TheThe new Chromecast is a much different product compared to the original $35 streaming stick that became an urgent hardware hit for Google in the past in 2013. Rather than a barebones interface that will require you to play and control content making use of your smartphone or PC, the 2020 Chromecast has evolved to give a richer, full-featured streaming experience a lot more comparable to a Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Apple TV.
It’s got an all-new interface created by Google (and built atop Android TV) that’s flush with content from popular services like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and HBO Max. You navigate that quite happy with a normal handy remote control that will come in the box. And as a streaming gadget, the Chromecast checks off almost anything important: it can 4K, supports Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, and includes a massive selection of software at the ready.
The “Chromecast with Google TV,” as it’s fully called, is available starting today for $49.99, a cost that puts Google right consistent with Roku’s Streaming Stick Plus and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K. It’s also $20 significantly less than Google’s Chromecast Ultra, which doesn’t have a remote or its TV interface.
After spending a couple of days with the brand new Chromecast, I’ve been mostly happy with the brand new Google TV software, which puts an enormous focus on discovery and assisting you find something to view. And the changes don’t come at the sacrifice of functionality; you can still cast content to the Chromecast from your own phone, tablet, or computer – say, if a pal comes over and really wants to demonstrate a video or play a song from their phone.
Like its recent predecessors, this Chromecast is a dongle that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port, but it’s got a softer oval condition with a matte finish. Unlike older models, that could sometimes get enough power from a TV’s USB port, that one must be connected to the accompanying 7.5-watt power brick. But hey, at least Google has switched to USB-C on the Chromecast itself.
The Chromecast now runs Android TV as its operating-system, this means you’ve got a multitude of applications to select from. Apart from an Apple TV Plus app, which doesn’t currently exist on Google’s platforms, there are no clear holes in the Chromecast’s roster of streaming services. HBO Max and Peacock are both available already, as are Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Disney Plus, Vudu, Plex, and almost anything else you’ll be looking for.
The Chromecast remote can control your TV over both IR and HDMI-CEC.
And oh, just what a difference an excellent remote makes. The Chromecast’s new handy remote control looks and feels as though a minimalistic, well-designed Roku remote (without the headphone jack, unfortunately). It’s compact, comfortable, and the buttons under the D-pad are well-spaced out. There’s a Google Assistant button, that you can press and hold for voice searches, plus shortcuts for YouTube (of course) and Netflix. The remote uses both HDMI-CEC and IR, so it’s got power and volume buttons. There’s also an input button for switching your TV to the Chromecast, which means you don’t have to grab another remote to achieve that, either. It’s powered by two AAA batteries, which are conveniently contained in the box.
Voice search with the remote more often than not works reliably. There is one instance where I sought out “movies with Tom Hanks,” and it surfaced illegitimate YouTube rips above the rest, but I never ran into that amusing bug again. With Google Assistant, you can say things such as “watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix” or “watch The Mandalorian on Disney Plus” and you’ll jump to that content. Looks for “show me Academy Award-winning movies” work like you’d expect, though “show me movies with a 90 percent or better rating on Rotten Tomatoes” continues to be an excessive amount of for Assistant to determine. Womp womp.
You can dive into your chosen streaming applications and utilize them exactly like normal, which I’ve found myself doing plenty. However the big new thing with this Chromecast – then one no other Android TV device offers – may be the “Google TV” software that completely replaces the standard Android TV home screen. An individual experience Google developed looks and feels pretty familiar. Visually, it’s near Amazon’s Fire TV interface. Functionally, it aims for the same, comprehensive aggregation as the Apple TV app.
Google TV attempts to breakdown the walls between streaming platforms and puts all their movies and shows hand and hand. It’s put into different sections – FOR YOU PERSONALLY, Movies, Shows, Apps, and Library – and you could switch between them from the most notable navigation bar. See the first three and you’ll discover a very Netflix-like layout with rows of content grouped by genre or various other category that links them. (Action shows, Oscar-winning movies, true crime shows… you get the theory.) Each row combines content from all of the big services you’d expect and helps it be very evident where each title is via. You’ll also visit a Rotten Tomatoes average for some shows and movies as you scroll through them.
You can tell Google TV which streaming programs you pay for, and the ones will be prioritized in your recommendations. But that doesn’t mean you’ll never get ideas from software you’re not subscribed to; I don’t have HBO Max, but Google TV still leans onto it pretty heavily in the films section. Paid rentals and purchases are also contained in these carousels of content. If you don’t subscribe to something or if Google TV is pushing accommodations on you, you’ll visit a lock icon below this content to create this clear. (The lock goes away completely once you log into each app.) You’ll also start to see the occasional recommendation from free, ad-supported services like Tubi TV or Crackle.
There’s no chance to tell Google TV to avoid including a specific service altogether, nevertheless, you can long-press the guts button on the remote to like or dislike individual content, or add something to your watchlist. Clicking into each item introduces a details page with cast information and related recommendations. And if there are multiple means of streaming something, you’ll see that upon this screen too; free options or existing subscriptions are always given higher rank.
The Google TV software appears very proficient at aggregating content from everywhere. This could be surprisingly ideal for services like Sling TV. I typically put it to use merely to stream live TV, but Google’s software highlights the amount of on-demand content includes my subscription. Talking about TV services, if you’re a YouTube TV customer, you’ll visit a “live” tab put into the key Google TV interface, which goes to the channel guide. That’s a good touch. Google says the API for the live TV tab is open to other services and that it’s already dealing with Sling on it.
You won’t find any blatant advertising when using Google TV – at least nothing beats the banner advertisings on Roku OS or the clear “sponsored” row burning TV. However, many of the suggestions feel just like paid placement. I couldn’t be less considering watching Disney Plus’ Secret Society of Second-Born Royals, but it’s among the rotating picks with giant artwork near the top of the FOR YOU PERSONALLY tab. If that’s the worst that it gets, I could live with it. Additionally, there are rows for “trending on Google” and “YouTube recommended videos,” but it’s a Google product. What’d you anticipate? Oh, however the Library tab does desire a large amount of work. Got a huge Movies Anywhere library? At this time, it just shows everything within a, horizontal row. You truly couldn’t have managed to get any less efficient, Google.
If you strongly dislike Google TV, there’s an “apps-only mode” which can be enabled in settings that hides all advice out of your home screen. But that is a drastic step, since it also completely disables search and Google Assistant. It hobbles the Chromecast so badly that there’s really no point in carrying it out – especially since it’s the same home screen, just without tips below your row of apps. You’d be better off just buying another thing.