Google’s latest take on the Chromecast is a little bigger but comes with even more features and a remote. Is it a must have for TV owners?
Even though every TV typically comes with a variant of a smart TV operating system, you might not be happy with it. Samsung TVs get Tizen, LG uses webOS, Hisense has VIDAA U, and you can find different versions of Android TV on a whole bunch of other TVs, plus an assortment of stock options that just might not win you over.
While many of these are improving, they’re not always a guaranteed win for every TV owner, and some may opt for something else. That might come from a video game console or a Blu-ray player, or even a media device, such as an Apple TV 4K.
However all of those gadgets have one thing in common: they all tend to cost over $200, making them not exactly inexpensive upgrades.
The Chromecast has long been an inexpensive way to get streaming media to work with any TV, and in the latest edition, Google is bringing an operating system to its media gadget alongside 4K support, all the while keeping the price just under $100.
Is it the best way to upgrade any TV to something more modern?
What is it?
The latest take on Google’s Chromecast dongle, the new Chromecast with Google TV is a little bigger than the previous Chromecast, which was a small hockey puck-styled accessory for your TV that turned it into a wireless receiver for your phone and tablet. It’s marginally bigger than that initial model, which has been found about the place for between $49 and $100 depending on whether you wanted high definition or 4K over the past few years.
Google’s latest is a little bigger, but you’d barely notice, and used the same approach, keeping things simple with an HDMI port for your TV and a power port over USB.
The design is therefore simple and unobtrusive, plugging into an HDMI port on your TV and typically hanging out the back, taking power not from the HDMI, but from a USB port, which in this model has been upgraded to USB Type C. You get a fairly long cable in the box, though, plus a small charging brick, so you can plug the new Chromecast into a power source near your TV plug with ease.
What does it do?
Once you do, and then go through the several steps of setup, you’ll not just turn your TV into a streaming receiver for your phone, tablet or computer, but also give it a bit of an operating system.
Specifically, you’ll give it Google TV, formerly known as “Android TV”, which means you’ll be able to downloads apps and games for use on your TV in a way not unlike how phones and tablets work, but made for your TV instead.
Think about the apps normally reserved for streaming services such as Netflix, Stan, Disney+, and Apple TV+, and you’ll get an idea of some of what you can do, but there’s more, too.
Does it do the job?
Thanks to that support for apps, you’ll find music services covered here, too, as well as news services and games. If you want to use the latter, you’ll need to bring a gamepad, but if you don’t care, you have more than a phone to navigate with, as Google has included a remote.
The remote is possibly one of the more compelling parts of the new Google Chromecast package, offering a directional pad, enter button, back, home, and three buttons to let you trigger YouTube, Netflix, and the Google Assistant. And because the Google Assistant is here, it means the Chomecast remote has a microphone, so you can talk to it.
Much like how you can talk to the Apple TV, you can ask Google to look for specific films or TV shows, and have it find them either on the services you have, the services you don’t yet pay for, and even the movie and TV show services Google offers. In some instances, Google’s Chromecast even does a better job finding things than what we’ve experienced with the Apple TV 4K.
The microphone helps make the Chromecast with Google TV a winner, but it’s not the only thing. Just having a remote means the Chromecast is easier for everyone to control, because while you can share your phone and tablet this way — much like you always could — it’s a gadget that basically brings a decent smart interface to any TV, be it a new 4K HDR model, or something a fair bit older.
If you have an old TV and your only wish was that it let you access streaming services without spending up a big deal, the Chromecast with Google TV makes it happen. It’s built for anyone, and that’s hard not to admire.
In fact, when it’s not in use, the Google Chromecast can actually work in much the same way as a smart display, turning your TV or monitor into a digital picture frame. Handy.
What does it need?
Perhaps impressively, Google’s new Chromecast is so well thought out that it doesn’t really need much, except maybe a rechargeable remote.
While the remote looks a heck of a lot like the remote on the old Google Daydream VR headsets — and is so close, this reviewer is fairly sure Google just reused them for this product — one of the main points of difference is that the Daydream remote was rechargeable, and this is not. Rather, Google has opted for two AAA batteries, which is very remote-like, but not very modern.
You also can’t seem to remap those Netflix or YouTube buttons, which might be a pain if you don’t use either of the services, but use something else instead.
The remote is about the only major negative we can find with the new Chromecast, except for maybe the storage, which is set to 8GB, though only a little over 4GB is available to you. On the old Chromecast, that wasn’t a problem because you couldn’t install apps. With this model, you can install apps and games, so you may be limited on how much you install, though if you find yourself downloading apps and games aplenty to the point where the memory gets spent quickly, it might be time to look at another device, like maybe a game console.
Is it worth your money?
But at $99, Google makes a compelling case for the new Chromecast quite easily. It’s basically made for anyone with an old TV who wants it to do some of the things a new TV does, and it’s also made for people who don’t like the operating system on their current TV, too.
Simply put, the new Chromecast is a really compelling proposition. It’s practically a steal.
Yay or nay?
At just under a hundred, Google’s Chromecast with Google TV takes what was already a genuinely excellent way to get the web to a TV and makes it even better.
The new Chromecast is transformative, and brings the power of the internet to any TV, be it new or old. While it’s not a must have for any TV owner, if you’re unhappy with the smart features on your TV or don’t have any to speak of at all, the Chromecast with Google TV doesn’t just expand the capability of your phone to send to the TV, but makes your TV better by bringing an operating system that anyone can use. Highly recommended.