Blog Post

Chromecast’s secret weapon to take over your TV: HDMI-CEC

Chromecast, Google’s (s GOOG) new TV dongle that is meant to beam online videos straight from your laptop or mobile device to your TV, comes with a nifty feature that was only mentioned briefly during Wednesday’s announcement: Users will be able to turn on their TV, switch inputs and automatically start playback just by pressing a single button on their mobile device. The technology that makes this possible is called HDMI-CEC.

HDMI-CEC is an extension of the HDMI display port interface that makes it possible to send control commands back and forth over an HDMI cable. The idea behind HDMI-CEC is to simplify the use of multiple devices connected to each other via HDMI. It can, for example, be used to control a DVD or Blu-ray player with your TV’s remote control, or even change the volume of your home theater receiver with that same remote.

HDMI-CEC was first introduced with HDMI 1.3, and is now supported by numerous TV sets. However, to make things more complicated, manufacturers have decided to promote the feature under a multitude of names, including Anynet+ (Samsung), Bravia Link and Bravia Sync (Sony), Simplink (LG), Viera Link (Panasonic) and Regza Link (Toshiba).

In most cases, HDMI-CEC is used to send commands from the TV set to other devices, but the data can flow both ways, and Chromecast uses HDMI-CEC to control the TV set from the dongle.

It’s a pretty simple feature, but it solves a problem that manufacturers of connected devices have been struggling with for years: getting the users to switch inputs on their TVs just to access a streaming box is a major show stopper, which is why Google TV, Xbox (s MSFT) One and others have been trying to become the default choice by piggybacking on the TV signal.

At least in the case of Google TV, this approach hasn’t really been all that successful. Giving the device itself the power to switch the input and power on the TV may just be one of those things that seems insignificant at first, but could become a killer feature once it’s in the hand of consumers.

30 Responses to “Chromecast’s secret weapon to take over your TV: HDMI-CEC”

  1. I owed a sony bravia and it was so easy to connect 5 games plus the tv by just pushing a button on the top of the tv. Now that i had to get a new tv. it only has 2 hdmi-cec and it is such a pain to switch bewteen remotes. A salesman sold me a 4 device component video selector saying it would be easy to change bewteen games, but i can’t even figure how to get it to work and you still have to use 2 remotes. I wish i had my sony bravia back!!

  2. bobegilbert

    I just setup my Chromecast on an LG 47″ LCD and using the CEC setup, my inout automatically switches form the default input to the input used by the Chromecast! The question now is how do I get it to automatically go back to my default input where I have my Comcast box? I don’t want to have to manually switch the input back each time. I was hoping there was a way to have the input change back to an active input once my Chromecast is turned off. Is it that only one HDMI input supports CEC?

  3. Why are so many people so lazy? Just turn the tv on and switch inputs, how hard is that? I’ll bet the lazy people probably want someone to press the button for them.

  4. I realized it was HDMI-CEC when the Anynet+ logo appeared on my Samsung TV. But don’t you find it odd that Chromecast does not control the TV volume this way, but uses the tabs or app volume slider? It is odd, being that it could just control it directly (and make our lifes simpler).

  5. r00fus

    Anyone know whether CEC is forward-capable via a compatible receiver?

    Right now I have a 3 year old receiver that claims to be CEC compatible, but my PS3 doesn’t switch the receiver’s port when I turn it on.

    I bet there are a lot of folks with a receiver in the middle to boost/bypass the shitty performance of their TV sound.

    • michaeltrieu

      It also has to be plugged into USB and a cable is included along with a wall wart, in case your TV doesn’t have a USB port available.

      • Not necessarily. The device can draw power from an HDMI 1.4 compliant input if it supplies enough power which most likely do. The HDMI spec requires the source to provide at least 55mA at 5V but most devices provide much more. The USB power brick is provided for those without HDMI 1.4 inputs or ones that don’t provide enough power.

        • I believe this is not correct. Google states that you do need a power supply for this, and in my case (Samsung SmartTV) Chromecast does not turn on unless plugged in. The only problem of using a USB port to supply power, is that my TV shuts down USB power when off, so Chromecast is not on, so it cannot power on the TV

          • Same with my Toshiba. It needs the USB to power it. I did not plug it in the HDMI-CEC port (only one of the 4 HDMI is CEC), so I will try that and see if it works.The limited documentation makes no mention of being able to use it without the USB or power cable.

        • Same with my Toshiba. I am going to switch the dongle to the HDMI-CEC enabled port to see if that works for powering. The manual (limited as it is) says you must use the USB or Power adapter.

        • this is not correct – well sort of – like you said – HDMI source provides some power BUT a TV is an HDMI sink and will not proved power to HDMI device – in fact it may draw some power from the device. so you will always need to use the USB power input ……

    • michaeltrieu

      Actually, I don’t see why, at least on a PC, you shouldn’t be able to mirror the entire display. There’s a parallel project from Google called Chromoting that does just that. I use it all the time as an alternative to LogMeIn. It’s a bit more manual in that you have to enter a OTP key, but it even works over the Internet and you get mouse and keyboard control as well (although I’m not sure how that would factor into Chromecast, unless it has Bluetooth somehow).

  6. thyland83

    How do we know that the CEC enabled TV’s haven’t locked down the functionality to only read proprietary products. For instance, i know my Panasonic TV has CEC enabled because its Viera Link enabled…but will Chromecast be able to take advantage of it?

  7. thyland83

    How do we know that the CEC enabled HDMI ports are compatible with Chromecast? For instance, my Panasonic TV is CEC enabled under the Viera Link name, but is it locked down to be propitiatory to only Panasonic products?

    • George Varghese

      Although each manufacturer markets the HDMI-CEC feature under different names, they all follow the HDMI-CEC standard. So they are all interoperable and there is nothing proprietary about it. For eg: My Panasonic TV is linked to my Onkyo receiver through HDMI-CEC. When I turn on the TV, the Onkyo receiver also gets turned on automatically. When I change the volume on TV, the receiver’s volume gets changed.

      • thyland83

        I dont remember this being the case with my Denon receiver (which i no longer have). I had to set a profile on my Harmony 1 to switch both on. Were the standards on which this relied on gradually changed?

        • George Varghese

          Not sure about Denon. But Onkyo receivers market the HDMI-CEC feature under the name RIHD. It worked like I described with my Panasonic TV (Viera-link) and my Toshiba TV(Regza-link) without any issues. Since, I have three devices that could talk to each other although they are all different brands, I am inclined to believe that any CEC enabled TV would work with the Chromecast device.

          • Louis St-Amour

            If you have a PS3, it can support HDMI-CEC once turned on in settings and on your TV. The PS3, when switched on, takes over our crappy, 6 year old Samsung TV which displays “AnyNet+” briefly as it does so, despite being a Sony product.

        • ualdayan

          Did you go into your TV’s settings and turn on HDMI-CEC? (under your manufacturer’s special name for it) My Samsung TV defaulted to it off, but once I turned Anynet on (their word for HDMI-CEC) it started turning my receiver on when I turned my TV on.