The Chromecast is a great device that surpassed all expectations and showed that Google can actually do great things if given the chance. Plenty of users, casual and experienced, have taken up Google’s offering but with so many different apps on offer, a lot of people wonder what the optimal utilities are. Today we are going to be talking about the best apps that you can use to stream media via your network connection. I will try to give as much information about the featured apps as possible, including the ways you can stream content.
No content streaming list would be complete without the inclusion of Plex. After all, Plex can be found pretty much everywhere. The utility can organize your media across multiple devices, including your PC, phone and tablet and can then stream the content to a huge range of devices including smart TVs and of course, the Chromecast.
Any short description of Plex cannot really do it justice but I think it is fair to say that it is the most powerful application you can find for this purpose. However, this might also be its biggest drawback for some users. Due to its nature, setting up the service requires some investment by its users. You will need to get a server running and that might be kind of complex for casual users, especially on Windows.
Once you spend some time configuring everything though, the platform is simply amazing. Finding and streaming your favorite movies, photos, songs and whatever else becomes a breeze. Navigating your very own digital library is a very neat experience and Plex can also be further customized via plugins to make your experience even smoother. Furthermore, file conversions are handled internally so you will not need to worry about having a file that Chromecast does not support as the service will take care of everything automatically.
Most things can be done for free via the desktop application but you are going to have to pay up if you want to use the Android version or if you want to get all those extra features that come with a Plex Pass subscription. A simple but great example of the premium version is the ability to download files for offline playback. If you are looking for the complete package and do not mind spending the extra time or ponying up the extra cash, you are in for a treat.
Since we are already on the subject of complex but powerful applications, I think BubbleUPnP fits rather nicely here. Most of the things I have already said about Plex can be applied here. The service offers extremely powerful tools, provided that the user spends some time setting up things and going through the hoops for it.
BubbleUPnP might not be as polished as Plex is but there are certainly some great things to consider. First and perhaps foremost, the service is free. And I mean it is free across the board, including the Android app. The UI is quite simple in an almost minimalistic way and I personally enjoy it very much.
As you can also imagine due to its inclusion on this list, the Chromecast support of BubbleUPnP is also amazing. You can get play incompatible media on the fly with transcoding, get custom playback, custom subtitles and custom themes without too much effort. Invest some of your time reading up a few guides for it and you can have your very own media server set up in no time and you will never have to worry about Chromecast playback ever again.
The AllCast name carries great weight in the Chromecast community and for a good reason. The service was one of the ver first and best apps dedicated to Google’s streaming stick, although it has now grown quite a lot and includes the ability to stream content to any device with Chrome.
AllCast is a great solution because of its simplicity. The Material Design UI is fantastic for navigating and finding content to stream, making the whole experience a breeze when compared to similar offerings. Users can find content on their network, on their local devices or even on Google Drive, Google+ and Dropbox.
In an effort to keep things basic, AllCast does lack some of the more advanced features you would expect to find in Plex or BuubleUPnP but that is exactly why some users prefer it. The biggest drawback is that you will only be able to play Chromecast-supported content most of the time as AllCast is not all that great when it comes to transcoding but then again, most casual users should not have a problem with this. Note that the free version comes with some annoyances like watermarks and advertising.
If you are looking for something with a great interface that will just cover all your basic needs without hassle, LocalCast might be a good bet. Content can obviously be streamed from your Android device but also from Google Drive, Google+, Dropbox and webpages.
LocalCast restricts the content you can stream to what Chromecast supports, although the developer says he is already looking into adding transcoding support. Regardless, the app makes it extremely easy to stream all of the content that Chromecast supports with some great additional features like fully customizable subtitles and support for wireless headphones.
LocalCast is completely free and is supposed by advertising. If you want, an in-app purchase of €1-7 can remove the ads. The developer is also pretty adamant about everything he does, including the permissions that the app requests from your Android device.
Avia Media Player fits very well as the last entry on the list. This is one of the most feature-rich apps you can find as the service supports a multitude of devices. Even though we are here to talk about the Chromecast, I think that is worth noting that Avia Media Player can stream content from and to almost any device imaginable. It can even plug itself into other media servers like Plex and Kodi (formerly XMBC).
What is perpahsp the great thing about AMP, however, is just how flexible it is. Even though the description above might make it sound overly complex, AMP is actually as complex or simple as the user wants it to be. If you just want to sling content from your phone, for example, the app makes it extremely easy. If you want to tap into media servers and organize content, things obviously get a bit harder.
Although the app itself is free, Chromecast support comes at a cost of $4.99. I would suggest downloading the app and playing around with it for a while before forking over the cash, especially if all you want is basic options that you can get from other apps.