The Chromecast with Google TV is an excellent, feature packed streaming stick that matches, if not beats its Fire and Roku competition, but there are a few odd omissions.
- 4K/60fps streaming
- HDR / Dolby Vision support
- Useful physical remote Google Assistant / smart home support
- Lacks some key apps, especially outside the US
- Could be a little nippier
- Review Price: £59.99
- Dolby Vision and Atmos support
- 4K/60Hz streaming
- Google TV OS
- Google Assistant support
- Included remote
The Chromecast with Google TV is the latest streaming stick to arrive promising to turn any TV or monitor into an all-in-one entertainment centre.
It aims to take on the Fire TV Stick 4K and Roku Streaming Stick Plus by offering users a suite of streaming services and a nifty new Google TV OS that finally lets the Chromecast work as a standalone unit without the need to be paired to a phone or tablet.
On paper the device is a fairly compelling option, with Google Assistant voice support and the ability to stream content in 4K HDR at 60fps. This, plus its mostly solid app support and physical remote make it a great option for any entertainment enthusiast looking to upgrade home entertainment setup.
The Chromecast with Google TV has a simple design and setup process
The Chromecast with Google TV has a very different design to its immediate predecessor and the Chromecast Ultra. Google’s ditched the spherical design in favour of a sleeker, elongated pebble look.
Considering the device will spend most of its time out of view behind your TV, we’ve never really cared about streaming sticks’ looks, but the Chromecast with Google TV is one of the nicest looking nonetheless.
The biggest design change you should care about is that streaming player now comes with a physical remote control. The remote has the same elongated smooth edged feel as the main Chromecast unit and is wonderfully intuitive.
Navigating the new Google TV UI is done through the circular navigation pad and Enter button at the top of the remote. Below you’ll find shortcuts for Google Assistant and Netflix plus all the other buttons you’d expect – Volume, ‘Back’, Power etc. Build quality is solid, and the physical keys have a nice tactile feel compared to the Fire TV Stick.
Setup is as easy as you’d expect. All you have to do is connect the Chromecast main unit to the HDMI input on your TV/monitor and then connect it to the mains using the provided plug and USB-C cable. Power up the Google Home app on your tablet, smartphone or computer and quickly run through a series of on-screen instructions.
The only part that can be a little time consuming is logging in/installing all the apps you want if you haven’t saved your password with Google’s manager. As an added bonus, the Chromecast supports HDMI-CEC, so can take over your TV’s power on/off and volume functions.
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The Chromecast matches its Roku and Fire competition on features and performance
The set-up process may sound familiar to anyone who has used a Chromecast before, but once done you’ll find the new Chromecast with Google TV is a different beast to its predecessors.
Specifically Google’s taken a page out of Amazon and Roku’s playbook and, for the first time, made it so you can use the Chromecast without pairing to another device. This is done with its new Google TV software. The software is designed to streamline finding content by displaying recommendations from all your streaming services. It works a little like the Nvidia Shield TV’s custom Android TV UI.
This means you can see things like recommended action movies or documentaries from Netflix, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and any other service you subscribe to without having to open the specific app. Sadly, while it is nice not to have to pair a phone or tablet, Google TV’s UI on the new Chromecast is a good but not great upgrade. While the new player is faster than the older Fire Sticks, the Chromecast with Google TV isn’t the nippiest device out there.
In general the interface works well enough if you’re just casually looking, but over the last week I’ve found myself increasingly just using the self contained app interfaces.
This is mainly because the search functionality, especially using Google Assistant voice commands, is a little ropey. On more than one occasion I’ve searched for content I know is on Netflix or Amazon Prime only to be told it’s not there using the main Google TV UI. I’ve also been left with the device spinning wheels for a good 10 seconds trying to recognise voice commands, making functionality feel a little clunky.
This is a shame as the voice assistant otherwise works very well. I’ve ended up using the Chromecast with Google TV as a digital butler more than once, instructing it to tell me about incoming calendar alerts and music control throughout the day.
App-wise the Chromecast with Google TV is solid, if you can get past a few minor omissions. Big name international services are all included. Click through and you’ll get everything from Netflix and Prime Video, all the way down to specialist services like CrunchyRoll and Shudder. But there are a few odd omissions.
For starters, in the UK there’s no NOW TV or All 4. This puts it behind its competitors and is a pain if you want to stream Sky or Channel 4 exclusives.
But for me the even stranger omission is the lack of Google Stadia support. Google has promised to add support at an unspecified point in 2021, but as it stands the lack of Stadia support feels odd. This is especially true given the fact that Nvidia GeForce Now’s beta runs on it and it is possible to pair a Bluetooth controller to the Chromecast.
The device is otherwise top notch when it comes to picture quality. The Chromecast with Google TV supports 4K streaming at 60fps, as well as Dolby Vision HDR. This means if you have a TV that supports the functionality, and are subscribed to a service with 4K/HDR content, you can get great visual fidelity, and super smooth 4K gaming experiences.
Dolby Atmos support means you’ll get a wider, more spacious audio performance if you have a compatible speaker set up.
In general picture quality is great. My only issue is that the new Chromecast with Google TV doesn’t flag when it’s running content in either Dolby Vision or Atmos. The Google TV UI also doesn’t make it very clear which content is supported. Perusing content in Google TV’s main UI, when it did throw up search results it didn’t flag which options were 4K/HDR and which were HD. This is a pain if you want to watch a movie in 4K/HDR.
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Should you buy the Chromecast with Google TV?
The Chromecast with Google TV is a fantastic streaming stick and ideal option for anyone embedded in the Google ecosystem.
It offers the bells and whistles you’d expect from a streaming player including 4K/60fps streaming and Dolby Vision/Atmos support. The only downsides is that its local app library misses a few region specific services, and its Google TV UI still needs a little work. Even with these minor issues the positives mean the Chromecast with Google TV more than justifies its £60 price tag.