Technology

Chromecast with Google TV review: Finally a worthy competitor to Roku and Fire TV

Google’s TV ambitions have lengthy been cloudy. In 2013, the company’s first Chromecast helped usher in an period of streaming televisions however did so by relying in your cellphone, pill or laptop to produce the apps and content material. Android TV, which arrived in 2014, added an interface and TV-specific apps however by no means reached the identical reputation degree of rival streamers from Amazon, Roku and Apple. The all-new $50 Chromecast with Google TV is the search large’s greatest TV effort but and top-of-the-line streamers you should buy, interval.

Like

  • Helpful distant
  • Giant app choice together with HBO Max and Peacock
  • Makes glorious use of the Google Assistant.
  • Ties in effectively with YouTube TV, Google Images.

Do not Like

  • Can lag when switching apps or utilizing voice.
  • Assistant does not at all times give the best choice to play again content material.

The brand new Chromecast is an entire overhaul of the $35 unique, and each main change — except for the upper value — is for one of the best. It provides a long-overdue distant management and contains high-end streaming like 4K resolution, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. The revamped Android TV interface, now known as Google TV, can be a significant improve, with a single unified residence web page that gathers stuff to look at from throughout quite a few completely different apps and integrates Google Assistant higher than ever.

At $50, the brand new Chromecast is priced to compete with two of PJDM’s favourite 4K streamers, Roku’s Streaming Stick Plus and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K, and after a couple of days testing I can report it does so handily. It isn’t as easy or rock-solid as Roku, which we nonetheless like higher total, however it’s actually extra succesful, particularly for voice. When you’re into the Google ecosystem, subscribe to HBO Max (which stays absent from Roku and Fireplace TV) or YouTube TV or just wish to strive a brand new method to uncover TV exhibits and films, the Chromecast with Google TV is a wonderful alternative.

The Chromecast with Google TV distant. 


David Katzmaier/PJDM

Acquainted dongle, alternative of colours, new distant

The Chromecast with Google TV takes plenty of design cues from current Chromecast fashions, simply with extra of an oval form. The dongle plugs into your TV by way of HDMI, with energy supplied by an included USB-C cable and wall adapter (extra on that later).

Whereas the Chromecast is available in three colours — “snow” white, “dawn” pink and “sky” blue — I would suggest going with both the white or pink fashions than the blue I used. The pink, and particularly the white, have extra identifiable Google Assistant buttons. The dongle itself tucks away behind your tv, so its coloration does not matter. 

The distant is excellent. Roughly the identical thickness because the Roku Streaming Stick Plus distant, albeit a bit shorter in size, it felt snug in my arms and that thickness ought to make it much less straightforward to lose than Apple’s superthin Apple TV distant. Google’s clicker includes a four-way directional pad in a round form on the prime with a choose key within the center. Beneath are two rows of buttons. 

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A devoted button for Google Assistant sits on the prime of the fitting row — in a barely completely different hue to tell apart it from the opposite buttons — in addition to buttons for again, residence, mute, energy and switching your TV’s enter to and from the Chromecast. YouTube (the common service, not YouTube TV) will get a devoted button and so does Netflix. Quantity buttons are on the fitting facet of the machine. 

You’ll be able to configure the enter button to change to different units in your TV. Whereas it was sluggish for my LG C7 OLED TV (there isn’t any method to “choose” the enter straight, so I needed to hover on the selection till the TV switched), it does work and will add worth to these bouncing between the Chromecast and a cable field or sport console. Establishing the distant, which has IR and Bluetooth for higher management of your TV and any equipment like audio system, was fast and straightforward for my LG. 

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David Katzmaier/PJDM

You’ll want to use the included energy brick with the Chromecast. Once I related the Chromecast to my TV by way of USB energy, an error message appeared, instructing me to hook up with the wall adapter as an alternative. Different Chromecasts had been capable of not less than partially energy the machine utilizing a TV’s USB port, even when it meant sure, extra power-hungry options had been disabled. The Chromecast Extremely, for example, may nonetheless stream in HD when powered over USB, although 4K streaming required energy from a correct wall adapter. 

The requirement of wall energy, one thing the Roku Streaming Stick Plus and Fireplace TV Stick 4K do not want, wasn’t a problem for me since my TV was close to an empty outlet, however could possibly be for many who have much less open setups or need one thing extra minimalist. Google says this can fluctuate primarily based in your TV, with the corporate saying that “not less than 5 watts” is the minimal requirement (Google’s included energy brick is 7.5 watts). It’s doable that many TV USB ports, even these on units which might be simply a few years outdated, will not be appropriate. 

Google TV: Cross-app browse, nice voice search, some quirks

By incorporating Google TV (previously Android TV), Google is lastly embracing the Chromecast as a stand-alone streamer. Whereas the Chromecast performance stays and works advantageous, the power to not should depend on your cellphone, pill or laptop for management is a big enchancment. 

Establishing the Chromecast was straightforward with the Google House app on iOS or Android. There was no searching or pecking with the distant and an onscreen keyboard to enter my usernames and passwords, which significantly sped up the method. Most apps I attempted, together with Netflix, HBO Max, Spotify and Disney Plus, both acknowledged my login data from my Google account or gave me codes to activate on an online browser. Some apps, like Sling TV, did require coming into data from the onscreen keyboard, so your mileage might fluctuate. 

Google TV has over 6,500 apps and practically all the key streaming providers together with Peacock and HBO Max, the latter of which rivals Amazon and Roku still lack. Google remains to be lacking Apple TV Plus, so followers of The Morning Present or movies like Greyhound might want to look elsewhere. 

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The Google TV interface.


Screenshot/Google

Along with the brand new title, Google has given Android TV an interface overhaul. At first look, it is extra just like the menus on Amazon’s Fireplace TV, with outstanding rows of exhibits and films, quite than the app-centric residence pages of Roku and Apple TV. A bar on the prime options tabs for search, a customized For You part, stay TV (at present out there if you happen to subscribe to YouTube TV), in addition to tabs for motion pictures, TV exhibits and apps. Beneath are tiles stuffed with content material that adjustments relying on which tab you are in. 

The For You part is the default residence web page, and I discovered it did a pleasant job rapidly permitting me to see what’s on now from the channels I watch, resuming exhibits I used to be watching on a bunch of various providers, and displaying motion pictures and TV exhibits I’d like. 

The interface at instances did hiccup when switching apps and returning to the principle menu, typically displaying a clean bluish display because it seemed to be refreshing content material. Usually, I discovered that the software program wasn’t fairly as snappy as Amazon’s platform, however it largely did its job advantageous. 

I preferred it so much higher than the outdated Android TV interface discovered on the Tivo Stream 4K, Nvidia Defend and Sony televisions, which grouped content material by app supplier and required plenty of vertical scrolling to get to the apps or exhibits you wished. 

One different factor to notice: Not all Android TV apps are prepared proper now. Stadia, Google’s streaming gaming platform, will not work with the Chromecast with Google TV till some level subsequent 12 months. (Some enterprising customers have gotten it, and Microsoft’s xCloud, sideloaded and operating on their very own, however official assist for Stadia shouldn’t be current at launch.) 

I additionally could not get picture-in-picture to work, regardless of it being listed in settings as being out there for Sling TV. 

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YouTube TV integrates effectively with Google TV. 

A useful, if not excellent, Assistant

The most effective a part of the Chromecast with Google TV is not the distant or interface, however the way in which it ties in Google’s Assistant. In my few days of utilizing the brand new Chromecast, I actually loved accessing the Assistant, which may be summoned by holding down the button on the distant. Google’s digital helper was rather more responsive than Alexa, Siri and the Roku distant’s still-unnamed assistant. 

Saying “go the Yankees sport” took me straight to ESPN on YouTube TV no matter what app I used to be at present utilizing, a function Alexa could not match regardless of integrating with Sling TV. I used to be capable of get Alexa to go proper to a channel if I mentioned the station’s title, however Assistant may go to the sport with me saying solely the topic — a a lot less complicated and simpler viewing expertise. 

There have been some quirks, nonetheless, which appeared to fluctuate by what I requested to look at. Asking for Avengers Endgame took me proper into Disney Plus, however asking for Infinity Battle did not hyperlink me to Disney Plus in any respect. As a substitute, Google TV took me proper to YouTube TV and TBS (which has the cable rights to the blockbuster movie). For a sensible service, it ought to acknowledge that I subscribe to Disney Plus and provide that possibility, partially as a result of Disney streams in 4K HDR — versus the plain HD model from YouTube TV. 

Chromecast with Google TV

Juan Garzon / PJDM

Asking to play Captain America: The First Avenger (sure, I am a Marvel fan) introduced up choices to both play on Prime Video instantly or select from 5 completely different sources — certainly one of which was Disney Plus — or renting or shopping for from Google TV by way of the Google Play Retailer. As soon as once more, I would favor to simply watch the Disney Plus model (which is a part of my subscription) and never see any of the others. 

The Google Play itemizing was additionally complicated as a result of it does not present which possibility would play in 4K, and its pricing for renting and shopping for had been off. It listed $3.99 to hire, however clicking by way of solely gave an possibility for 4K at $4.25. Shopping for was listed as $19.99, however clicking by way of revealed it was additionally solely out there in 4K, for $21.31. Which will have been the full value with tax (it didn’t say both method), however it’s odd the interface would not simply show the full value upfront. 

The Assistant additionally lagged at instances when finishing requests. Asking to look at the Yankees sport took over 10 seconds earlier than the sport appeared on my TV. When watching stay TV, that delay is simply too lengthy. Asking questions of Assistant, just like the climate or sports activities scores, additionally took up the majority of the show which impedes what you are watching. 

Dolby Imaginative and prescient and Atmos

Just like the Fireplace TV Stick 4K, the Chromecast helps Dolby Imaginative and prescient and Atmos, however discovering apps that assist each options is not straightforward. Google didn’t present a listing when requested, although I can affirm each are current on Netflix. Disney Plus, which presents Imaginative and prescient and Atmos on Fireplace TV, is barely out there in 4K and HDR 10 in the mean time on Google TV.

Much like the Fireplace TV Stick 4K, all menus and content material are seen by the TV as in Dolby Imaginative and prescient mode however I did get prompts on my LG C7 OLED that Imaginative and prescient and Atmos had been lively when watching the right content material, like Netflix’s Extraction. 

Image high quality was sharp and crisp when watching on my LG TV, and whereas I could not absolutely take a look at Atmos (my Sonos Beam lacks assist for the platform), the audio sounded advantageous on each the Beam and when enjoying with Atmos by way of the TV. The distant additionally simply managed quantity in both state of affairs, when utilizing the Beam for sound or the TV’s inside audio system, although it relied on IR for the latter. 

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Chris Monroe/PJDM

Is it price it? 

As with many sensible residence units in 2020, this reply depends upon which ecosystem you reside in. 

If your own home is extra Amazon-based, the Alexa-integration of the Fireplace TV Stick and its snappier efficiency might make it a greater possibility to your residence. Roku’s cheaper $40 value for the Streaming Stick Plus and forthcoming support for Apple’s AirPlay and HomeKit might make it a more sensible choice for Apple customers who do not wish to pony up for an Apple TV 4K, as long as they do not thoughts skipping Dolby Imaginative and prescient. 

When you subscribe to YouTube TV or are a fan of Google Assistant, nonetheless, the Chromecast with Google TV is a superb choose. It integrates rather well with different Google providers like Images, and assist for practically all main streaming apps means it needs to be advantageous it doesn’t matter what you wish to watch. Having the Chromecast performance, permitting you to solid apps out of your cellphone, is a pleasant bonus, however if you happen to’re like me, you may keep on with the distant.

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Author

Eli Blumenthal