DN1060, SRS-ZR7 wireless speaker and HT-ST5000 Dolby Atmos 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, but is intending to replace MusicFlow completely with Chromecast’s own multi-room functionality - if and when it arrives. According to Google, the feature will be rolled out to all Google Cast speakers throughout 2017.
Onkyo and Pioneer are also making a number of their stereo, home cinema, and network speakers Chromecast compatible via a recent firmware update, with a full list of products available here.
Sony's Google Chromecast built-in products
LG's Google Chromecast built-in products
Music Flow speakers: H3, H4, H5, H7
What Google Chromecast built-in apps are available?
So what can you stream using Google Chromecast built-in? Big name audio apps, including Spotify, Tidal, 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 omission 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. Likewise with Amazon Prime Music.
As for TV, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Google Play Movies and HBO Now are all present, although the latter is only available in the US. Hulu is onboard too, as is YouTube. You can see a full list of compatible Google Chromecast built-in apps for both TVs and speakers here.
It’s worth noting not all smart devices will support Chromecast on all apps. For instance, Amazon Fire tablets don’t support Chromecast on Netflix - despite having the symbol in the app. That's because, while the Fire tablets work on a version of Android, the changes Amazon made to turn it into FireOS disable that functionality.
Can you 'cast' from an iPhone or iPad?
"Yes" is the simple answer. You'll still need to download Google Home 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 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.