What is a HDMI Streaming Media Player?
A Streaming Media Player is a component of a smart TV or a device that you plug via HDMI into a regular flat screen TV. It links your TV to the internet via your Wifi network and allows your TV set to access internet content. A variety of devices offer different functionalities. The main usage of Streaming Media Players is for entertainment: watch movies and TV series or listen to music. With such devices some people use their TV as a computer. I personally prefer using a tablet or a real computer for serious computing work.
Because technological developments are coming out into the market place at a very rapid pace and since you generally keep a TV for many years (may be 10 years or more), I do not recommend that people buy a smart TV. I rather recommend that you buy a plugin device, at a lower cost than the difference in costs for a smart TV. This way you can change, as you wish, when more technologically advanced devices become available.
If you don’t already own a smart TV or a media streaming device attached to your TV, Chromecast is the cheapest most easy to install and use streaming media player that I know. I already have a ROKU 3 ($95) streaming media player and have tried the Apple TV ($99), but for my use, which is to watch movies and TV series from services such as Netflix, at $35(from Amazon) Chromecast beats them all hands down.
If you have more elaborate TV computing requirements then the average user, you can look for more sophisticated devices. Otherwise, Chromecast will suit your needs. You can also expect your Chromecast to evolve over time as Google adds more functionality.
Chromecast does not provide a remote control as many other products do. Instead it use your smartphone or tablet as a remote. Therefore, you need a smartphone, a phablet, a tablet or a laptop as a remote to use Chromecast. The Chromecast App is available with Android or Apple iOS.
Easy to install and use
Chromecast is very easy and straight foreword to install and use. Here are the main steps:
- When you open the box, you will find a tiny booklet that shows the components in the box: the Chromecast dongle and three optional components. If your TV has HDMI 1.4 ports or higher, you only need to plug in plugin the Chromecast dongle into such a port and you’re done. Otherwise, the two main components for older TVs are: the Chromecast dongle, that plugs into one of your TV HDMI port, and a USB power cord, that plugs in the back of the Chromecast dongle and into a TV USB powered port. If your TV does not have a USB powered port, than use the other component that you can plug into a wall outlet and plug the USB cable into it. TURN YOUR TV ON. THAT’S IT for the physical installation!
- With your TV on and set to the HDMI port, in “Source list”, that your Chromecast dongle is plugged into, the next step is to install the Chromecast software unto you smartphone and your TV set. Download your Chromecast app unto your smartphone. You will see your TV connect to your Wifi network on the TV screen. Then follow the instructions. It is very straight forward.
- Once the software is installed on both the TV and your smartphone, you are ready to proceed. If you don’t have a Netflix account and want one, it is time to open one. In my case, I already had a Netflix account so I just signed onto it. It is the same for all the other available content providers.
- You are now ready to start watching any movie or TV series that you wish by navigating Netflix or other content provider on your Smartphone and selecting one. Once selected, if it starts playing on your phone but not the TV, you need to click on the rectangle with bars in the lower left corner located above the screen in Netflix.
- NOTE: Because of the way Chromecast works, it’s streaming information from the Cloud vs. from your device. This is good since will not drain your smartphone battery.
- For learning other functionalities or for help in getting started, go to Chromecast help at: https://support.google.com/chromecast/answer/2998456?hl=en
Watching family or travel pictures & videos or other computer files on your flat screen TV
Today’s large flat screen TVs offers a great opportunity to watch family or travel photos and videos with friends and family. You can with Chromecast. The following lines will show you how.
You must use Google Chrome as your browser on a Windows 7 or 8 Wifi equipped laptop. That PC will serve as your remote control with Chromecast.
Technically, you should also be able to project content stored on your Android or Apple iOS smartphone or tablet using Google Chrome as your browser, as long as you can bring that content into the Chrome browser. I have not tested this alternative.
Here is what you need to do:
- Install (if you don’t already have it) the Google Chrome browser. To do so, go to: https://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/browser/ and download Chrome. Follow the instructions to complete the installation.
- Open your Google Chrome browser.
- Go to https://support.google.com/chromecast/answer/3197190 for the steps to set up Chromecast on your Windows 7 or 8 laptop computer.
- Click on www.google.com/chromecast/setup or https://cast.google.com/chromecast/setup to download Chromecast on your laptop.
- Then, add the Chromecast extension to your Chrome browser when prompted or go to https://support.google.com/chromecast/answer/3212008?hl=en
- Once you have completed the above, you are ready to watch your file content on Chromecast.
- IMPORTANT: to watch your files content on Chromecast you must always do so using your Chrome browser. There are two way of doing so: A) By accessing your files on the Cloud, on Dropbox or other Cloud services such as Google Drive or SkyDrive. OR B) By accessing the file you want to display on your computer and copying the file path into your Chrome browser.
A) Accessing your files from the Cloud (My preferred easy way)
- Using your Chrome browser, sign into your Cloud service provider (Ex.: Dropbox) and access the file you want to project on your Chromecast equipped TV.
- Click on the rectangle, with bars in the lower left corner, located in the upper right of your screen to activate the file content on Chromecast.
- With Dropbox, for example, you can navigate between pictures by clicking on the left or right arrow at the bottom of the screen. This is a very nice way for looking at photos or videos with family and friends.
B) Accessing the files you want to display on your computer and copying the file path into your Chrome browser
- First access the file you want to project in your file folder.
- Then, right click on the file path located in the upper left rectangle and pick “Copy address”.
- Paste this address in your Chrome browser to access the file in Chrome then click on the file you want to display.
- Then, Click on the rectangle with bars in the upper right of your screen to activate the file content on Chromecast.
- To navigate between pictures (or files), click on the left pointing arrow, in the upper left corner of the screen, to go back to the file list and pick another picture or file. This is not as user friendly as navigating between pictures in Dropbox but it works.
UPDATE-2016-05-02 – Using the Screen Mirroring functionality of Chromecast
To activate screen mirroring on both devices:
- Change the source setting on your TV to the HDMI port that you connected your Chromecast device into.
- Make sure that both devices (your smartphone and your TV) are connected to the same internet network.
- If you have not already done so, download Google Cast from the Google Play store onto your smartphone.
- Start Google Cast on your smartphone. Then, select Devices. You should see your Chromecast ID on your phone.
- In the upper left corner Menu (Left of the Search box), select Cast screen/audio and select Cast to you network.
- Your smartphone screen should appear on you TV screen. Your TV screen is now an extension of your smartphone and will replicate everything you do on your smartphone.
- At this point, you can also easily link a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, as described above in this article, to work on your smartphone while looking at your large TV monitor, just like you would do on a laptop computer.
- If supported, you can also use a smartphone pen on your smartphone, while looking at your large TV monitor.
There is a variety of Chromecast like devices on the market: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, … Which ones support screen mirroring, I could not tell. You will have to research how Screen Mirroring works on your particular devices. Do Google Searches to help yourself out. Please do not ask me questions on how to do screen mirroring on different types of devices other than the ones I refer to inhere. I will not be able to help you and cannot answer such questions.
For those who may be interested, here is the list of the TV series that we have enjoyed the most to date in order of preferences:
- Downton Abbey (British) – Past British aristocracy
- Homeland (USA) – Thriller on Islamic terrorism in the USA
- Breaking Bad (USA) – Thriller on a terminal cancer scientist that starts making and dealing drugs to make quick money before he dies.
- Weeds (USA) – Thriller on a suburban widow who starts making and dealing drugs. More a comedy then Breaking Bad. Very special!
- Orange is the New Black (USA) – Thriller, by the Weeds writer, on the prison stay of a women caught in drug trafficking.
- House of Cards (Version British)
- Prison Break (USA)