Google’s latest streaming device, the $30 Chromecast with Google TV HD, isn’t designed 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 Dolby’s best video and audio tricks. He does at least it’s capable of playing HDR video. But the target customer is clear: this product is intended for people who want to bring new smarts to an old TV (or monitor). Maybe there’s an Airbnb that needs more fun. These are the use cases where Google’s new streamer and similarly priced entry-level options from Roku and Amazon make perfect sense.
Despite having a mediocre processor that sometimes lags in the interface, Chromecast with Google TV largely succeeds in its mission to deliver a good streaming experience wherever you want. And just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s incompetent. Aside from the basic features and bundled remote, you can turn the Chromecast HD into a USB hub and take advantage of external storage, a webcam for video conferencing, or a wired Ethernet connection for bulletproof streaming.
Good luck seeing any difference in design and size with this $30 dongle $50 Chromecast with Google HD 4K. Older hardware comes in several colors, but you’re stuck with white for the HD model. It’s really the only visual differentiator. Otherwise, they both plug into an HDMI port and come with a USB-C power adapter, since USB ports on TVs often can’t provide enough juice to keep them running optimally. The included remote is the same, too, and has the same hotkeys for Netflix and YouTube — plus a dedicated Google Assistant button. It’s a convenient, compact remote that’s easy for you (or your Airbnb guests) to put down in no time.
You already know its video limitations, but for audio, Chromecast with Google TV HD supports traditional Dolby Digital, so you can still enjoy surround sound. Just without the Atmos height channels.
Aside from the playback resolution, the user experience of both Chromecasts is again the same. And that’s a good thing. Despite some lingering lethargy Google is still trying to figure it out, Google TV remains my favorite interface for watching TV shows and movies from a wide variety of streaming apps and internet TV services. Navigate around its sections — For You, Live TV, Movies, Shows, and more. — is intuitive, recommendations are often spot on, and Google’s advertising is harmless. It’s not as obvious as what you get from Roku or Amazon, Google’s only competitors at this price point. While major players like Netflix have rejected some of Google TV’s features, such as a universal watch list, every major streaming app is considered. It’s not enough to sway my preference for the platform, but it can be annoying.
Google TV has supported personalized profiles (and content-specific child accounts) for some time now, so everyone in your household can have their own watchlist and personalized preferences. Overall, everything about Google TV feels sleek and modern, whether it’s accessing a show’s details page, doing voice search, controlling your smart home, or shooting a Nest camera feed.
I still think Google would be well served by releasing a powerful streaming gadget that can showcase this software to its full potential, but I don’t have the opportunity. bathroom When using Chromecast HD. I was worried this would be the case, but Google’s optimizations over time (and the newer Android 12-based OS) make it perfectly tolerable. We’ll know in a few months if that holds true over time. I can now say that any performance drop is only momentary and not a permanent annoyance.
Dig into Chromecast’s settings and you’ll see that Google will let you go either way: basic or advanced. Google TV running Android 12 has a new, “compatible frame rate” setting. But it goes beyond other apps I’ve seen, and it’s quite elegant. You have three options:
If the app requests it, your device will adjust its output to match the original frame rate of the content you’re watching, ONLY if your TV can handle the transition seamlessly.
If the app requests it, your device will adjust its output to match the original frame rate of the content you’re watching. This may cause your screen to go blank for a second when exiting or entering a video without playback.
Your device will never attempt to match its output to the original frame rate of the content you’re watching, even if the app requests it.
I appreciate that Google understands that home theater enthusiasts are often so die-hard that a seamless transition between frame rates is really important. You also get some privacy-focused benefits with newer software, such as the ability to mute the microphone (on the handheld) or camera access (if your webcam is connected). Added text scaling that allows you to adjust the size of on-screen text between 85 and 115 percent. Setup is a little faster thanks to an on-screen QR code that can quickly pull Chromecast onto a Wi-Fi network. Obviously, these improvements won’t be exclusive to the cheaper HD Chromecast for long; Google has confirmed that Android 12 will come to the 4K model in the near future.
Chromecast with Google TV HD still fully supports its longtime namesake: streaming. But its cloud gaming days are effectively numbered – at least when it comes to Stadia. In my personal opinion, Google still hasn’t released a full-fledged Google Photos app for the TV screen. I would be all over it. Those with smart homes will similarly appreciate a full Google Home app for the TV platform, but that’s still missing.
In the week I’ve been using Chromecast regularly with Google TV HD, I haven’t encountered any major issues or frustrations. It provides the same modern, content-first presentation as older 4K equipment, but costs $20 less. And it’s already discounted at several retailers, so it could be an attractive buy for many over the holidays.
If you’re a video buff, you probably pay zero attention to this product. 4K TV owners should look elsewhere entirely. Ideal for anyone who needs a stretcher to connect to a secondary TV in the kitchen, gym, second bedroom… everywherethis $30 Chromecast does the job and offers a richer feature set the original Chromecast about ten years ago – and somehow it costs less.
AGREE TO CONTINUE: CHROMECAST WITH GOOGLE TV HD
Every smart device now requires you to agree to a set of terms before using it—contracts that no one reads. It is not possible for us to read and analyze each of these contracts. But when we review devices, we start counting exactly how many times you have to hit the “agree” button to use them, because these are agreements that most people don’t read and can’t necessarily negotiate.
To use Chromecast with Google TV HD, you must agree to:
- Google Terms of Service
- Google Device Arbitration Agreement: “All disputes related to your Google device will be resolved binding arbitration here individual, non-class basis […] unless you opt out by following the instructions in that agreement.”
The following agreements are optional:
- Use Chromecast location: “Allow Google and apps you have permission on Chromecast to use Chromecast location estimated from Wi-Fi.”
- Submit usage and diagnostic data
In addition, if you want to use Google Assistant, you must allow Google to collect:
- Application information from your devices
- Contact information from your devices: “This data may be stored and used by any Google service you access to provide you with a more personalized experience. You can view your data, delete it and change your settings at account.google.com”
Streaming services also have their own terms of service and privacy policies.
Final result: at least three binding agreements and at least four optional agreements.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge
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