Chromecast with Google TV (HD) review: A worthwhile upgrade

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When the Chromecast with Google TV (HD) was unveiled, we’re sure that more than a few heads turned in confusion. Who is this device for and why would you choose it? Having spent a week with Google’s latest streaming stick, we feel closer to an answer. This is our full review.

Before we dive in: If you want 4K content, then this is not the device for you. Even though this is a newer device, as the name implies, it can only output 1080p video at up to 60fps. If you want UHD and 4K video streaming in your home, then stick with the original Chromecast with Google TV.

Video — Chromecast with Google TV (HD) review

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Ditching the old paradigm

When Google launched the Chromecast line back in 2013, the idea that you would use your smartphone to control or manage all playback and streaming seemed novel. While it certainly has its flaws, the barrier to entry is removed to most people. So long as you do own a smartphone.

Using a Chromecast as the beating heart of a home media entertainment system was doable, but the limitations of the Cast SDK mean that while intuitive to most, it creates a barrier for some people. Especially those not confident using their smartphone or aware that you can get an application on your phone to connect to your TV, then let the Chromecast handle everything.

Those limitations have become increasingly apparent when such excellent Android TV set-top boxes like the Nvidia Shield TV exist. That said, it’s easy to forget that this is merely a $30 streaming dongle (plus remote) that does what it sets out to do without exorbitant entry costs. I can personally see this being the perfect upgrade for elderly relatives or a kid’s bedroom. Removing the reliance on the smartphone is, in fact, the most important upgrade.

I have become very familiar with the physical Chromecast remote over the past couple of years using the device daily on my living room TV. It’s a great size and the buttons have a mushy appeal to me that reminds me of old-school remotes from my youth. On the new model, the remote is identical. That means the same dedicated Google Assistant button, YouTube, and Netflix buttons. Google has decided that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and that is absolutely fine here.

If you’re willing to spend $20, you can buy a spare direct from the Google Store, but that’s two-thirds the cost of a new Chromecast HD. That wouldn’t be a sensible use of your cash unless you simply must have a spare. After all, the small size does make the Chromecast remote easy to misplace.

As for the actual device, the Chromecast with Google TV (HD) is a carbon copy of the 4K version that was released back in 2020. It utilizes the exact same footprint with the short HDMI lead attached to a flat oblong shape. There’s a USB-C port at the bottom, which is needed for power, but can be used for expansion via USB-C so long as you have a dongle that can be connected to a power outlet. Annoyingly but somewhat expectedly, there is still no ability to power the device via the USB ports found on the back of many modern TVs.

You can only pick up the new Chromecast in a solitary white or “Snow” colorway. The accompanying remote is similarly plain, but the neat touch of colored batteries in the box for the remote is still here. This doesn’t matter all too much as the Chromecast is hidden from view 99.9% of the time.

The same Google TV we’ve come to know

There is absolutely no difference in the build of Google TV that comes pre-loaded on the Chromecast HD versus the original 4K-capable model from 2020. If there is a dip in performance courtesy of the lower 1.5GB of RAM and Amlogic S805X2 chip, then I have yet to notice it.

That’s not to say performance is slick all of the time. You might see momentary hangs or lag when trying to load certain apps. Once they have loaded, things run smoothly but it’s noticeable, especially when booting up for the first time. As our very own Ben Schoon noted in his review of the original Chromecast with Google TV back in 2020, the main Google TV homescreen can take a couple of seconds to load sometimes. Once the homepage populates with images and content suggestions, it’s fairly smooth and on par with most cable or satellite TV services I’ve used over the years — without the exorbitant subscription fees.

Almost all applications you’ll run on your TV are perfectly fine. Internal hardware aside, so long as you can scroll and click to select a video on apps like YouTube or Netflix, then most set-top boxes are pretty much the same. I tried a little Stadia and the experience has been just as smooth as it always has been – at least for me – which makes it the first dedicated 1080p-only hardware from Google to offer gameplay on the cloud gaming platform.

The only major annoyance you might run into from the get-go is the 8GB storage constraint. A number of apps come pre-installed such as Netflix, YouTube, and all the usual culprits. There is though, the addition of TikTok that gets added. You can prevent this during the setup process, but you may, like I did, gloss over it without paying enough attention.

While somewhat moot, on a 4K TV, you can see the dip in image quality. The Chromecast with Google TV (HD) is still, as you’d expect, best used with 1080p TV sets or older HD-capable models for the most consistent experience.

But what about Android 12 for Google TV?

What is particularly interesting is that the Chromecast with Google TV (HD) is one of the first to ship with last year’s Android 12 build pre-loaded. It’s a modest upgrade, but there are a few notable features that come out of the box.

The most important to frequent travellers could be the “Quick Connect” mode for Wi-Fi. This lets you join Wi-Fi networks in super-fast fashion by scanning a QR code on your phone. Many people already use all existing models of the Chromecast as a portable media center, this is a neat addition that will make the sometimes frustrating process of connecting to wireless networks that bit smoother – so long as you do have a phone running Android 13.

There are other useful functions like the ability to scale text up to 130% of the original size, which should make content easier to read for those with visual impairments. Another visual change is the ability to match the system or device frame rate to the content being displayed. It’s enabled by default but you can adjust this or disable it if you want.

Other options include the ability to disable surround-sound mode and those neat microphone and camera access indicators are also now visible here in Android 12 for Google TV on the Chromecast HD. None of this directly affects the experience of Google TV but rounds out the feature-set available in ways that do matter.

Final thoughts

In terms of Google’s streaming hardware lineup, the Chromecast with Google TV (HD) makes sense. To those wanting the best streaming option, stick with the 2020 iteration. Anyone that just wants a simple replacement for the admittedly basic 2018 Chromecast, it’s almost the perfect solution so long as you do not care for 4K content.

While from afar it seems a little convoluted it’s a good upgrade for a lot of households. Firstly, you can get rid of the sometimes frustrating reliance on your smartphone for casting content to your TV. Secondly, there’s a clean, well-organized menu and UI and finally, we get a remote to aid that transition from a smartphone-led entertainment hub to a more traditional TV-led approach.

Priced at $30, you’re getting more bang for your buck from the Google streaming dongle than ever before — which is only a good thing.

Get the Chromecast with Google TV(HD)

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