TV streaming dongles and boxes used to simply be a way for older, dumber TVs to gain access to streaming channels. But with almost every TV on the market today being a smart TV, what’s the allure of a dongle, like the brand new Google Chromecast with Google TV?
Review: Chromecast with Google TV
For a lot of folks, choosing an external streaming device means they get a familiar operating system they know and like. For others it’s about being able to connect your TV and smartphone, tablet ,or laptop, since some TVs’ operating systems don’t play nice with all phones. That’s the why… now to the how. Google’s new Chromecast with Google TV just launched. In this review I’ll take a look at what the streaming dongle can do, its key features, and whether I think it’s a good buy. While I do that, I’ll also share some other reasons why you might want a Chromecast, even if you do have a streaming TV.
New design, colours
The all new Chromecast with Google TV has been redesigned; it’s now got a softer, more pebbly rounded shape kind of like the new Nest Audio speakers did. It retains the same puck-and-HDMI cable configuration that makes it super easy to hide behind your TV. It’s also being made in a handful of pastel colours too.
New Remote on Chromecast with Google TV
The big new addition to the package here is the addition of a physical remote—with voice control. This is a biggie. Roku has always offered a remote with its streaming devices and with its previous generations of Chromecasst, Google seemed to pooh-pooh physical remotes in favour of using only your smartphone, thought it has obviously changed its tune.
I think the addition of a remote is great. Sometimes, and trust me on this, it’s just easier to grab a remote and punch one or two buttons, instead of finding my phone, unlocking it, navigating to the right app, loading it and then trying to control the TV.
The new voice remote can also be used to control your TV or soundbar, change the volume, switch inputs, and more.
4K ready with Dolby
The Chromecast with Google TV is 4K ready, has Dolby Vision (it also supports HDMI pass-through of Dolby audio content) and HDR and can stream 60 fps.
What can Google TV interface do?
Let’s get to know the Google TV interface and what it can do.
One of Google’s big selling points on this device is that Google TV organizes movies and TV shows from your subscribed services in one place. It’s a lot like Apple’s watch now if that’s familiar to you.
Chromecast with Google TV will make personal recommendations based on what you’ve watched and what interests you, (it apparently draws this from the channels you’re signed up for and logged in to) from across your subscriptions and content available to you.
Google TV’s Watchlist lets you bookmark movies and shows you want to save for later. You can add to your Watchlist right from a Google search on your phone or laptop, and it will be waiting on your TV when you get home. (You do have to be signed into your google account). Since the Watchlist feature is available via Google Search, you can use it on an iPhone, iPad, Android device, or any web browser. To get started, simply search Google for a movie or TV show.
While adding something to your Watchlist is easy, finding it to browse is not… It’s not in your main tabs, and you can try asking Google for it but it kept calling up a TV show called Watchlist. In the end I found it… buried in a tab called Library. Looks like this needs a bit of work or some renaming.
A tab called For You tab gives you recommendations from all your streaming services.
At the top of the screen, view trailers for featured movies and shows.
In the Top picks row, you’ll see shows and movies recommended for you.
In the Your apps row, quickly access all of your favourite apps.
To resume where you left off, check in on the Continue watching section.
Want to know what everyone else is watching? There’s the Trending on Google row, with titles trending on Google Search.
Search across channels, search with voice
Thanks to the Google Assistant in the remote, you can request a specific title or search by mood, genre, actor, and more.
Use Google Assistant on your TV to control smart home devices too
You can talk to your Google Assistant about more than just what’s on. Ask Google to dim the lights, show you your Nest home security cameras or to adjust the temp on your Nest Thermostat.
Can you use Chromecast/Google Assistant when the TV is off?
I couldn’t find a straight up answer to this online. But when I tried talking to Google with just my voice, and NOT using the Google Assistant button on the remote there was no response. So my experience with this is the Google Assistant does not act as a stand alone or voice-activated alone digital assistant on Chromecast with Google TV.
Cast from devices
One of the big reasons folks add a streaming device like Chromecast is to be able to share content from their phones. With Chromecast with Google TV you can cast from more than a thousand compatible Android and iOS apps directly from your phone, laptop or tablet plus mirror your Chrome web browser tab to your TV. To do it, look for the Cast icon (a rectangle with Wi-Fi bars in the corner) in compatible apps.
Play Multiroom music on Chromecast
Your Chromecast-enabled TV and/or sound bar can also act as another speaker in your Google Home ecosystem. You can add your Chromecast and TV/Sound bar to a room or speaker group to enjoy whole home audio, music, and podcasts.
I have a great Sonos sound bar hooked up to my Hisense TV, so now this whole set up can become part of my living room music system.
If I have a smart TV, do I still need Chromecast?
One of the biggest reasons you might consider adding a Chromecast to an already smart TV is for the search feature. With Chromecast with Google TV you can search across all channels instead of having to go in and out of each channel or streaming app. Also, for Android users, you might find it’s a more seamless sharing experience.
Overall review: Chromecast with Google TV
Overall this. Is a great 4K streaming device. I love the small size and new design, though since it’s behind my TV I don’t get to see it to enjoy it. I like that it’s 4K and for the price, this is one of the lowest cost 4K streamers you can buy.
I also like the Chromecast TV interface ; it’s easy to understand and navigate.