Are you looking to cut the cord and want a streaming device for your television? Google’s latest Chromecast could be just what you need to leave your cable bill behind for good.
While Chromecast has been around for some time as a streaming option, the latest release comes with both a streaming dongle and remote control.
Previous iterations of the Chromecast have required that streamers use a computer, phone or tablet to control the stream cast on their television, so this is quite an improvement.
But where does the Chromecast with Google TV rank among the streaming dongles on the market? Team Clark has set out to answer that question with this review.
Table of Contents
- Chromecast vs. Chromecast with Google TV: What’s the Difference?
- Chromecast with Google TV: Fast Facts
- What Comes in the Package
- Setup Process
- 4 Observations from Testing the Chromecast with Google TV
- Final Thoughts
Chromecast vs. Chromecast with Google TV: What’s the Difference?
You may be wondering exactly what “Google TV” is and how that makes the Chromecast experience better.
In short, Google TV is an operating system that stores your apps and content on the Chromecast streaming dongle. This is similar to the way that a Roku or Amazon Fire streaming device works.
The new Chromecast also comes with a remote, and that’s an upgrade. Older versions require you to use your own phone or tablet to choose your TV content. You can still get the older version for $29.99 ($20 less than the new version).
Here’s a quick explainer video from Google that summarizes some of the benefits of upgrading to the version of the Chromecast that includes Google TV:
Chromecast with Google TV: Fast Facts
So what are you getting with the latest version of the Chromecast?
Here is a quick rundown:
Chromecast with Google TV: What You Need to Know
|Promotional Deals Available||Yes, with Netflix and YouTube TV|
|Operating System||Android TV|
|Cross-Platform Content Integration||Yes|
|Live Streaming TV Integration||Yes|
|DVR Functionality||No; relies on cloud storage from individual apps|
|4K and HDR Functionality||Included|
How Much Does the Chromecast with Google TV Cost?
Google is selling these on the Play Store for $49.99 with shipping included. However, there are other ways to get the device that can save you some cash along the way.
For example, Google also owns the popular live-streaming service YouTube TV and sometimes runs promotional offers that include a free Chromecast.
During late 2020, Google offered a free Chromecast with Google TV to new YouTube TV subscribers. Some existing users also were offered free Chromecasts just after YouTube TV raised its monthly subscription to $64.99. I got the Chromecast I used for this review as a result of that offer to existing YouTube TV customers.
As of early 2021, the promotional bundle Google is offering includes a partnership with Netflix. The offer includes a Chromecast with Google TV and six months of the popular streaming service for $89.99.
The cost of the standard Netflix subscription is $83.99 for six months, so in effect, you’re only paying $6 for the new Chromecast device.
The takeaway here is to keep your eyes open because there is likely to be a way for you to get a Chromecast for less than the advertised price.
Will the Chromecast with Google TV Be Compatible with My Television?
As long as you have an HDMI port available on your television, there is a strong chance that this version of the Chromecast will work for you. As we’ll detail later in the setup process, you’ll also need access to an electrical outlet to power the streaming dongle that you’ll plug will into that HDMI port.
What Comes in the Package
I took the photo you see above just after I unboxed the device. You’ll get six items:
- Chromecast dongle (to place in an HDMI port on your television)
- Power cord (for the dongle)
- Outlet adapter (for the dongle)
- Voice-capable remote control
- Two AAA batteries (for the remote)
- Instruction guide (for setup)
Assembly was a breeze for me: It took less than two minutes. You start by placing the dongle into an open HDMI port on your television. Then connect the dongle to the provided cord, connect the cord to your power adapter and plug the adapter into your wall outlet. From there, you put the batteries into your remote and then follow the instructions to link the dongle and remote together.
The Setup Process
Once you have hooked your dongle to the television, you’ll be prompted to set up your Chromecast for use.
Early in the process, you’ll have a major choice to make: Either complete the setup using the Google Home app on your phone or on the Chromecast itself.
The Google Home app is a way to tie all of your Google devices and services into one “hub” for control of your home. Through this app, you can play music on your speakers, dim the lights in your room, change the temperature on your thermostat and control your Chromecast all through a couple of swipes on your phone.
Google says the setup process is much quicker via the Home app, but I decided to use the traditional setup process so that you can see the type of information that Google will require for use of a Chromecast. Here’s what I learned:
1. You Will Be Required to Create a Google Account
If you don’t already have a Google account for things like Gmail or Google maps, you’ll be required to create one to access the Chromecast. This is a pretty standard requirement for most Android-powered devices.
Creating a Google account is a breeze, but you’ll get hit with some pretty daunting “user agreement” concessions in order to move forward. Google wants to track pretty much everything you do with this device and then tie that information to your Google account. So understand that there will be data collection involved.
2. Google Will Comb Through Your Existing Apps to Customize the Experience
Once you have accepted Google’s terms of service, the Chromecast immediately starts asking for permission to use that power you just granted so that it can search through your existing devices to customize your Google TV experience.
This may seem intrusive (and it is), but it’s ultimately a timesaver for setting up apps on your Chromecast that you would probably end up downloading anyway.
You’ll encounter two screens: one that asks for permission to search your TV for existing apps and one that asks to use your Google account to search any other device (such as a phone, tablet or Chromebook) for entertainment apps that could be used.
Once you have done this, you’ll be able to select your services to be featured on the Google TV experience from a checklist of apps that are preinstalled on the device:
Upon installation, I found that the Chromecast had not only pre-installed my selections from this menu but also featured apps that were downloaded to my Android phone. This made it pretty easy to immerse myself in the Google TV ecosystem right away.
3. You’ll Integrate the Chromecast Remote with Your Television
The Chromecast remote does more than just control the streaming dongle. It also can be set up to be used as your primary TV remote.
One of the final setup steps for the Chromecast is to identify your brand of television from a provided dropdown list. That lets you pair the remote to your TV for things like volume and power control.
It will take you a couple of minutes to follow some simple setup commands, but for those of us who hate using three or four remotes for the same television, this is a big win.
4 Observations from Testing the Chromecast with Google TV
I plugged the Chromecast into one of my televisions and spent a few days using it as my primary streaming device. Here are some of the interesting notes I came away with from the experience.
1. The Remote is Highly Functional (and Tiny!)
I really fell in love with this remote. This is Google’s first attempt at a remote to accompany a Chromecast, and they sure did a nice job.
It has all the buttons you want, including power for both the device and your television. It also has volume control nestled on the right side of the device (hard to see in the attached picture).
And, perhaps more importantly, it has very few buttons that you don’t want. There is no number pad, which is largely unneeded in an era that has left “channel numbers” in the dust. And the branded buttons (YouTube and Netflix) are at least two of the most popular streaming services.
Aside from the white color, it’s also the smallest of my growing collection of streaming remotes. The size makes it feel nice in your hand but also could make it easier to lose in a couch cushion. Only you can decide if that reward is worth the risk at your house.
2. Available Apps Are Plentiful
What good is a streaming dongle if it doesn’t provide access to your favorite streaming services, right? Well, I have good news to report from my research.
I found that nearly all of the popular apps are available for download on this device, and most of them seamlessly blend into the content aggregation and voice search functionality of Google TV (more on that in a bit).
If you’re worried about whether you’ll get access to some of your favorites, here’s a list of the many apps that I found to be available and functional with the Chromecast:
- YouTube TV (also a Google product)
- YouTube (also a Google product)
- Sling TV
- HBO Max
- CBS All Access
Bonus note: I noticed that Google TV was automatically integrating apps that I had previously installed on my Google Home connected devices onto the Chromecast. That gave me easy access to my content with no additional work needed on my part.
3. The Content Aggregation Interface Is Easy to Navigate
Once you’ve selected all your streaming apps, you’ll find that Chromecast takes content from those apps and customizes your experience by aggregating all the content options from each service into one space.
So rather than searching through all of your different apps to find that show you like, you can find it from your Google TV landing screen. From there, the Chromecast will retrieve the content from the appropriate app for viewing.
As it learns more about your viewing habits, you’ll start to see your most-watched content appear on the “For You” tab along with suggestions of content related to your viewing history.
With Google TV, you’ll also be able to search all of your apps for television shows, movies and more in one spot.
4. Voice Searches Are Worth It
This is not new technology in the streaming dongle world, but it’s something that proved especially easy to use thanks to Google TV’s content aggregation function.
Upon landing on the Google TV homepage, all you have to do is press the Google assistant button on your remote and speak the term or title for the content you’re seeking.
So if I wanted to watch NBC’s The Office I’d simply speak “Hey Google, play The Office” into the remote, and Google TV would know to pull up Peacock (the streaming service that houses The Office) and give me the option to start an episode.
Now that I’ve shared my experience with the Chromecast with Google TV, it’s time to get down to business on whether you should buy this device or not.
Here are some pros and cons you should consider before forking over $49.99:
Chromecast with Google TV: Pros and Cons
|Responsive remote with Google Assistant||Must log in with Google account|
|Ability to aggregate content from various services||Price point may be a bit high compared to older Chromecast models|
|Connects to your Google Home account||Remote may be too small for some users|
Bottom Line: If you’re an existing Chromecast user, the upgrade to this newer version with a remote and Google TV capabilities is a no-brainer. You’ll get all of the functionality that you love from your Chromecast with some new bells and whistles. This also is a great option for a new streamer who is looking for a first device after cutting the cord. However, if you’re an existing Amazon Fire TV or Roku device owner, you’re not likely to find anything on this device that is worth overhauling your existing setup. At this point, all three companies are offering high-quality devices.
Do you have experience with the Chromecast with Google TV? Let us know how you like it in the comments below!