Using Google means an easier online life – from email and online storage to news and digital maps. But the search giant can also take over your TV with the Google Chromecast $35, a streaming dongle that is behind only Amazon’s own Fire TV Stick on the company’s list of best-selling electronic devices.

Part of its appeal lies in its pure portability, but there’s also the price: just $35 to wirelessly stream Netflix, Spotify, HBO GO, Hulu Plus, and more from your mobile device or PC to the TV. Not to mention apps for music, working out, and catching up on sports. When the Chromecast was released in July 2013, it quickly sold out, and is still going strong now that it’s back on store shelves. At SXSW, Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Google Chrome, Android, and Apps, said that “millions” have been sold.

chromecast mainGoogle announced a few updates for Chromecast at Google I/O earlier this summer – from Android mirroring to options that will make your Chromecast screen more aesthetically pleasing. And while the ultraportable device is pretty much plug and play, there are a few tips and tricks that can make casting more magical. Check them out in the slideshow.

  • Stream online video, music, photos and more to your TV using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop
  • Supports a growing number of apps including Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, ESPN, MLB.TV, Google Play Movies and Music, Plex, MLS, crackle, Vevo, Rdio. Allows to cast a Chrome browser tab.
  • Box includes Chromecast, HDMI extender, USB power cable, and power adapter. No remote needed.
  • Easy setup: Plug into any HDTV and connect to your home WiFi network
  • Works with Android phones and tablets, iPhone, iPad, Mac, Windows, and Chromebooks

All channels available

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Chromecast rivals

All streams originate from a special “Cast” button that’s built into each compatible mobile app – your device is the remote.

Currently, Windows Phone 8 users, who don’t have many options among app-filled streaming technology, are totally out in the cold for Chromecast support, with only third party YouTube app TubeCast being compatible. So Chromecast is only really suited to those with Android and iOS devices.

Despite these limitations from the big names, Chromecast has extra potential to it thanks to developers getting creative with the Google Cast SDK.

Apps like AllCast enable Android – and, starting in January, Apple iOS – users to display video and photos through the Chromecast, for example. Which is useful since Google somehow neglected to add this feature to Android.

Both major media center apps, VLC and the Plex app will happily stream to Chromecast, which is perhaps the best way to get your library of downloaded videos up on the big screen. Photo Caster is a free app that enables iOS users to put their photos on-screen similarly.

Media Browser is an app for iOS and Android that streams media content stored on any computer in the house, giving the Chromecast home theater PC (HTPC) granting capabilities. You can even stream Podcasts from a few apps.

The way Apple integrated its AirPlay streaming solution deep into iOS means that it inevitably has better support when combining an iOS device with an Apple TV, but as long as developers continue to use the Cast SDK, we will inevitably see almost as widespread support for cross-platform solutions – iOS, Android and Chromecast all working together seamlessly.

Roku has its Roku SDK, but it’s easier for many developers to make their apps compatible with the Android-based Chromecast. It requires a little bit of retooling rather than learning an entirely new ecosystem, as is the case with the Roku.

Between its universal nature, rock-bottom price and ease of setup, Chromecast is massively tempting as a little TV add-on.

Chromecast Change your TV to Super Smart TV