Chromecast with Google TV review: A step forward for streaming


At its best, the Chromecast with Google TV represents how streaming is supposed to work.

You shouldn’t have to sift through a dozen apps—Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, and so on—just to figure out what to watch. Everything should instead be accessible from one menu that acts as a universal guide to streaming. Google’s new $50 4K streaming dongle tries to deliver on that ideal.

But because the new Chromecast often works so well, it’s all the more glaring when it doesn’t. The device suffers from inconsistent integration with streaming services, and the underlying Android TV operating system could use a bit more polish. Google’s bold new approach to streaming feels like the future of TV, but it’s a work in progress.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best media streamers, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

Not the Chromecast you know

It’s impossible to review the new Chromecast without explaining how it’s fundamentally different from its predecessors.

Like previous Chromecasts, you can still use a phone or tablet as your remote control, hitting the cast button in supported apps to launch media on the TV. But on the Chromecast with Google TV, that mode of interaction feels like a sideshow. The real star is the Google TV software—hence the name—which has apps you control on the TV itself with a proper remote. (We’ll talk more about how that software works in the next section.)

gtvforyou Jared Newman / IDG

The new Chromecast isn’t just controlled from your phone. It has an actual interface on your TV—apps and all.

The remote control is similar to what you get with other streaming players, such as Roku’s Streaming Stick+ and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K, except it comes in a choice of three colors—white “Snow,” light red “Sunrise,” and light-blue “Sky”—that match the color of the Chromecast dongle. There’s a circular directional pad, a back button, and a home button for getting around; a Google Assistant button for voice controls; and shortcut buttons for launching YouTube and Netflix.

The remote also has buttons for power, volume, mute, and input switching, along with an infrared emitter so you can program them to work with your A/V setup. Within Google’s settings menu, you can map each button to a different part of your A/V system, or you can use HDMI-CEC to control everything in unison.

chromecastgtvremote Jared Newman / IDG

The new Chromecast with Google TV includes a proper remote control.

In terms of tech specs, the Chromecast with Google TV has a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage, though only about 3.5GB of that storage seems to be available for apps. Navigation feels fast and fluid, and Google made sure to tick most boxes for format support, including 4K HDR video, along with Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG. The main omission is on the audio front: While the device can pass through Dolby Atmos audio, it doesn’t support Atmos decode, which Netflix requires for object-based surround sound. (You can read more about Dolby Atmos in this story.)

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