With the latest Google Chromecast, the viewer not only gets a streaming device, but a full-fledged Android TV media player.
The fourth generation of Google’s Chromecast is very different from its predecessors. The popular streaming device has become a full-fledged Ultra HD media player, with Android TV as the operating system. This means that we can install apps on the Chromecast for all kinds of streaming services and other applications. The Chromecast now also comes with its own remote control. In contrast to previous generations, the operation no longer requires a smartphone or tablet. Of course, the Chromecast can also be used to stream from a mobile device to the TV – if desired in Ultra HD quality.
In the box
The new Chromecast is sold under the name ‘Chromecast with Google TV’. The dongle is shaped like a big smooth pebble with only a reset button. In America, the Chromecast is available in three colors, but in Europe we have only seen the snow-white version. On one side of the pebble is a cable with HDMI connector, on the other side the input for a USB power supply. This power supply and a remote control are included. All parts are neatly protected with soft plastic in a compact box. The quickstart manual is not really necessary in practice. A Google account and the Google Home app on a smartphone or tablet are required. Both are free. A WiFi network must also be available.
We plug the Chromecast into one of the TV’s free HDMI ports, which we adjust to the correct input. The device must be supplied with power, and for this we use the supplied adapter and USB cable. We really need that, because if we try to power the Chromecast from one of the USB ports on the back of the TV, an animation appears on the screen that makes it clear that this is not the intention. The Chromecast apparently requires too much power for this and therefore really needs to be connected to the mains. For those who have the TV hanging flat against the wall, this unfortunately means an extra visible cable.
In a next step we will be asked if we want to set up the remote control. This is a compact model with round shapes and a convex bottom. Google has clearly opted for something different here, as most media players provide a sober, slim remote that is modeled on that of the Apple TV. With the Chromecast’s zapper, we can choose to turn the TV on and off with the power button (via HDMI-CEC). We also get the option to control the sound of the TV or AV receiver with the volume buttons. Many brands are supported in this, and in practice this is very useful. Less convenient is the placement of the volume buttons on the right side of the remote control, where they (for right-handed users) just cannot be easily reached with the thumb. The convex bottom of the zapper feels great in your hand,
As soon as the installation has been completed, we see what Google means by ‘Google TV’. The layout of the home screen is slightly different from other Android TV devices. However, the differences are small – at least for the time being for Dutch users. Google TV shows a list of available apps, and below that an overview of the last viewed titles. Some of the most used apps are already installed. Since we are logged into our Google account, we are also immediately logged into YouTube and Netflix. There is also an overview ‘Apps from other devices’. It contains apps that we have used on other devices with Android TV and are also available on the new Chromecast. With a few clicks, these are also installed on the new player.
Although the player is officially not yet for sale in the Netherlands, we can find the apps for most Dutch streaming services in the app store. In addition to international services such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney +, the apps from Ziggo, Canal Digitaal, Videoland, NPO, NLZIET, KIJK, Dplay and Pathé Thuis are also available. There is no KPN Interactive TV app for Android TV, so it is logical that it is missing. YouTube and Netflix have also received their own button on the remote control from Google.
The nice thing about Android TV is that in addition to the apps of streaming services, countless other applications can be installed. Many users are happy with the media player apps Kodi, VLC and Plex, with which movies and series can be played from a NAS or computer in the home network. For music, there is Spotify, Deezer and TuneIn, and there are apps to consult the news or weather. Technically oriented users will also find applications to manage files, measure the WiFi speed or set up a VPN, for example. For gamers, there are apps for Twitch and Steam. There are even apps to provide the buttons of the included remote control with additional functions. You can’t think of it that bad.
Sound and Vision
The new Chromecast is suitable for HDR playback with HDR10, HDR10 + and Dolby Vision. If we choose the ‘Content match’ option in the settings menu, the optimal HDR variant is automatically enabled when suitable content is played. After using the Chromecast, however, ‘Content matching’ is switched off, in which case an HDR display is constantly forced. Image purists will not prefer this, but we have to conclude that it does not look bad on the used test TV (an LG OLED model with Dolby Vision). Within the streaming apps, the image quality is hardly inferior to that of the apps built into the test TV. Here and there we see a lipsync problem, which, however, can easily be compensated in the TV. Casting with the new Chromecast is as usual. Suitable videos that we stream from, for example, the YouTube or Netflix app on the smartphone are shown in Ultra HD and with HDR on the TV screen. The new Chromecast is also up to date in terms of sound. Dolby 5.1 and Atmos are supported.
We activate the Google Assistant with a special button on the remote control. Hold down the button, ask a question (‘What’s the weather?’, ‘Show movies with Michael Keaton’) and the search results will appear on the screen. The Assistant understands Dutch very well, but in the search results the hits are limited to YouTube and Google Films. No films from, for example, the Netflix catalog are proposed. This option does not work optimally in the Netherlands, but that will change when Google TV is officially rolled out with us. That this will happen is certain, because Google has big plans with Google TV, which will also appear in Smart TVs and other devices.
What we miss
Since we are a bit early, there are still a number of options that we miss. In other countries, Google TV has a section with personal recommendations from the range of the streaming services used and YouTube. Users can give recommendations a thumbs up or down – so future tips better reflect personal tastes – or add them to a personal watch list. Dutch users will have to do without these options for the time being, but that does not really stand in the way of viewing pleasure.
A full-fledged Android TV media player for less than seventy euros is an excellent deal. Still, it should be cheaper, because in the US the new Chromecast is sold for an incredible $ 50. That is why we think that the price will also drop somewhat in Europe. Not all functions of Google TV are available for Dutch users yet, but to be honest, we don’t really miss them yet. The new Google Chromecast is an excellent and affordable way to make your TV ‘smart’, complete with media player and all modern image and sound technologies.