Chromecast with Google TV 4K review: A worthy Fire TV rival
Chromecast with Google TV review: Will this new hardware upgrade your streaming experience?
Chromecast with Google TV brings 4K Ultra HD streaming to your telly, with smart recommendations, voice controls, and smart home tricks
What We Love
- Google TV Interface Is Gorgeous
- Very Useful Remote Control
- Brilliant Cast Functionality Remains
- Rotten Tomato Scores Integrated
- Add To Watch List From Google Search
- Can Control Smart Home Gadgets
- Nest Doorbell Notifications On-Screen
What We Don’t
- All4 App Is Missing
- Google Stadia Is Dead
Google’s Chromecast brand is synonymous with lightweight streaming dongles, but the experience of watching on these best-selling gadgets had fallen far behind rivals from Amazon, Apple, and Roku. Enter, Chromecast with Google TV.
Google had a lot of catching up to do with its new Chromecast, but it’s managed it.
Chromecast owners no longer have to keep reaching for their phones or tablet to beam content to the big screen, thanks to the gorgeous new user interface with high-resolution artwork, trailers, Rotten Tomato scores, and AI-powered recommendations based on your viewing history. Everything is controlled with a pebble-like remote control, which arrives with built-in support for chatty AI Google Assistant and the ability to adjust volume and switch between HDMI inputs.
Disney+, Netflix, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, ITVX (née ITV Hub), NOW, Apple TV+, HayU, Paramount+… (almost all of) the biggest brands in streaming are all present and correct on the Chromecast with Google TV. For some reason, All4 is completely absent from the Play Store on this Chromecast streamer, so you won’t be enjoying any episodes of Gogglebox, First Dates, The Inbetweeners, or Naked Attraction anytime soon. However, you can download a few lightweight games to enjoy on the diddy device.
Thankfully, Google has kept everything that made the original Chromecast such a hit.
Yes, unlike many of its closest competition, you’ll still enjoy all of the features that made the Chromecast such a runaway hit in the first place, like beaming photos to the big screen with a quick tap from your phone, broadcasting a tab from your Chrome web browser to the telly, or queueing up music videos from YouTube – with friends on iOS and Android able to contribute to the playlist in real-time.
Those who store their family snaps in Google Photos can set a rolling slideshow of favourite photos as a screensaver, which is a nice touch. And if you control your smart lights, Nest thermostat, video doorbell, or other Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets via the Google Home app, you’ll be able to adjust all of them by talking into the TV remote.
Chromecast with Google TV is a triumph. It’s a worthwhile upgrade for anyone with a previous Chromecast model plugged into their telly and those who are heavily-invested in the Google ecosystem (or prefer Rotten Tomatoes scores to IMDb) should definitely prioritise this over Amazon’s Fire TV Stick range.
Chromecast with Google TV 4K review
When Google launched its first-generation Chromecast back in 2013, it was revolutionary.
It small shockingly small and arrived with an impulse-buy price tag, but was capable of beaming video, photos, and games from your smartphone or tablet onto the biggest screen in your home. Unsurprisingly, it was a colossal hit for Google.
But in the years since its launch, Chromecast has fallen behind its rivals.
Sure, Chromecast Ultra enabled streaming in Ultra HD from the same pocket-sized puck, but Amazon and Roku offered HDMI dongles that shipped with remote controls capable of changing the volume on your TV, finding shows with voice commands, and pausing the action without the need to rummage around the back of the sofa to find your smartphone.
Enter Chromecast with Google TV. This rebooted streaming dongle is designed to catch up with the competition and reinstate Chromecast as the go-to gadget when it comes to watching streaming services, queueing up YouTube videos on the big screen, and more.
So, has Google done enough? We’ve been hard at work bingeing boxsets on Netflix, Prime Video and catching up with must-see shows on iPlayer and ITVX to test that out. Our in-depth review has all of the answers on whether the Chromecast with Google TV is worth the upgrade.
Chromecast with Google TV is available in a couple of nice pastel colours, like Sunrise (pictured)
Google announced the Chromecast with Google TV back in September 2020. The name was tweaked ever so slightly (many retailers now refer to this model as the Chromecast with Google TV 4K) when the more affordable Chromecast with Google TV HD arrived the following year.
The streaming dongle is now on-sale for £59.99 from a number of retailers, including the Google Store, John Lewis, Argos, and others. However, Google seems to be the only retailer with a full array of colours, including Snow (white), Sunrise (a pastel orange), and Sky (baby blue).
Like the best Fire TV Stick deals, it’s worth checking around for a discount as retailers slash the price of the Chromecast with Google TV during the sales – with the price tag dropping below £40.
The new Chromecast boasts a similar design to its predecessors.
It’s a svelte Hockey Puck-like shape with a built-in HDMI cable at one end, and a USB-C port for the power cable at the other. The shape is a little more elongated than the Chromecast Ultra, but it’s recognisable as a Chromecast.
There’s no doubt the colourful new Chromecast will be one of the most aesthetically pleasing devices hanging from a port at the back of your TV… but depending on the layout of your living room, you’re unlikely to be able to appreciate that design very often.
Like earlier iterations, the new Chromecast has a built-in HDMI plug and dangles out-of-sight
If your TV has a spare USB port, you can plug the bundled charging cable into that, or if not, Google includes a wall adapter for the USB cable to power the Chromecast. There’s a small blinking light on the Chromecast to show that everything is on and working.
Google has repositioned this dot to the centre of the dongle, which is much more convenient if you need to quickly check everything is working. On previous models, it was tucked away beside the charging port …not always an easy place to crane to look.
But let’s be honest, this time around, the most important aspect of the design is the remote control. This is a first for the Chromecast line of streaming gadgets.
As you’d expect, the remote control allows viewers to skip episodes, pause, summon the Google Assistant, adjust the volume, power on your telly and even switch between HDMI inputs.
The remote is on the small side, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It fits pretty snugly into your hand and ensures all the buttons are well within reach.
Thankfully, Google has stuck with tried-and-tested clicky buttons on its remote – so you won’t have to deal with a dodgy touch-sensitive panel, like the twitchy one found on the Apple TV remote or the first-generation remote that shipped with Sky Q, when you want to watch a show.
Google lets you programme the remote to your set-up so that it can switch between inputs, turn the TV on and off, or control the volume from your sound system. This all works well enough and means you don’t have to juggle remotes to land on the right HDMI input or hunt down the back of the sofa when something is suddenly DEAFENINGLY LOUD.
Chromecast with Google TV has a dedicated shortcut for Netflix, which makes sense as it’s pretty much the default streaming service for most people these days, and YouTube, which also makes sense as this is a Google product… nevertheless, we can’t help thinking this button would’ve been better served as a Disney+ or Prime Video shortcut.
Google TV Software and Apps
Let’s be honest, there’s little point in praising the delightful remote design and sleek hardware if there’s nothing to watch. Thankfully, Chromecast with Google TV comes packed with access to hours of telly, movies and games to keep you busy during lockdown – and well beyond.
All of the usual suspects are represented: Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, ITVX (née ITV Hub), Apple TV+, NOW, BT Sport, YouTube, and StarzPlay, to name a few.
As you’d expect, there are a few exceptions – there’s no dedicated All 4 available on the streaming dongle right now, for example. Luckily, the success of Google’s previous Chromecast gadgets means there is usually a workaround to fix these issues. For example, the All4 app on iOS and Android can beam shows to any Chromecast, so it’s pretty simple to get your favourites onto the big screen… although, you won’t be able to use that snazzy new remote as you’ll have to reach for your phone whenever it comes to picking an episode.
While Apple TV+ and NOW (formerly NOW TV) weren’t available on the Chromecast with Google TV at launch, the popularity of Android TV-powered Smart TVs has meant developers have rushed to support the new streaming dongle with apps. Both of these streamers are now available on Chromecast with Google TV, as well as a host of others.
Google TV is a gorgeous user interface, with high-resolution artwork, trailers, and minimal clutter
The new Chromecast marks the first outing for the new Google TV experience.
This is the new menu that Chromecast owners will have to navigate to find their favourite shows and movies (unless they’re Cast-ing from their phones and tablets, of course).
First things first, it looks great. Like, really good.
Google has managed to catch up rivals like Apple and Amazon in one fell swoop. Gorgeous rich artwork for the latest shows that Google recommends to you fills the top of your screen, with shortcuts to jump back into the shows you’re already bingeing found below alongside a row of small app icons to jump to a particular streaming service. It all works really well.
Not every streaming service found on the new Chromecast has been updated to deeply integrate with Google TV.
For example, shows you’re watching on Netflix will appear on the homescreen with a small progress bar to denote how far you got through the episode. Tapping on the episode resumes playback, without the need to launch the streaming app, search for the series and resume the episode. But others never appear in the same Currently Watching menu.
This isn’t an issue limited to the Google dongle, with Apple TV 4K‘s Up Next feature not able to pull in any films or shows from Netflix.
Google TV incorporates Rotten Tomatoes scores for all movies and shows.
For our money, that’s much more useful than the IMDB score that’s used throughout the rival Amazon Fire TV gadgets, which seems to average everything from Academy Award winners to bargain bin mediocrity at around a 6 or 7 – making it tough to compare two films before movie night. But anyway, this isn’t a review of movie database scoring systems…
As you’d expect from Google, the search functionality built into Google TV is stellar
If you rely on Google search to keep tabs on the latest shows and movies coming out, it might be worth plumping for the Chromecast with Google TV over its rivals.
That’s because Google has added a new shortcut on all search results for new boxsets and films that lets you add a title to your Watchlist, which will then appear on your Chromecast menu.
So, you can add a film that’s piqued your interest from your work computer during a lunch-hour search, only to be notified when it’s available to watch from your Chromecast menu. Not only that, but if the title is available from a number of different streaming services or stores, Google will let you compare prices from the main menu, before picking one. So, you’ll never have to pay to rent a title that’s also included in your Prime subscription, for example.
And lastly, the new Chromecast with Google TV includes the AI-powered Google Assistant. This is the same chatty helper found in the Nest Mini and Android smartphones. Google Assistant is easily the smartest smart assistant on the market right now. Whether you’re looking for the opening times for your local cinema, finding out about the conditions on the road for an upcoming journey, delays on your commute, or new movies from a favourite director – speaking into the remote control will surface all of the answers.
If you’ve got a few smart light bulbs, plugs, or a thermostat set-up with the Google Home app, you’ll be able to control all of these using your remote control too. So, you can dim the lights, crank up the heating, and launch a favourite boxset without moving from the sofa.
Chromecast with Google TV 4K is very easy to recommend
With most Smart TVs now shipping with baked-in apps for the biggest streaming services (Disney+, Netflix, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer) the idea of buying a dedicated device for streamers might seem a little antiquated. However, Chromecast with Google TV will almost undoubtedly be faster and more responsive than using your telly.
Not only that, but its clever AI-fuelled recommendations, which highlight new TV shows and movies that it thinks will suit your tastes based on everything you’ve watched on the Chromecast with Google TV, are a brilliant way to avoid spending hours mindlessly scrolling through Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney+ looking for something to watch. Rotten Tomato scores baked into the menu means you won’t need to juggle a phone to check the reviews before committing to a new film.
Of course, this is still a Chromecast and you’ll enjoy all of the features that made these devices such a runaway hit in the first place. With a single tap, you’ll be able to beam family photos onto the big screen, broadcast a tab from your Chrome web browser when working from home, or queue-up music videos from YouTube – with friends on iOS and Android able to contribute to the playlist in real-time, to name just a few uses.
Searching for new movies and TV shows on Google? You can add them to the Watch List on your Chromecast with a single click
Smart lightbulbs, video doorbells, Nest thermostats, and other gadgets managed by the Google Home app can be controlled by the Google Assistant-equipped remote control that ships with the Chromecast with Google TV.
Better still, you can create your own Routines, so a voice command of your choosing (“OK Google, it’s movie night,” for example) can trigger multiple actions – turn on the telly, load the main menu of your Chromecast with Google TV, dim the lights, silence the doorbell, the list goes on.
Obviously, it goes without saying that if your home is filled with Amazon Echo speakers, you’ll be able to enjoy the same features… but only if you buy a Fire TV Stick or Fire TV Cube.
The previous Chromecast, which is still available to buy in some stores, was languishing behind the competition from Amazon, Roku, and Apple. But Google has made up all of that lost ground with this stunning Chromecast with Google TV. This streamer is a complete joy to use.
It’s a worthwhile upgrade for anyone with a previous Chromecast model plugged into their telly and those who are heavily invested in the Google ecosystem (or prefer Rotten Tomatoes scores to IMDb) should definitely prioritise this over Amazon’s Fire TV Stick range. Highly recommended.
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