While Videostream is hands down the best way to stream media directly from desktop to Chromecast, it does mean though that you’ll need to use the desktop to do it all.
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That’s not exactly in the spirit of the laid-back, on the couch watching experience Chromecast promises.
Plex Media Server creates a library of your media files. It will scan it all, add metadata like posters, file information and basically arrange movies and TV shows in an way that’s easier to browse than the old fashioned folder view.
Plex Media Server will also let you stream all the media you add to it to Chromecast using iOS or Android apps as a control center. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Why Plex and Not Just Old Fashioned File Sharing?
Setting up Plex is more than worth it because you’re not only going to be able to view your media on Chromecast, but also on any desktop, iOS or Android device in your home.
But it can only transfer files. What we’re looking for is a good transcoder. You could use the apps listed below to access shared files and folders on Windows and stream media to Chromecast, but then Chromecast would be the one doing the transcoding. And the underpowered HDMI dongle is just really bad at it. The loss in quality is very much visible.
Which is why I recommend using Plex. From all the media server alternatives, it’s the best and easiest to use, and the Plex Media Server app itself is free.
Using a media sever, the transcoding is done on the PC itself and Chromecast just has to play it.
Setting up Plex Media Center for Playback via iOS or Android
Before we begin, it will be helpful if all your movies and TV shows are already organized in nested folders. Meaning there’s one folder called Movies and in there different sub-folders containing the movie files. The same goes for TV Shows. One folder for a TV show, each containing different sub-folders for different seasons. This will make scanning by Plex really easy.
Ok, so first download and install Plex Media Server and open it. It will open in your default browser as a web view. In the example below I’m adding music, but the process for movies and TV shows is the same.
Step 1: Give your PC a recognizable name.
Step 2: Click the Add Library button and select the media type you want to import (Movies, TV Shows, Music).
Step 3: Click the Add Folder button and browse through the root folder for all the media you want to add. Select the Movies or TV Shows folder.
Step 4: Click Add, then Next and you’re done.
Give Plex a couple of minutes to scan all the media.
The Hard Part Is Over
Setting up Plex was the hard part of the process. Plex Media Server runs on UPnP protocol (which stands for Universal Plug and Play). This means that any iOS or Android app that supports UPnP can access your Plex library when it’s on the same Wi-Fi network. And there are dozens of such apps.
Now all you need to do is open one such app, select the media you want to play and tap that Cast button you’re all too familiar with. Within seconds, the media will start playing on the Chromecast and your device will become the remote.
All the different apps have different UIs and features but this interaction doesn’t change.
STREAM PLEX CONTENT FROM PC/MAC
Once Plex Media Server has scanned and catalogued all the files, open the web view and navigate to the media file (make sure you’re usingChrome browser and have the Chromecast extension installed). Click the Cast button, select your Chromecast and the streaming will begin. This way, if you’re already using your desktop, there’s no need to look for your mobile device.
The Best Plex Streaming Apps for Android
Plex itself has apps for both Android and iOS. They cost $4.99 each and are the most reliable way to get Plex media streaming to Chromecast.
When you open the app, your Plex library will be scanned and displayed automatically. All you need to do is browse through the library, choose the media and tap the Cast button.
If you’re not looking to spend five dollars on the Plex app, BubbleUPnP is the next best thing, though a bit too complicated for its own good. It’s a free ad-supported app.
Go to the sidebar and from under the Library option tap Local Media Server. Then select your Plex Media Server.
From under the Renderer option tap Local Renderer and select your Chromecast. This tells BubbleUPnP where the content is coming from and where it’s to be displayed.
Now go back to the apps homescreen, tap Library, browse through and select your media.
We talked about LocalCast for streaming local media from Android in the previous section of this guide. The app also supports Plex streaming. The premium version of the LocalCast app is a great all-rounder Chromecast streaming app.
The Best Plex Streaming Apps for iOS
If you’re using an iPhone or iPad, I’d say just buy the Universal Plex app that will run on both iOS devices for $4.99.
Because unlike Android, there is no BubbleUPnP or LocalCast for iOS. You’ll find a lot of free apps with UPnP and Chromecast support but the free versions are either horribly limited or laden with ads and in some cases both.
The only good alternative to the official Plex app I could find was Buzz Player HD.
BUZZ Player and BUZZ Player HD
BUZZ Player (for iPhone) and BUZZ Player HD (for iPad) both sell for $3.99 each and Plex Media Center support is just one of their features. It will let you play videos from shared folders on PC, via FTP or will let you download videos using the built-in browser.
When it comes to streaming Plex content, I found the quality of streaming to be just as good as Plex’s official app. If for some reason you don’t want to buy the Plex app or some of the other features of BUZZ interest you, it’s a solid alternative.