By Darryl Budge
For as little as $50, the Chromecast HDMI dongle streams content via Wi-Fi onto your TV using iOS and Android apps like YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix, Stan, Presto, Spotify, Pandora, Google+ and Google Drive/Docs.
Android users can mirror their device's entire screen and audio, which is great for playing some mobile games.
Plus, you can cast a desktop computer Chrome web browser tab or a Windows PC full screen. Just search for and install the "Google Cast Chrome extension" using your computer's Chrome browser.
You can stream music and video stored on your phone using free apps like AllConnect on the Android Play store. The iOS app 'Video & TV Cast for Chromecast' is a free option.
The latest Chromecast (2015 2nd Gen version, RRP $59) works faster than the old model, using the superfast 802.11ac standard Wi-Fi (2.4Ghz or 5Ghz) available in Wi-Fi modems released less than four years ago. This means that video streams load in under two seconds, or about four times faster.
If you have a slow broadband service (under 5Mb/s), you may be better off with the Chromecast 2013 version (RRP $49; pictured right), because the streaming storage buffer is four times larger than the new model.
Chromecast Audio (RRP $59; pictured right) is an audio-only device for your audio system, offering cheap multi-room streaming (take that expensive Sonos!). It comes with a 3.5mm male-to-male audio cable, or you can connect to your speakers using an RCA adaptor cable or a high quality TOSLINK digital optical cable.
HOW TO SETUP: You must have a Wi-Fi router or hotspot and broadband internet connection. (1) Plug the Chromecast into a TV HDMI port and switch to the correct HDMI port on your TV. *(2) Install the Chromecast app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, (3) Activate Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your phone. (4) Follow the instructions on the Chromecast app and your TV.
Once setup, try mirroring the screen of your phone or tablet using the "Chromecast" app. Tap on the top left menu button, and choose "Cast screen / audio". If you cast content using a compatible app like YouTube (tap the icon pictured top right), the content is fetched directly by the Chromecast and your phone battery will last much longer.
You can buy a Chromecast at major electronics stores or online. For more info and the full list of Chromecast compatible mobile apps see google.com.au/chromecast.