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Forget everything you know about Chromecast: Chromecast with Google TV is the first new serious streaming device to come along in years. How serious? After hours of research and testing (and just watching TV with it) we’d recommend it alongside similar Roku and Amazon Fire TV streamers—a big leap from “toy” to “tool.”
The original Chromecast—circa 2018, simpler times—allowed you to “cast” content from a mobile device or laptop to your TV, and that’s it. Now, it’s been reinvented as a full-blown streaming device, complete with a remote and its own interface.
And, despite a couple of shortcomings, Chromecast with Google TV is a killer streaming device.
If you buy a Chromecast with Google TV between now and December 2021, you can bundle it with six months of Netflix service (Standard plan, regularly $13.99 a month) for a total of $89.99. That adds up to a total savings of $83.94 on a half-year of Netflix, and both new and current Netflix subscribers are eligible.
The previous version of the Chromecast was limited to whatever you could pull up on your phone or laptop, but the new Chromecast with Google TV comes with a voice remote and its own Android-based media interface (that’s the “Google TV” part).
Like its competition, Chromecast with Google TV collects all of your subscription apps in a single interface and makes recommendations based on what you watch. The first-ever Chromecast remote is a small but feature-packed clicker with Google Assistant voice control and an Apple-like directional ring pad.
In short, it’s a full-blown streaming device in dongle form. Comparing the old versus new Chromecast is like pitting a skateboard against a Tesla: both will get you there, but one does it in sleek style.
You may have giggled at the word “dongle” above (it’s OK—we still do, too), but that’s the Chromecast: a cookie-sized body attached to a flat HDMI cable and plug that hangs off the back of your TV. Once plugged in—with an additional USB cable for power from an AC adapter—the Chromecast is hidden from sight like a Roku or Fire TV streaming stick.
It’s almost too bad that you can’t see it, since the new Chromecast comes in adorable color options: Sunrise (salmon pink), Sky (baby blue), and Snow (white, of course). At least the remote corresponds with complimentary shades.
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The previous Chromecast couldn’t quite match up to Roku and Amazon Fire’s streaming sticks, mostly because of its lack of 4K support and a remote. Chromecast with Google TV levels the field with video and audio upgrades, and its new remote.
BTW, if you’ve recently tried looking for Chromecast Ultra, which supported 4K, sorry: Chromecast with Google TV replaced it.
Like other streaming sticks and previous Chromecasts, setting up a Chromecast with Google TV is plug-and-play simple.
After connecting the dongle to your TV’s HDMI port, you’ll need to power it up from an electrical socket using the included USB cord and AC adapter. Unlike similar tiny devices, this Chromecast can’t be powered by a TV USB port (we tried, no dice—it wouldn’t work).
To start watching, find the newly connected Chromecast in your TV’s input menu, then grab the Chromecast remote (batteries included—thanks, Google). You’ll be directed to install the Google Home app on your phone (if you don’t already have it), which will then walk you through the rest of the setup.
You can also finish setup on the TV screen with the remote instead—either way will take about 20 minutes between auto-updates and app downloads. Maybe make a sandwich while you wait.
Note: The setup process requires that you have a Google account as a gateway into the system. If you’ve managed to avoid becoming part of the Google universe thus far in life, Chromecast is here to drag you over that threshold. Sorry, or welcome!
Google TV is a part of Android-based Google Play, but it doesn’t give you access to all of the same streaming apps—most notably, Apple TV+ (the iOS vs. Android wars never end). Still, most of the major players you’d want are available in your Google TV lineup.
Chromecast with Google TV movie and TV apps (partial list):
Chromecast with Google TV isn’t all about watching TV shows and movies. It also supports most entertainment and basic gaming apps available on the Android platform.
Strangely, Google TV doesn’t come with the Google Stadia cloud gaming platform, though it’ll reportedly be available sometime in 2021.
Chromecast with Google TV entertainment apps (partial list):
Chromecast with Google TV’s interface, which resembles Android TV and YouTube TV, is simple to navigate, with no obnoxious ad intrusions (ahem, Roku). The home screen features a top menu of shortcuts (with recommendations, live YouTube TV content, movies, shows, etc.) above your apps and another row of categories. It’s Google; expect over-categorization.
Even on the older Samsung TV we tested it on, Chromecast with Google TV’s picture, sound, and performance were pristine, easily comparable to Roku and Amazon Fire TV. It looks and sounds even better when streaming Google-native apps like YouTube TV and YouTube. With a fast internet connection (CableTV.com recommends at least 25 Mbps), Chromecast with Google TV runs like a dream.
And yes, you can still cast content from your phone or other devices to your TV as you did with the old Chromecast.
|Chromecast 3rd Generation|
|Chromecast with Google TV|
|$29.99||1080p||2.0 stereo||802.11ac (2.4 GHz/5 GHz)|
|$49.99||1080p, 4K, Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+||DTS, Dolby Digital+, Dolby Audio, Dolby Atmos||802.11ac (2.4 GHz/5 GHz)|
As mentioned earlier, Chromecast with Google TV replaced the Chromecast Ultra, which was a 4K upgrade of the original Chromecast. Besides the remote, Chromecast with Google TV also features superior video and audio to the Chromecast 3rd Generation for just $20 more.
Chromecast with Google TV will work with any TV with an HDMI input (or adapter, if you’re running a vintage television). But, unlike most streaming sticks, Chromecast with Google TV can’t be powered through a TV USB port—it requires its own direct AC power. Make sure you have an extra outlet handy.
The Google TV side of the device doesn’t seem fully cooked to us, however. The lack of apps like Apple TV+ is understandable this early in its existence, but no out-of-the-box inclusion of Google’s own Stadia gaming platform? That’s almost as irresponsible as calling salmon pink “Sunrise.”
But, at just $49.99, Chromecast with Google TV is serious competition for Roku and Amazon Fire TV’s streaming sticks. If you’re a diehard fan of the Google ecosystem, we’d be surprised if you’re not already streaming with one of these dynamic dongles (yes, we’re all giggling together over that one).
The Chromecast 3rd Generation, which is still available to buy, was released in 2018. It has no interface of its own, as it simply casts content from your phone, tablet, or laptop in 1080p.
The Chromecast Ultra, released in 2016 and discontinued in 2020, supported 4K, HDR, and Dolby Vision video resolution, as well as Google’s cloud gaming service Stadia.
Chromecast with Google TV, released September 2020, is the first Chromecast to feature its own native interface and a voice remote. It supports 1080p, 4K, Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HDR10+ video. It also has DTS, Dolby Digital+, Dolby Audio, and Dolby Atmos.
Even though it has its own interface like a standard streaming stick (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, etc.), Chromecast with Google TV still lets you cast from outside devices to your TV.
Unlike other streaming sticks, Chromecast with Google TV can’t be powered through a USB cord plugged into a TV port. It requires direct AC power from an adapter into a two-prong outlet.