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Roku should be worried – Review Geek



Grade:
8/10
?

  • 1 – Absolutely hot garbage
  • 2 – Sorta ljummet sopor
  • 3 – Strongly incorrect design
  • 4 – Some advantages, lots of disadvantages
  • 5 – Acceptably imperfect
  • 6 – Good enough to buy for sale
  • 7 – Good, but not the best in class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with some footnotes
  • 9 – Shut up and take my money
  • 10 – Absolute design Nirvana

Award: $ 50

Chromecast with Google TV and remote control
Justin Duino

For years, when friends or family asked me “which streaming gadget should I buy,” my answer was “get a Roku.” Provided that your TV’s built-in smart interface does not suit you, it is the best option in terms of price and compatibility. Or at least it was: Google’s redesigned strangely labeled “Chromecast with Google TV” is a serious contender for the best streaming stick, dongle, box, grej in its price range.

Here’s what we like

  • Cheap
  • Remotely control your TV
  • Good home screen
  • Solid performance

And what we do not do

  • Hard to say which service you are using
  • No space for games or Stadia compatibility
  • Remote layout may be better

It’s not perfect: Google’s new interface may not suit you if you only use one or two services. And even if it’s based on Android TV (Google TV) interface, formerly Android TV, which replaced Google TV? – whatever they call it now), its gaming tools and other expansive tools are limited. This thing will not dismantle NVIDIA SHIELD as our choice for the best full-featured streaming device.

But for $ 50 it does not need. The new Chromecast offers a bit of usability for a lot of extra capability compared to the older model, with some software smartly designed for today’s cord-cutting users spreading over more streaming subscriptions than they can remember.

New hardware

First, Chromecast looked like an oversized USB device, then a hockey puck. Now it looks like one of the plastic-pressed coin bags, albeit in a selection of flat white or soothing pastel blue or pink. It really did not matter what the gadget looks like when it spends all its time hiding behind your TV, and it still is.

Chromecast with Google TV connected to the stream
Justin Duino

The biggest user change is the new interface borrowed from Android TV and the resulting remote control (matched to the color of the dongle) to control everything. Chromecast now works, well, just like any other streaming digital box – control and content management from your phone is no longer needed. But if you happen to be on your phone, you can still cast video and music content to the gadget.

The new Chromecast incorporates the technical features of Chromecast Ultra: 4K resolution, 60 frames per second video and HDR support. In addition, its more flexible powers mean that it works with Bluetooth accessories (like game controls!) And includes some local storage. Four gigabytes, to be exact, which is a bit disappointing if you expected to actually play a few games.

Chromecast Home screen

Oh, and one more consideration: The extra figurative power means that Chromecast needs a little extra literal power. It can no longer run at just 7.5 watts from the diagnostic USB port on your TV – now you need to connect it with a standard USB wall charger. It’s a downer if the surge protector behind your TV feels a bit full.

With more options

But can it handle all the same things as the latest Chromecast? All this and more. Thanks to Android TV under the hood, virtually all major streaming video services are supported, with the notable exception of Apple TV +. For those services that do not offer an Android TV app – and again, they are quite rare, as the CollegeHumors Dropout TV premium service also offers one – you can rely on your old Chromecast features from your phone.

During the installation process, Google will guess which services you are already using when signing in with your Google Account. This can be more or less correct, depending on how big a Chrome / Android user you are. Unfortunately, there is no automatic login, so I found myself using the remote control’s D-pad to log in to Netflix – never a fun experience. It’s a point against it in ease of use versus the old Chromecast installation. It is worth noting that the Android TV remote app does not work with the new model, which makes entering the password much more difficult.

Chromecast movie page

Once you get to the home screen, you may be amazed at the layout. The new Google TV interface looks more like a video service in itself than a traditional streaming gadget: It serves algorithmically predicted programs and movies based on what you’ve seen and what’s popular. Choose a show or movie and it will take you directly into the video – you basically never see the app it runs on. Applying is a bit more contextual, showing which movie or TV show is in which service and how much you have to pay for it if it is a rent.

Chromecast Apps page

You can find the apps themselves, with their familiar TV interfaces and menus, if you point a little. But it’s clear that Chromecast prefers to spend most of your non-viewing time on its home screens, divided into main sections, movies, applications, apps (which include games) and libraries. On the latter, you’ll find a collection of items you own on Google / YouTube / Play Movies / whatever they call this week, plus your personal watchlist.

Watchlist is my favorite feature of the new Chromecast. It really lets the device’s overall list of movies and TV shows shine because you can add whatever you want to your watch list and everything in one place. No need to remember which show or movie is available for which service, just go to your list to continue where you left off.

Chromecast Watchlist

The interface does not try very hard to tell you which service you are actually using right now, and it can of course be annoying for some people. But I found it refreshing to focus almost entirely on content rather than content delivery. The interface is also much faster than I’m used to: I do not know what hardware the little dongle uses, but it does make my Roku-powered TV look like it’s covered in molasses.

I wish there was an option to hide content from services I do not use or am not interested in. I understand that many people are looking for Lovecraft Country, but since I’m not paying for HBO Max, it’s not an option for me at the moment, and it will not be for quite some time at least. There is no need to add it to my home screen.

Better control

I was pleasantly surprised during the installation process for the new Chromecast when it asked me what type of TV I was using. You see, in addition to the wireless RF connection between the remote control and the dongle, as standard with most of these devices, the Chromecast remote control has a semi-universal IR blaster. In a minute or two, I gained control of the power, volume, and input of my TCL TV.

Remote setting screen for Chromecast

Provided that Chromecast is the only thing you ever use your TV for, or even that you just swap it for a game console or Blu-ray player, this is perfect. That means you can slide your original TV remote control into a box somewhere, and Bob is your uncle. (I have no idea why your uncle has anything to do with this.)

This is a big positive in usability over previous generations of both Chromecast and standalone Android TV devices. Unfortunately, it is not as powerful as a standard universal remote control. There is no way to navigate or select menus on the TV with the Chromecast remote, so when I switched to aerial TV to watch some football, I needed my standard TV remote to change the channel. I suspect Google hopes you’re paying for YouTube TV, where this would not be true, but I withdrew it after the last price increase. So a truly universal remote control is unfortunately out of the question.

Chromecast with Google TV remote control
Justin Duino

The remote also has a microphone and a dedicated Google Assistant button, which contrasts with the rest of them. Hold it down and you can give Chromecast voice commands. You can take it for granted and search for or launch video content, but it’s also compatible with all the Google Assistant stuff you can do with your phone or a Nest smart speaker. This is nice, but I’ve found the main interface intuitive enough that I did not have to use it.

There are a couple of odd choices on the layout of the remote control. Mute is a button in the middle of the remote control, nowhere near the volume buttons on the page, and there is no dedicated play / pause. When watching videos, you have to press the center of the D-pad twice to pause … or you can press and hold the “Assistant” button and say “Pause”, which takes about ten times longer. But overall, the remote control is still a much improved experience.

By the way, it is possible to re-map the YouTube and Netflix buttons, but you have to use a third-party app and get smart in the settings. This is really something that should be built in, but it makes sense that it is not.

Do not count on games

With the new dongle running Android TV underneath, I became interested in the possibility of running games on the new Chromecast. It is possible, but not perfect. While you can pair Bluetooth game controls easily enough in the settings menu, Chromecast does not have much power – it struggled to keep fairly simple 3D games that Hungry Shark Evolution up at a decent framerate. With only 4 GB of storage (and no way to expand it) it will not hold many of them either.

Apps menu.

However, I found an ideal use for the new Chromecast as a game streamer. Testing it with NVIDIA’s GeForce Now was as enjoyable as ever, but intense multiplayer games like Rocket league suffers from the lack of a cable connection option. (An Ethernet adapter is available for pre-order for an additional $ 20.) Which makes it outrageous that Stadia, apparently Google’s flagship gaming option, is not supported on this new Chromecast at launch. Even though it works with Chromecast Ultra, still the only way to play Stadia on a real TV.

Chromecast can also run a lot of Android TV apps, but apart from the usual video and audio services, I could not find any reason to do so.

A new challenger

The new Chromecast is more capable than the old Chromecast Ultra, but not quite as incredibly powerful as the SHIELD. But it still has an impressive mix of usefulness and value, especially if you use multiple streaming services and / or rely heavily on YouTube for your content.

Chromecast with unboxing from Google TV
Justin Duino

With Roku becoming less of a universal provider of service support, and thus less of an automatic recommendation for a budget streamer, Chromecast makes a serious argument for it. If you think you just want a little more functionality than your current smart TV installation can provide – say the ability to play a streamed game or watch your smarthome security camera with a voice command – it’s a solid choice.

Google can (and maybe) make Chromecast even better, with more options for filtering content on home screens and Stadia support. But even in its slightly raw form, an upgrade over the older Chromecast is enough, which is easy to recommend.

Here’s what we like

  • Cheap
  • Remotely control your TV
  • Good home screen
  • Solid performance

And what we do not do

  • Hard to say which service you are using
  • No space for games or Stadia compatibility
  • Remote layout may be better




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