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Google Chromecast with Google TV
What we like
What we don't like
Google Chromecast with Google TV
The Chromecast is arguably one of the most revolutionary products Google has ever released. It completely changed how we move content around our screens and helped pave the way for the streaming revolution. Of course, times change. With increased competition, Google found it necessary to provide an alternative that worked more like devices from Amazon, Roku, Apple, and others. The result of this was the Chromecast with Google TV in 2020. Three years later does it still hold up? This is Android Authority‘s Chromecast with Google TV review.
Update, September 2023: We’ve updated this review with a short reference to the rumored successor and a few other small revisions.
What is the Chromecast with Google TV?
The Chromecast with Google TV is still a Chromecast. You can still send things like movies, YouTube videos, and music directly to your TV from your phone or computer. But casting has shifted from something that required a standalone product to a feature of many of Google’s devices. Google already offered a bonafide content streaming experience in the form of Android TV, but with no dedicated hardware of its own, it barely existed in the market.
To solve this problem, Google fundamentally changed what the Chromecast was with the introduction of this model in 2020. Instead of simply being a target for content to be cast to, Google loaded up the Chromecast with Android TV, giving it both casting capabilities and a full-fledged media streaming interface. To make Android TV better and more accessible, Google developed a dedicated UX for it, which it calls Google TV. This platform is currently based on Android 12, though hopefully, it will receive Android TV 14 not too distantly in the future.
Google TV gives you access to all your favorite platforms in one place. There’s Netflix, YouTube, Disney Plus, Sling TV, even Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. Google also added support for Apple TV Plus in February 2021 and for Google Stadia in June of the same year (though Stadia has since been killed by Google).
Again, this is built on the Android TV platform, so if an app existed for Android TV before, it will be available on the Google TV interface. In a way, Android TV is like stock Android, and Google TV is Pixel UI. It’s a skin on top of a platform.
Because of this, you can think of Google TV as an aggregator of all streamable content. There’s a “For you” section that displays movies, TV shows, and even YouTube videos that Google thinks you’ll like, and Google TV will display where you can watch that content. In 2023 Google updated the interface breaking down Movies and Shows into new sections such as Movies Shows, Family, and Español. It also changed up the location of the interface a little. The new interface is still fairly similar, just with a few new refinements that are designed to make it easier to navigate.
One of the most important previous elements is still there: the apps tab. The apps tab is a big deal because, at the end of the day, they’re Android apps. Sure, these are apps that have been optimized for Android TV, but the Play Store on Android TV is quite built out.
Google TV might be a new interface, but with Android TV as the backbone, you’ll have access to all the apps that were already built for the platform. Plus, if you’re savvy enough, you could theoretically sideload whatever Android apps you like. The only barrier to that is that the device itself only has 8GB of internal storage to fill with apps and games. As we’ve found in long-term testing, this can fill up very quickly as you only actually get around 4.4GB of storage to play with. That said, as long as you stick to Play Store apps and not too many games, you’ll likely be just fine.
Google TV is almost like its own streaming service since it breaks things up into subsections like “Comedies,” “Oscar-winning movies,” or “Movies about aliens.” The interface feels similar to something like Netflix, but the fact that it shows you content from all the most popular streaming services is great. It’s about time we had a good content aggregator. To take the personalization a step further, Google also added a Content Preferences option in the Settings menu in an update. This feature gives you a bunch of content suggestions which you can swipe left to give a thumbs down or right to give a thumbs up. This clearly Tinder-inspired option gives Google an idea of what type of content to suggest in the future. It’s pretty neat.
Elsewhere, if you have YouTube TV, there is also a Live tab in the main menu, which shows you what’s playing on YouTube TV now. You can jump in to get a channel guide or pick something from the list.
It's about time we had a good content aggregator for streaming services.
Overall, we really enjoyed the new Google TV interface. You can find pretty much any show, movie, or YouTube video super simply using Google Assistant for voice search, and being able to control your smart home with the Google Assistant is just icing on the cake. I’ve had plenty of nights in where I’m watching a movie with my roommates, and when someone has a question we can quickly ask the Google Assistant. It’s a full Assistant experience built into your media center.
Google itself must also be pleased with the interface because Android TV also got a Google TV-inspired makeover. This brought the Discover feed to all compatible Android TV devices, however, there are still some Chromecast with Google TV exclusive features, such as the ability to add content to a watchlist. If you want the best media streaming experience from Google, you need the Chromecast with Google TV.
Google TV is also now an app on mobile. Shortly after the Chromecast with Google TV’s initial launch, the Google Play Movies and TV app were merged into the Google TV app via a software update. You can use this app to pick things to start playing directly on your TV or watch them on your smartphone.
When the Chromecast with Google TV first launched, we called the inability to have more than one user profile its weakest feature. It took months of waiting, and multiple reassurances from Google, but the fix has finally arrived. You can now build profiles for each member of your family, complete with recommendations tailored to your watching habits.
There is also support for a kids’ space so youngsters can watch their own shows and movies without impacting recommendations for older viewers. The feature can also interact with Family Link. This rolled out in March in the US.
Google TV is also getting better as time goes on thanks to the various updates released by Google. The latest one was rolled out back in August and includes various speed and performance improvements. These improvements enable the Google TV home screen to load up faster at startup, make navigation quicker, and reduce the amount of RAM used for a more stable viewing experience.
New hardware and a remote
The Chromecast with Google TV looks quite a bit different than other Chromecasts from the past. It’s slimmer and longer and uses a USB-C port for power instead of the outdated micro-USB it used to use. It also comes in three distinct colors: Snow, Sunrise, and Sky.
Alongside the new dongle, Google has finally added the aforementioned remote to the Chromecast experience. The remote is fairly simple, but it can be used to control your entire TV experience since the Chromecast itself supports the more sophisticated HDMI-CEC. There’s a power button, an input button, and volume rockers so you can effectively replace the remote that comes with your TV. Unfortunately, the extra controls don’t seem to work on every TV, so some users will have to use their regular remote or phone for things like volume.
The remote is a pleasure to use.
You’ve also got a home button, mute button, Google Assistant button, and dedicated buttons for YouTube and Netflix. The Netflix button can’t be remapped, but since there are so many YouTube services now, you can remap the YouTube button to launch whichever YouTube service you choose. There’s also a small microphone for when you want to talk to the Google Assistant.
The remote is powered by two batteries, which funnily enough, come in the same color as the remote itself. I would have liked to see a chargeable remote since batteries have become expensive and cumbersome, but this is all fairly common for streaming devices.
I’m not a huge fan of hardware that has dedicated buttons for streaming services. I think it looks tacky. YouTube makes sense since it’s Google’s own product, but Netflix seems strange since there are so many streaming options now. Still, it is arguably the most popular of all the streaming platforms, and a partnership is a partnership.
I think adding a remote to the Chromecast experience was a great call. Plenty of people I’ve talked to love the Amazon Fire TV Stick primarily because of the remote you get with it. Especially for Google TV, which is used as a content streaming aggregator, having a remote is crucial. It helps that this remote is a pleasure to use. It’s small enough that it doesn’t feel like an eyesore and its aesthetic fits in perfectly with the rest of Google’s hardware stack. The only downside I’ve found with the remote is that it is quite slippery, so you’ll need to keep a tight grip to make sure it doesn’t go flying out of your hands. We’d also love a customizable button, though this wish might come true in the future with a rumored new Chromecast variant.
Google has fundamentally changed what the Chromecast is.
The new Chromecast can display content at up to 4K resolution and supports HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. It also supports various audio formats like Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Atmos. One thing it doesn’t have is support for the AV1 video codec, which is a strange miss considering YouTube adopted the standard for upscaling low-quality videos. Notably, you do get this with the HD-only Chromecast with Google TV.
This Chromecast also takes a bit more power than other Chromecasts, so you won’t be able to power it off your TV’s USB-A port like previous models. Instead, you’ll have to use the included adapter, which thankfully uses USB-C. You’ll also be stuck using Wi-Fi to connect to your internet unless you purchase the dedicated ethernet adapter for $19.99.
The Chromecast with Google TV has 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage and is powered by an Amlogic S905X3 CPU based on an Arm Cortex-A55. None of these specs are quite as hardcore as our other favorite Android TV machine, the NVIDIA Shield TV, but it’s fine for some basic games. That being said, if you want to play anything more intensive or get access to things like the AI upscaling that the more expensive Shield TV offers, you’ll have to look there instead.
More than just streaming
Google Assistant powers Google TV, so Google has the ability to integrate it into all of its other smart home services. You play music on smart speakers or dim the lights in your house. Thanks to a recent update, you can also check out live video feeds from your Google Nest Cams. Pretty much anything Google Assistant can do, the Chromecast with Google TV can do. You can ask the Assistant what to watch, ask about the weather, or tell it to play music, all from your TV. That’s powerful.
Google has also enabled its Assistant to make your TV smarter even when idle. Instead of the rolling slideshow of pictures, you’ll now set cards with the weather, news, and upcoming events sprinkled into your screensaver.
This turns your Chromecast into a sort of central hub for all your Google Assistant-powered devices. Just like its other services, Google is trying to make the Google Assistant as accessible as possible throughout your life. If you’ve bought into Google’s device ecosystem, you can have the Google Assistant in your phone, headphones, speakers, car, Wi-Fi routers, and now, any TV with an HDMI port too. Having the Google Assistant everywhere means you’ll always have control of your smart home products, as well as the world’s information. That’s Google’s ultimate goal.
Chromecast with Google TV review: The verdict
The Chromecast with Google TV is easily one of the best Android TV devices on the market. There are only a few viable options, and our old favorite, the NVIDIA Shield TV costs around $150. This device is geared toward gaming, though, and it’s also pretty old now.
Away from the feature-packed world of Android TV, the Chromecast with Google TV has a lot of competition. There are other options like the Roku Streaming Stick 4K or the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max which cost around $50 as well. Neither matches the convenience of the Google device, but you get impressive app support for both and upgrades to the onboard storage and processing power.
If you want a great Android TV and Chromecast experience, this is the device to get, full stop.
If you don’t need the gaming and power users features that come with the Shield and want a great Android TV and Chromecast experience, this is the device to get, full stop, especially at $50. Of course, there’s another option — the Chromecast with Google TV (HD) ($23 at Amazon). If you have an older TV set that only hits 1080p, the HD version is cheaper and even has a nice upgrade with AV1 support. It’s technically not as powerful due to a fractionally weaker chipset, but thankfully we couldn’t tell the difference in our testing.
If you do want to get your hands on a Chromecast with Google TV for the full 4K experience, you can order it for $49.99 in the United States. It’s also available in various other markets including Australia, Canada, and across Europe.
Chromecast with Google TV top questions and answers
In 2023 the original Chromecast feels pretty dated. It’s also only around $11 less than the Chromecast with Google TV, and is actually more expensive than the HD model. So no, for most folks we don’t think it’s worth it anymore.
You need an internet connection to use Chromecast with Google TV. If you don’t have access to a Wi-Fi network, you can use your carrier’s cellular network, but you’ll need a secondary device like a smartphone or a tablet to get the job done.