Google’s latest streaming device, the $30 Chromecast with Google TV HD, isn’t for home theater enthusiasts who live and breathe 4K and Dolby Atmos. Quite the opposite. The device is limited to a maximum resolution of 1080p (Full HD) and completely lacks the best Dolby video and audio tricks. He. She he is At least capable of playing HDR video. But the target customer is clear: This product is for people who want to bring new intelligence to an old TV (or monitor). Maybe your Airbnb needs more entertainment. These are the use cases where Google’s new streaming device — and similarly priced startup options from Roku and Amazon — make perfect sense.
Despite having a modest processor sometimes navigating the interface, Chromecast with Google TV pretty much succeeds in its task of delivering a good streaming experience wherever you want it. And just because it’s inexpensive doesn’t mean it can’t. Aside from its basic features and bundled remote control, you can run a USB hub in Chromecast HD and take advantage of external storage, connect a webcam for video conferencing, or a wired Ethernet connection for bulletproof broadcasting.
In terms of design and size, good luck spotting any differences between this $30 and $50 Chromecast dongle with Google HD 4K. Older hardware comes in several colors, but you’re stuck with white for the HD model. This is really the only visual distinction. Other than that, they both plug into the HDMI port and come with a USB-C power adapter since the USB ports on TVs often can’t supply enough power to keep them working optimally. The included voice remote is also identical and features the same shortcut buttons for Netflix and YouTube – plus a dedicated Google Assistant button. It’s a convenient, compact remote that makes it easy for you (or for Airbnb guests) to get off in no time.
Regardless of the playback resolution, the user experience for both Chromecasts is the same again. This is a good thing. Despite some constant slowness that Google is still trying to resolve, Google TV remains my favorite interface for browsing TV shows and movies from many different streaming apps and internet TV services. Navigating around its sections – for you, live TV, movies, shows, etc. – is intuitive, recommendations are often in order, and Google ads are harmless. It’s not as stark as what you get from Roku or Amazon, which are Google’s only competitors at this price point. Every major streaming app counts, although major players like Netflix have rejected some Google TV features like the Global Watchlist. It’s not enough to spoil my preference for the platform, but it can be annoying.
I still think Google is going to be doing well by releasing a powerful streaming tool that can really show this software to its full potential, but I didn’t have bad Chromecast HD usage time. I was worried that might be the case, but Google’s improvements over time (and newer OS running Android 12) make it perfectly acceptable. Whether this continues to prove true over time, we’ll know in a few months. What I can say for now is that any performance dips are just a momentary and not a permanent nuisance.
Explore your Chromecast settings and you’ll find that Google will let you go either the route: Simple or Advanced. New with Google TV running Android 12, there is a “match frame rate” setting. But this is beyond other apps I’ve seen and becomes delightfully obsessed with. You have three options:
If the app requests it, your device will match its output to the original frame rate of the content you’re watching, only if your TV can make a smooth transition.
If the app requests it, your device will match its output to the original frame rate of the content you’re watching. This may cause your screen to go blank for a second when you exit or enter the video playback.
Even if the app requests it, your device will never attempt to match its output to the original frame rate of the content you’re watching.
I appreciate that Google understands that home theater geeks are often so finicky that a smooth transition between frame rates really matters. You also get some privacy-focused benefits with the newer software, such as the ability to cut out the microphone (in the handheld remote) or access the camera (if a webcam is connected). Text Scale has been added, allowing you to adjust the text size on the screen between 85 and 115 percent. And setup gets even faster thanks to an onscreen QR code that can quickly pull your Chromecast onto your Wi-Fi network. Obviously, these improvements won’t be exclusive to the cheaper Chromecast HD for long; Google has confirmed that Android 12 is coming to a 4K model in the near future.
The Chromecast with Google TV HD still fully supports a feature of its longstanding namesake: cast. But the days of cloud gaming are effectively numbered — at least when it comes to Stadia. Personally, it still baffles me that Google has not yet launched the full Google Photos app designed for the TV screen. I will be over all of that. Those with smart homes will likewise appreciate the full Google Home app for the TV platform, but that too is still missing.
If you are a video fan, you probably don’t care about this product. 4K TV owners have to look elsewhere. But for anyone who needs a streaming device, perfect for connecting to a secondary TV in the kitchen, gym, or second bedroom… whereverThis $30 Chromecast does the job and offers a richer feature set than the original Chromecast of nearly a decade ago — and somehow costs less.
Every smart device now requires you to agree to a series of terms and conditions before you can use it – contracts that no one actually reads. It is impossible for us to read and analyze every single one of these agreements. But we’re starting to count the number of times you have to click OK to use the devices when we review them since these are agreements that most people don’t read and certainly can’t negotiate.
To use Chromecast with Google TV HD, you must agree to:
- Google’s Terms of Service
- Google Device Arbitration Agreement: “All disputes related to the Google device will be resolved by BINDING ARBITRATION On an individual basis, non-classified […] except you Withdrawal by following the instructions in this Agreement. “
The following agreements are optional:
- Use the Chromecast location: “Allow Google and apps that have your permission on your Chromecast to use the Chromecast rated location from your Wi-Fi.”
- Submit usage and diagnostic data
Additionally, if you want to use the Google Assistant, you must agree to allow Google to collect:
- App information from your devices
- Contact information from your devices: “This data may be saved and used in any Google service where you’re signed in to give you more personalized experiences. You can see and delete your data and change your settings on account.google.com”
The streaming services also have their own terms of service and privacy policies.
Final Screening: At least three mandatory agreements and at least four optional agreements.
Photography by Chris Welch/The Verge