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Google Chromecast with Google TV (HD)
What we like
What we don't like
Google Chromecast with Google TV (HD)
The first Chromecast debuted in 2013 as a no-frills way to cast streaming and gaming apps to an HD TV, with no remote or user interface involved. Due to the product’s simplicity, the Chromecast changed very little throughout the years — at least until the debut of the Chromecast with Google TV in 2020.
The new 4K-capable Chromecast ditched the cast-only nature of its predecessors, adding a remote and Android TV to the mix. Now Google is bringing this same shake-up to budget shoppers, minus a few things like 4K support. Are the savings worth the concessions? Let’s find out in our Google Chromecast with Google TV (HD) review.
Update, April 2023: Updated to add a reference to software updates in 2022 and a few other changes.
What you need to know about the Google Chromecast with Google TV (HD)
- Chromecast with Google TV: $29.99 / £34.99 / €39.99
The Chromecast with Google TV (HD) is lightweight, compact, and supports millions of popular apps and streaming services via the Google Play Store. This is the second Chromecast device to add Google TV and remote support, this time replacing the aging 3rd gen Chromecast as the entry-level option. Just like its older 4K brother, the new Chromecast with Google TV (HD) includes a remote and runs on Android TV with a revamped user interface on top called Google TV.
You still get the same casting features that have been around since 2013, but with the bonus of an interface that works more like Fire TV, Roku, and others. Since the hardware is based on Android, you also can easily sideload apps and better customize your streaming experience. Software isn’t the only thing that’s very similar between the two Chromecast with Google TV variants. You also get the same aesthetics for the dongle and remote from the 2020 Chromecast model and dual-band Wi-Fi 5 support. The only major difference is the lack of 4K support. You only get 1080p Full HD, but the good news is that you still get HDR support.
On paper, there are some differences between the hardware. The Amlogic S850X2 SoC powers the Chromecast with Google TV (HD); a slight downgrade compared to the Amlogic S905x3 found in the 4K model. You also get just 1.5GB of RAM, over the 2GB found in the 4K model. Yes, less RAM is a little disappointing. The good news is loading and switching apps actually seemed about as fast as the 4K model in our testing. You shouldn’t really notice the difference in terms of performance outside of the lack of 4K.
I also tested a few games and other apps with the Chromecast and found that they performed similarly to the 4K model, but neither model is the best choice for higher-end Android games. If you want a better gaming experience out of your streamer, we highly recommend the NVIDIA Shield TV.
The HD Chromecast isn’t just about downgrades; it has a few minor advantages over the 4K model. First, you get the Android 12 update. While this eventually came to the 4K model via an update, the Chromecast with Google TV (HD) comes with the experience out of the box.
When the original Chromecast with Google TV came out, it disappointed some of us by not supporting the AV1 video codec. Interestingly, the SoC in the new HD Chromecast does support the codec, giving it one special feature that the current 4K model can never have. This is a nice addition as the AV1 video codec offers better compression, which should translate to better-looking videos on YouTube and other services that support it.
In reality, most of the changes are under the hood. There are a few notable changes, though. There’s Quick Connect, allowing you to easily connect to a Wi-Fi network. You can also now block surround sound. Plus, there’s now support for text scaling, for those of us with less than perfect eyes. This is something that has been on Android phones for ages and makes it easier to increase font sizes for those that have trouble reading small print.
The Chromecast with Google TV HD can be purchased now at most major retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, and more. Just be aware there’s only one color choice, snow. Sunrise and Sky remain exclusive colors for the 4K model only.
Although casting is no longer at the forefront of the new Chromecast experience, simplicity still is. Google’s interface makes it easy to jump into your favorite programming with ease. It’s clean, navigation is simple, and the sections are all highly intuitive. It doesn’t just look good, it’s also really responsive. I have yet to run into any major performance hiccups at all.
Google takes a content-first approach to its user interface. Google aggregates shows and movies from all streaming services into one place, instead of focusing on the streaming services directly. At the top of the interface are clear sections for movies, shows, and even live TV. The latter of these works with Pluto TV in my case, but can also include channels for YouTube TV if you have a subscription.
Google divides up the home page into categories like comedies, dramas, and more. The setup here isn’t too dissimilar from what you’ll find on Fire TV, but I felt like Amazon pushes Freevee and Prime way too hard. Google seems to give equal footing to nearly every streaming service in its suggestions. I also feel like the recommendations tend to be more accurate to my tastes on Google TV. Obviously, suggestion accuracy may vary from person to person. The Chromecast also supports multiple profiles, ensuring the suggestions are correctly personalized. There’s even a kids mode, which was added about a year into the Chromecast’s life in a software update.
Google's interface makes it easy to find the shows and movies you actually want to see. Instead of only promoting movies and shows from the Play Store, it gives equal footing to all streaming services.
I also really
love like the “Continue Watching” section as it means all my favorite shows tend to end up down there, making it easy to hop in without first opening up Netflix, Hulu, or whatever streaming service is required. That is… when it works correctly. For whatever reason, this section often becomes glitched. Entire shows that I was just watching will disappear from the list. Sometimes shows I’ve never watched show up too. Still, it works as intended more than half the time. If this feature worked flawlessly, it would easily be one of my favorite functions. As it stands, it’s one I use a lot, but sigh under my breath when it’s not working.
Not everyone likes a bloated user interface with tons of suggestions. Google TV is a crowded place, though a useful one. If that sounds overwhelming, the Roku is likely the best fit for those looking for the most no-frills UI around. If you like content aggregation and don’t want biased results, I would recommend Google TV over Fire TV. Of course, if you’re a big Amazon fan, the tight integration with Freevee and Prime might be considered an advantage.
The interface isn’t the only thing about the Chromecast with Google TV that stands out. Google Assistant is baked right into the Chromecast experience, with a handy remote button you can press and hold to ask queries. There’s also support for hands-free Assistant use, though you’ll need a compatible smart speaker. Voice search is a common feature for streaming devices, but Assistant takes things to another level. Google Assistant tends to be much more responsive than the search functions on my Roku Ultra or my Fire Stick 4K Max. There’s a lot you can do with Assistant: turn your TV off, search for a specific show, look up the weather — I could go on, though you likely get the point.
There’s one more thing worth highlighting. The Chromecast with Google TV (HD) remote is identical to the one that is bundled with the 4K model, and that means it too offers full volume and power control support for most TVs. This is actually pretty impressive for a device that’s $30, as all competitors in this price range lack TV control. The closest option would be the Fire TV Stick with TV Remote, which costs $10 more. The Google remote is also really nice looking, with a rounded aesthetic that stands out from the typical square remotes on most media streamers. It’s small, but looks good and is easy to use.
What’s not so good?
There is very little I don’t like about the Chromecast with Google TV (HD), but it’s not for everyone. The biggest turnoff is probably the most obvious: there’s no 4K. If you are using this to upgrade the smarts of a 1080p TV, that shouldn’t matter to you. Beyond 4K and some on-paper specs, the overall experience between the 4K and HD models is identical.
If you do want to use this device on a 4K TV, the picture still looks good, but you’ll be stuck with 1080p. There’s also zero support for Dolby Vision, though you do get HDR10, 10+, and hybrid log gamma support. It is worth noting you do get support for Doby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Atmos via HDMI passthrough. At this price, it’s great to see Google offering support for all these standards.
Google’s remote is very functional, but I do have a few minor gripes. Its small footprint means it can be pretty easy to lose in the couch cushions, and the plastic material can be a bit slippery. It would also be nice if Google gave us a customizable button, instead of defaulting to Netflix and YouTube. The latter I get as this is a Google product, but at least one customizable button would have been really nice. Still, this is one of my favorite streaming remotes to date, and I’ve used a variety of Rokus, Apple TVs, Fire TVs, and more over the years.
The biggest handicap to the Chromecast with Google TV (HD) also applies to the 4K model. Unfortunately, there’s just 8GB of storage. That’s not a lot of space, especially when you realize only 4.4GB of it is available to the user. If you use this just for streaming audio and music, you’ll likely have more than enough room, but games can eat up the space quickly. Thankfully, a little bit of lightly aggressive space management should be enough to mitigate this issue.
Chromecast with Google TV (HD) review: The verdict
The Chromecast with Google TV (HD) is absolutely worth buying, but only if you are its target audience. If you have an older HD TV that needs an upgrade, buy this. If you have a 4K TV, it’s likely not worth saving $20 on this one and you should just get the 4K model ($45 at Amazon). The only exception I could think of is people living in areas with poor internet access, where 4K isn’t practical for streaming. Even then, you might as well spend the extra $20 for future-proofing reasons.
If you are interested in Google’s streaming platform but don’t want the HD or 4K Chromecast, you’ll honestly find no other worthy options at this price. The Tivo Stream 4K ($30) is probably the closest bet now that it’s constantly on sale for under $50. If you really don’t want to spend more for 4K, the Tivo Stream 4K can do almost everything the Chromecast with Google TV (4K) can, it’s just a bit clunkier.
The Chromecast with Google TV (HD) is the best HD streaming option on the market right now. Period.
Those that aren’t sold on the Android TV/Google TV platform will also have a hard time finding something that offers full TV controls and the same level of performance without paying more. I’ve had many budget Rokus and Fire TV sticks over the years, and they often work well but have sluggish moments when shifting between apps, or maybe they have to reload apps into memory pretty often due to hardware constraints. I never felt like I was using a budget device with the Chromecast, and I can’t say the same about other budget devices I’ve used.
If you are willing to spend just a little more, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K ($49 at Amazon) fits the bill in terms of full TV controls and speedy performance. Another great option is the Fire TV Stick 4K Max ($79 at Amazon), which also offers great performance and TV remote features.
Put simply, if you only have $30 to spend, you’re not going to do better than the Chromecast with Google TV (HD). It’s fast, well designed, and performs above and beyond what you’d expect for something at this price. It’s easily one of the best streaming devices you can buy right now, and certainly the best budget option.
Top Chromecast with Google TV (HD) questions and answers
You’ll need internet to set up the device and to stream from popular services. That said, local media can be cast to your device even if the internet connection isn’t working. Local games will also work without an active internet connection.
Yes, in most cases. The Chromecast for Google TV family supports thousands of popular brands and models. That said, the list isn’t exhaustive, so some TV models may not work. If you have a newer TV from a notable brand, you likely have very little to worry about, however.
Think of Android TV as the equivalent of Android OS. Likewise, Google TV is equivalent to the Pixel UI. It’s still the same OS, just with a different look. Android TV and Google TV have the same apps and core functions. The Google TV UI just is organized differently and has a few options the other user interface doesn’t.