REVIEW: Chromecast with Google TV - Google's streaming dongle just got smarter
There’s a new streaming device in town and it comes from Google, one of the early innovators in the space who wanted a cheap and easy way to make any TV into a ‘smart’ TV. The Chromecast with Google TV keeps the main feature that makes a Chromecast a Chromecast, but it also completely shakes things up by adding the Google TV operating system on top of the whole thing.
Rather than using a phone, tablet, or computer to cast media to the device, like we’re all used to with all previous generations of Chromecast, Google has now finally included a fully-featured operating system. This takes the Chromecast from its own niche device and puts it squarely into competition with devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and NOW TV Stick.
Which brings us to the big question: is Google a worthy competitor, or should the company stick with the casting devices for which it’s known? Read on to find out in our full review of the new Chromecast with Google TV.
Unboxing the contents
First, there’s the Chromecast with Google TV dongle which, for the Irish store anyways, is only available in white at this moment in time. There’s also a USB-C cable, a 7.5-watt plug, documentation, and the tiny remote. That’s right, the Chromecast with Google TV actually comes with its own remote. Thankfully, Google also bundled the two AAA batteries you need to power the remote in the box as well.
It’s a solid little package that comes with everything you need to start watching your favorite shows and movies. But nice-looking hardware and a remote can only carry the device so far. The software is what needs to bring it across the finish line.
Google stuck with a design that’s reminiscent of the most recent line of Chromecast devices. The dongle is hanging off of an HDMI cable that connects to the TV. There’s a USB-C port on the bottom of the Chromecast that is used for powering the device.
Speaking of power, depending on your TV, you’ll need to plug the Chromecast into the wall or extension cable instead of the USB port on your TV. Some televisions will power the Chromecast with limited features, but your best bet is to plug it into the included USB plug to be safe.
Outside of the dongle itself, Google also included a remote, which really is what makes this device stand out from previous iterations of the Chromecast. Sure, you can still use apps on your phone to control the device, but you can also use a remote to navigate all of the apps you have installed on your dongle.
The remote comes with all of the buttons you need to control your apps and media. On the side of the remote are volume buttons, which you can use to control either a TV or home theater system. Starting from the bottom, there’s a power button and an input button, which are used to turn the TV on and off and change to other inputs, respectively. Above those are buttons for YouTube and Netflix, then Home and mute, and finally a back button and the all-important Google Assistant button.
Google decided to make the Google Assistant button a different color from the others on the remote, making it stand out when you’re looking at it in your peripheral vision. So, on the white remote, it’s actually the only black button on the remote.
Rounding out the remote is a four-way directional pad with a button in the center. This is how you’ll do most of the navigating around the operating system and controlling your media.
The remote is quite small, but it feels comfortable in the palm of your hand. All of the buttons are easily accessible without moving your hand around. Additionally, even though the remote is small, it’s thick, which means you should be able to keep track of it easily.
The Chromecast with Google TV has many features that make it stand out from the crowd in the video streaming space. There’s the aforementioned remote, which brings full support for Google Assistant. That means that not only can you use it to control your media, but you can do anything else Google Assistant can do. For example, I;m able to control all the smart bulbs in my apartment with the remote and even ask it to show a live feed of my Nest Cam on the TV.
While those features are cool, the reason you’re buying a Google TV with Chromecast is to consume media, and the device has all the features you could ever need to do that.
Google says that it has access to over 6,500 apps, so if there’s something you want to do with your Chromecast with Google TV, you can probably do it. On top of that, you can freely sideload any other app, so you literally can do anything with it.
The hardware itself supports 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos, though actual support for any of those will come down to whether the content you want to watch is available with those features.
Outside of all the apps, there’s the traditional casting, which allows you to beam content from your phone, laptop, or tablet directly to the big screen.
The setup process is speedy and painless. Google guides you through everything. All you need to do is plug the dongle into the TV, plug the USB-C cable into the power adapter, put batteries in the remote and wait for the Chromecast to boot up.
From there, you’ll be instructed to use the Google Home app to complete the rest of the setup process. You can choose to do it on the remote, but you’ll probably find that typing everything with the remote is a little tedious.
Once you’ve made your way through the setup process, you’ll be ready to start setting up your apps and services. By default, Google has a few apps installed, but you can freely remove them if you don’t actually use those services. You can hit the apps section to download the apps for services you regularly use (for example, you may want to download Plex, which isn’t installed by default)
When you finish getting your apps up and running, you’ll be ready to start enjoying the stellar experience Google has created with Google TV.
Using the Chromecast with Google TV is really enjoyable, and there are almost no flaws in the experience. Google has decided to create a unified home screen filled with recommendations from across all of your installed apps. That means you’ll see your Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime movies and TV shows side-by-side, which actually looks really cool.
There’s also a section that’ll show you what’s popular around Google. This will show you items that aren’t part of your subscriptions, but it might inspire you to try out a new service if there’s something you really want to see.
Navigating the content within Google TV is fairly streamlined, though it can be a little cumbersome at times. Google elected to go with a horizontal scroll, and for categories that have a lot of movies or shows, it can take a little while to scroll through them. It’s not a huge deal, and if you’re looking for something specific, you’ll probably want to use the search functionality anyway.
Once you actually click on a movie or show, you’ll see an intelligently designed screen that shows you a preview of the trailer, information about the movie, the cast, and so on. You’ll see buttons showing you places to watch, the ability to watch the whole trailer, a place to mark a show or movie as watched, and so on. There’s a lot of information and options packed on this screen, but it’s incredibly well-designed, and it’s beneficial.
Actually watching content is a fantastic experience with the Chromecast with Google TV. Whether you choose Disney+, Netflix, YouTube, or whatever else, the content plays smoothly in HD (or 4K HDR if available), and it looks great.
You also can use the Chromecast with Google TV to play games with a Bluetooth controller, though Google’s own streaming service Stadia isn’t officially supported at launch unfortunately but this is rumoured to arrive early in the new year.
One slight issue I had came when casting from my phone to the Chromecast with Google TV. Sometimes, the device wouldn’t show up in the list of available devices, so I’d have to grab the remote and wake the Chromecast up to cast. This didn’t happen all the time, and I turned off the sleep setting, so I’m not sure what the problem was. It’s not a deal-breaker, as the device really is designed to use with the remote anyway, but if you’re a big caster, it may be something that holds you back.
I can say with absolute certainty that the Chromecast with Google TV is worth buying. For just shy of €70, you get all the casting goodness you’re used to with the original Chromecast, but you also get a well-designed interface that brings together all of your favorite streaming services in one place. You get 4K, HDR, a handy voice remote, and so much more.
Pricing & Availability
The new Chromecast with Google TV is available now on the official Irish Google Store for €68.85 in white.