The Chromecast is a great tool for slinging your media to a bigger screen from your phone. We’ve already covered ways to get the local content on your devices to a Chromecast, but many users still play media from a local network so they don’t have to worry about cluttering up device storage with music and videos. It’s convenient to store all of your large files on a bigger hard drive instead of keeping them split up across multiple SD cards.
This guide is going to go over the easiest ways to start casting your networked music, photos, and videos to go along with all of your local pictures and internet subscriptions.
Plex is a tough service to beat when it comes to creating a seamless entertainment experience across multiple screens. Setting up a Plex server is a slightly more involved process than simply clicking a button to send a movie to your Chromecast, but the extra effort gives you a much more customizable and powerful experience.
Before you get started with your casting, you’ll need to get a server running on a computer on your local network. Desktops are obviously the better choice here if you want to keep something running 24/7, but a laptop will also work. This server will host all of the media you plan on viewing and listening to, and once it’s up and going, it’s arguably the best experience you’ll find on the Chromecast.
Plex will store tons of metadata and artwork for your content, so browsing and casting movies and music looks fantastic. Taking the time to set up album artwork and movie covers takes a bit of extra work, but the experience while searching your library is well worth it. There are tons of plug-ins that make the work a little less tedious that can automatically snag song titles, info and movie descriptions for you, which is nice. Plus, Plex handles file conversions on the fly, so you don’t need to worry about getting files in a format that will work with the Chromecast.
Plex also features excellent controls via your smartphone or tablet, so you never actually have to touch the server to get your TV shows playing. You can play, pause and skip all you like with the app on your phone right from your couch, and there are even easy ways to share your media with others. If you’re a Plex Pass subscriber, you’ll also get a host of other great features, including the ability to download files for offline playback and the option to sync your files to an online storage like Dropbox or Google Drive for playback later.
Plex is arguably the most powerful app on this list. It has tons of features and support for all kinds of different plug-ins and codecs. So if you’re willing to put in the effort towards building a networked environment, Plex should be your first stop. Unfortunately, for someone that’s looking for a plug-and-play solution, Plex may be too complicated.
AllCast was featured on our guide for local content, but it also has several networking functions that can handle both types of media. It supports local network servers for grabbing any videos or music you might have, while still keeping support for things that are kept locally on your device or SD card.
The interface in AllCast is extremely simple and has recently undergone a full Material Design overhaul. In the sidebar, you can access media servers, Google+ photos, and both Google Drive and Dropbox. Navigating through these different options is a breeze, and all you’ll have to do is select the server (whether that’s networked or in a cloud storage account), tap the file you want to play, and AllCast handles the rest.
One of the biggest drawbacks of AllCast compared to an app like Plex is that it doesn’t have quite the same video transcoding power. The Chromecast will only support certain file types, and if a certain video has a wrong format or encoding, you might run into issues using AllCast. For most users, this won’t be an issue, and it’s a fault on the Chromecast’s end, not AllCast.
If you need something a little more basic that doesn’t involve a huge process beyond setting up a simple media server, AllCast is a fantastic option. Plus, you’ll still get all the bells and whistles that come with AllCast’s primary purpose, which is a nice bonus.
Avia Media Player is a fantastic, feature-loaded player for casting your content to tons of streaming boxes. It’s currently on version 7.2 and supports an array of different devices, so if you’re looking for an app to cover all your bases without too much work, this might be worth checking out.
Avia offers all of your standard casting options, including the ability to sling media from your Dropbox account or local media server to your Chromecast, but it goes above and beyond by supporting nearly every type of server and networked storage you can imagine. If Facebook and Google photos don’t work for you, Avia will grab media from a Plex, XBMC, Serviio, or Subsonic server, plus any NAS drives, Windows Media Center servers, and even other Android devices. That’s hard to beat.
The app completely supports Google’s Chromecast, including giving you options for controlling playback and full screen album art when listening to music, but you can also sling your content to other devices like an Xbox One or a Roku. It’s a toolbox that should cover just about any combination of software and hardware you can cook up.
The best part about Avia is the options it gives you. If you want to spend the time to set up something like a Plex server, you can. If you’d rather get a simple NAS drive going and grab some videos off of that, you can do that, too. If you already have something set up for other devices in your house, Avia can efficiently integrate into that and get your Chromecast running in no time. You’ll have to pay a $4.99 in-app purchase for Chromecast support, but that’s not a bad deal with all of the functionality you get.
LocalCast is an app that focuses in on just grabbing media from a networked drive or cloud storage for casting to a Chromecast or other streaming device. There aren’t many other bells and whistles here, but if you need something that does one specific thing with a clean interface, this is an excellent option.
LocalCast can connect with several different network storage options, including something on a local network and several different cloud services. To get started, all you’ll have to do is select what source you want to browse through, which could either be a local drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, or Google+, and pick a file. LocalCast handles most common formats for files, but like with other apps, it’s still limited by what formats and containers the Chromecast can handle. The developer is working on the transcoding process, so this might not be an issue for much longer.
The app supports all of your basic file types, including movies and music with playback controls, plus photo viewing with the ability to pan around and zoom in on images. It also supports PDF files, which is fairly unique for an app like this. Plus, there’s a feature in beta that will let you route all of your audio through your phone instead of whatever the Chromecast is connected to. This will let you listen to a movie or TV show with your headphones, which can be a great trick for watching media late at night while someone else is trying to sleep.
The app itself is free and ad-supported, but an in-app purchase will get rid of those ads. If you need a simple option, definitely check this one out.
These apps cover all of your bases when it comes to watching and listening to the media you’ve got stored on your home network or in the cloud. Between these and our other apps for viewing your local media, you should have no problem equipping your Chromcast to handle anything you can throw at it.