Google Chromecast retail boxSource: Android Central

Video/music streaming is the main way a lot of us consume content in 2019. From Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Pandora, and countless others, these services provide instant access to virtually limitless media wherever and whenever.

When you're at home and want to catch your shows on the big screen, a lot of people flock to the likes of Roku or Amazon Fire TV boxes/dongles. If you purchased a TV recently, chances are it has some sort of access to streaming apps out of the box.

However, if you're still rocking an older TV and/or like the idea of controlling all of your TV content right from your phone, Google's Chromecast is still the way to go. Not familiar with Chromecast or just need to refresh your memory? Here's everything you need to know!

Streaming made easy

Google Chromecast Ultra

Futureproof 4K streaming fun

Google's Chromecast is one of the simplest and cheapest streaming solutions on the market. The Chromecast Ultra works the same as the regular model, but it also supports 4K, has faster performance, and will work with Stadia when it launches.

Google Chromecast ($35 at Amazon)

Don't need 4K and want to catch a bargain for your streaming budget? The regular Chromecast streams at up to 1080p — which makes it perfect for smaller or older TVs in the kitchen or bedroom.

The regular Chromecast is great...

White Chromecast in its retail boxSource: Android Central

For a lot of people, the regular Google Chromecast is the go-to choice. It's dirt cheap at just $35, and depending on when you buy, can often be found at a discounted price or bundled together with other Google products.

Using the Chromecast is as easy as plugging it into an HDMI port on your TV, setting it up via the Google Home app on your phone, and that's it. From there, you can start casting shows to your TV all day long.

The Chromecast is capped at 1080p Full HD for its video resolution, meaning you won't find any 4K here. We'll talk about what you should do in just a second if that's important to you, but if not, you might as well save some money and just buy the regular one.

... but go 4K and Stadia-ready with the Ultra model

Chromecast Ultra lying on a wood tableSource: Android Central

For those of you that are living the 4K life, you'll want to turn your attention to the Chromecast Ultra. The Chromecast Ultra works exactly the same as the normal Chromecast, save for the fact that it does support full 4K HDR video streaming. If you have a 4K TV and want to get the most out of it, buying the Ultra just makes sense.

The other big benefit of the Chromecast Ultra is that it works with Stadia — Google's cloud-based game streaming service. If you want to play Stadia games on your TV, you need a Chromecast Ultra (right now, though, you need to pick up the Stadia Premier Edition if you want to be among the first to play).

Other improvements on the Ultra are more subtle, including better Wi-Fi speeds, snappier performance, and an Ethernet adapter if you want a wired internet connection.

Your phone is the remote control

Netflix app running on a Pixel 2Source: Joe Maring / Android Central

For a lot of people, the big draw to Chromecast is the fact that you don't need to fuss with a remote in order to control your content playback. Instead, this is all managed through your phone.

Here's how it works:

Let's say your browsing the YouTube app on your phone and come across something you want to watch. Just tap the Chromecast icon, select your Chromecast from the list of available devices, and tap the Play button. The show will start playing on your TV, and if you need to pause, fast-forward, or rewind, all of those controls are found on — you guessed it — your phone.

YouTube app Chromecast exampleYouTube app Chromecast exampleYouTube app Chromecast exampleSource: Android Central

Some people love the simplicity of this design, but if you want an actual remote and a UI on your TV to navigate, you'll be better off with something like the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

It works with virtually everything

Chromecast-supported apps in the Google Play StoreSource: Joe Maring / Android Central

When we say Chromecast works with virtually everything, we mean it. TV/movie services — both big and small — are all here. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and HBO are on-board, in addition to VRV, PlayStation Vue, and even Pokémon TV.

Need a music or podcast fix? Chromecast works with Spotify, YouTube Music, Pocket Casts, and NPR One, just to name a few. You'll also find that some apps like Google Chrome, Google Photos, Facebook, Twitch, and Wheel of Fortune work with Chromecast, too.

All apps with Chromecast support

You can use Chromecast with the Google Assistant

Chromecast Ultra next to a Google HomeSource: Android Central

The Chromecast works really well for binging all of your favorite content, but did you know it goes beyond that? In fact, it's a pretty great smart home accessory.

If you use Google Assistant on your phone or have Assistant-powered speakers/displays in your house like the Google Home or Nest Hub, you can perform various actions on the Chromecast using just your voice.

For example, if you want to start watching Stranger Things but don't feel like fumbling with your phone, you can just say "Hey Google, start playing Stranger Things on the TV", and your Chromecast will start playing the show just like that. Have Nest security cameras? Say "Hey Google, show my outdoor camera on the TV" and you'll see a live feed of the camera on the big screen.

If you already use the Assistant a lot, that's another big win for the Chromecast over competing dongles.

Here are some TVs that'll work great with Chromecast

Google Assistant UI on a TVSource: Joe Maring / Android Central

You might already have a TV that you plan on using with your Chromecast, but if you don't, we've got a few solid recommendations that are worth a look.

Whether you're in the market for a cheap 4K TV or want one of the best ones that money can buy, we've rounded up the best of the best that we think you'll be happiest with.

Streaming made easy

Google Chromecast Ultra

Futureproof 4K streaming fun

Google's Chromecast is one of the simplest and cheapest streaming solutions on the market. The Chromecast Ultra works the same as the regular model, but it also supports 4K, has faster performance, and will work with Stadia when it launches.

Google Chromecast ($35 at Amazon)

Don't need 4K and want to catch a bargain for your streaming budget? The regular Chromecast streams at up to 1080p — which makes it perfect for smaller or older TVs in the kitchen or bedroom.

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