First Click: Adding a Chromecast to LG’s battery-powered projector approaches portable perfection

First Click: Adding a Chromecast to LG's battery-powered projector approaches portable perfection

First Click: Adding a Chromecast to LG’s battery-powered projector approaches portable perfection

Imagine it: a tiny smart projector that produces a giant image good enough to replace your TV and cable box where they stand. That’s the dream we’re ever so close to living.

LG was kind enough to send me a Minibeam model PH450U to test for a few weeks. This little 1280 x 720 LED projector is impressive for many reasons. To start with, it features a 2.5-hour rechargeable battery that powers what’s essentially an 80-inch TV in a lunchbox. And it can project that decently bright (450 lumen) image when placed just 13 inches from the wall. It sounds great, too, when paired with a Bluetooth speaker (the built-in speaker should be avoided). But the real magic started after I thought, Hey, what if I plug Google’s Chromecast into the LG’s HDMI and USB jacks. Voila! Within seconds I had a truly portable, totally wireless, 80-inch smart TV I can carry in a backpack.

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Chromecast Ultra delivers 4K and HDR content, but is that enough? [Updated]

Chromecast Ultra delivers 4K and HDR content, but is that enough? [Updated]

Chromecast Ultra delivers 4K and HDR content, but is that enough? [Updated]

For three years, Google’s Chromecast platform has stood out in the streaming-box category for one simple reason: your phone is your remote. Smartphones and tablets can do a lot of the heavy lifting in the TV-watching experience (browsing content, picking through apps, typing keywords). Chromecast takes advantage of that: no remote, no separate set-top box app ecosystem, lower cost.

Last year’s second-gen Chromecast offered decent upgrades over the original, but not much else. The device changed designs, shrank in size, and drove 1080p video to your TV screen a little faster and more efficiently. That device still exists for the same low price of $35. Is there a reason we need a third-gen Chromecast?

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Facebook videos can stream to Chromecast via iOS and web, Android support coming “soon”

Facebook videos can stream to Chromecast via iOS and web, Android support coming “soon”

Facebook videos can stream to Chromecast via iOS and web, Android support coming “soon”

Facebook has added support for streaming all of those cute cat and wacky stunt videos posted on the social network to big-screen TVs. Those videos are now supported for streaming to Google’s Chromecast device, along with the Apple TV set-top box. At the moment, Chromecast streaming is limited to Facebook’s iOS and web platforms, but support for the Android app is coming “soon”.

Now, streaming a Facebook video on a Chromecast-based TV is easy. Just go to the video you want to check out on your News Feed, tap on the new TV logo that should be located on the top right of the clip, then simply select the Chromecast device you want to stream the video to from a list of choices. Once that’s done, you’ll see that sweet cat or talented dog video on their big-screen TV.

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The Chromecast Ultra has a clever fix for massive 4K video streams

The Chromecast Ultra has a clever fix for massive 4K video streams

The Chromecast Ultra has a clever fix for massive 4K video streams

What can you say about a Chromecast — specifically the new Chromecast Ultra? Like the one that came before it, it’s a circular disc with a tiny HDMI cable sticking out of it. Like all Chromecasts, it streams video directly from the internet, but you choose what video to stream using your phone (or maybe the new Google Home speaker, if you have one). It is, in short, just a Chromecast. I held one: it felt like a Chromecast.

The “Ultra” part of this Chromecast is that it supports both 4K and HDR, and therefore costs double a normal Chromecast at $69. There’s precious little streamable 4K and HDR content and not a ton of consumers have 4K and HDR-capable TVs in the first place, so maybe by the time both are more widespread, the price will come down.

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Free Spotify Premium and Google Play Music subscriptions for Chromecast owners

Free Spotify Premium and Google Play Music subscriptions for Chromecast owners

Free Spotify Premium and Google Play Music subscriptions for Chromecast owners

Google is currently offering Chromecast owners a nice little bonus: two months of Spotify Premium and three months of Google Play Music access for free. The offer is good for existing owners of Chromecast or Chromecast Audio as well as those that buy a new device and sign up for the free subscription services.

You can only sign up for the two free months of Spotify Premium until September 15 but you’ve got until December 31 to register for three months of free Google Play Music access. The Spotify Premium offer is only available for U.S. citizens and you have to sign up with an email address that hasn’t been used for a Spotify Premium subscription already.

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VLC 3.0 nightlies arrive with (sort of working) Chromecast support

VLC 3.0 nightlies arrive with (sort of working) Chromecast support

VLC 3.0 nightlies arrive with (sort of working) Chromecast support

Streaming online content to a Chromecast is fast and easy, but what if you have local files on your desktop that you want to get on the big screen? There are a few niche apps out there that will serve, but one of the biggest media players, VLC, is working on built-in support for Google’s Chromecast. Recently the nightly build servers started pumping out early, unstable builds of VLC with Chromecast support, so I gave it a try.

You won’t find the familiar “cast” button that you see in many apps in this VLC build. Instead, the “Tools” menu has a new option called “Render Output”—this screen is for playing media on something other than the computer screen in front of you. It will detect and display Chromecasts on your local network, and the detection process seems to work great. You just pick the device you want to use and hit “OK.”

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No surprise, Google Home is based on Chromecast, not Android

No surprise, Google Home is based on Chromecast, not Android

No surprise, Google Home is based on Chromecast, not Android

When Google announced its Home speaker to take on the Amazon Echo, I made a big assumption: it was essentially a super-powered Chromecast device at its tiny little heart. Making assumptions is a stupid thing for a tech reporter to do, but turns out this one was accurate. Amir Efrati at The Information has confirmed from “a person with direct knowledge of the plan” that Google Home will be based on the Chromecast.

It’s not a surprise at all: Chromecast and the Cast standard it uses are both one of the rare hardware success stories in Google’s recent history. It also makes sense because of what Google Home is mostly meant to do: grab information off the internet and tell it to you in a conversational way. Sending and receiving bits of information from the cloud is literally what Chromecast was built to do. One thing Chromecast isn’t good at, though, is apps. They all need to be in the cloud and they need to be able to communicate with Google in order to work with Google Home. At Google IO earlier this month, the company told me it was taking a slow and steady approach to creating that third-party ecosystem. As often seems to be the case with assistants, partnerships tend to win.

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Good Deal: Get a free Chromecast for using Android Pay

Good Deal: Get a free Chromecast for using Android Pay

Good Deal: Get a free Chromecast for using Android Pay

Google’s Chromecast media streaming dongle has always been cheap, but if $35 is too rich for your blood, you’ll want to pay attention to a new Android Pay promotion in the US. If you make 10 purchases with Google’s contactless-payment app before the end of February, you’ll get a free Chromecast.

As spotted by a number of tech blogs, the offer is active now. It’s called Tap10, and if you want to use it, you’ll need to pay attention to a few salient details. First, you’ll need to download and install the Android Pay app, and once you’re there, hopefully you’ll see the offer. Then you just need to make 10 purchases — spaced out by at least five minutes each — and you’ll get a code to redeem your Chromecast. On the way to 10, you’ll also get three free songs from Google Play. Not too shabby for one of our favorite streaming devices.

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Deal: grab a $15 discount when you buy 2 Chromecasts

Deal: grab a $15 discount when you buy 2 Chromecasts

Deal: grab a $15 discount when you buy 2 Chromecasts

Winter is coming, so why not snuggle up in front of the TV and stream some good media? Lucky for you, the holiday season also comes with a bevy of awesome deals, and today you can grab a good discount from Google if you buy a couple streaming devices.

We have certainly seen Google offering good discounts when you buy 2 Chromecasts, but this is still a good deal to take advantage of. Buying two Chromecast units from the Google Store will save you $15 ($7.50 per device). This means you can get 2 Chromecasts for $55, as opposed to $70.

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Spotify app update adds support for the new Chromecast

Spotify app update adds support for the new Chromecast

Spotify app update adds support for the new Chromecast

Spotify released an update to its iOS and Android apps today, and with it comes a long-awaited feature: Chromecast support. At its Nexus event last month, Google said that Chromecast would finally support Spotify, and now that day has arrived — at least for some users.

The update means Spotify will work with the new Chromecast and Chromecast Audio, but first-generation Chromecast users will have to wait a little longer. Spotify says support will roll out to existing Chromecasts “soon.”

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