Welcome to T3's Chromecast with Google TV review. It's got to be said but Google's latest might be a small product, but its name is a great big mouthful.
The revamped Chromecast video streamer is here, albeit a bit bigger and more expensive than before – but that's because it does more than it used to. It's not longer just something you can stream to from your phone, but now a full-fledged smart TV add-on, with Android TV and the new Google TV app that aims to make it easier to find what you want to watch.
The end result really stands out, even in a market as wildly competitive as ‘affordable video streamer dongles’.
Chromecast with Google TV review: Price & Features
The – deep breath – Chromecast with Google TV is on sale now, and it costs £59 / $50 / AU$99.
The new Chromecast is supplied with a remote control handset that incorporates a mic for use with Google Assistant. And Android TV is on board to offer apps you can control with that remote, plus a new interface – ‘Google TV’ – to both facilitate easier searching and to make recommendations that become more targeted the more you use it. Apparently all Android TVs will feature Google TV before very much longer.
Otherwise, it’s 4K HDR business as usual, with some Dolby Atmos capability thrown in for good measure. The remote control has shortcut buttons for Netflix and YouTube, but you can load any number of different apps onto the Google TV home page, including Amazon Prime Video. Apple TV isn’t, and UK users should not that All 4 isn't either. All the other major players are here, though.
The home page arranges content into useful categories similar to how Netflix does it, and it’s easy enough to navigate. The smart recommendation system is responsive, both to your selections and to your instructing it that you might already have watched a specific title – and the more you use it, the more genuinely attuned to your tastes it becomes.
Chromecast with Google TV review: Performance
The Chromecast with Google TV responds accurately, and rapidly, to voice commands, and it’s the work of just a few words and a few moments to get an extensive list of Dolby Atmos/Dolby Vision content presented for your perusal. After all, with both Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos capability on board, where else would you start your search?
Given the best 4K HDR stuff to work with, the Chromecast with Google TV turns in an authentically impressive performance. Dolby Vision-assisted images are crisp and detailed, with plenty of dark-tone information available and contrasts handled well. Lighting is convincing, the colour palette is extensive and there’s decent three-dimensionality to images too.
Motion is gripped with authority, edges are drawn cleanly, and the overall impression is of accomplished picture-making. Dolby Vision's tendency to dim everything in the name of cinematic authenticity is to the fore too, but the Chromecast with Google TV can hardly be held responsible for that.
Step down in quality just a little way, with some 1080p content, and the reduction in picture fidelity is simultaneously fairly mild and completely obvious. Detail levels fall away more than somewhat, picture noise becomes apparent and darker tones are crushed just a little. Predictably, the further you step down in terms of resolution, the more edge-definition becomes haphazard and skin-tones become uniform – but then, if you insist on watching user-uploaded smartphone videos on YouTube, you can’t expect anything else.
As far as audio quality goes, the Chromecast with Google TV is a success of the qualified kind. Dolby Atmos material, whether it’s a movie soundtrack via Netflix or a piece of music derived from Tidal, has plenty of presence, and as far as music is concerned, it hangs together as a performance convincingly too. There’s a good level of detail retrieved and – as long as you have one of the best soundbars or a surround system, of course – ample space in both the ‘left/right’ and ‘up/down’ planes. What there isn’t, though, is all that much dynamic expression – everything tends to happen at a set, uniform level, without much variation.
Chromecast with Google TV review: Design & usability
The Chromecast with Google TV is a soft-touch, puck-shaped device available in white, pink or blue (the manufacturer would like you to consider them ‘snow’, ‘sunrise’ or ‘sky’, but we know the truth). At one end there’s a flexible HDMI 2.0 connection, and at the other a USB-C socket for power – it’s possible, but unlikely, that your TV’s HDMI input will deliver enough power to run the Chromecast with Google TV, so it’s supplied with a power adapter too.
Quite why it needs to be available in a variety of colours, or why the finish is quite so pleasantly soft-touch, when it’s almost certain to be hidden behind your TV for its entire working life, isn’t immediately clear. But it's nice that care has been applied.
The little remote control is coloured to match the streamer itself, and while it’s nicely laid out and fits neatly in the palm, the hard and slippery plastic it’s made from means it moves about with button-presses more than is ideal.
Other than that minor gripe, though, the Chromecast with Google TV is simple and swift to operate. No matter if you’re using Google Assistant voice-control or the handset itself, it’s straightforward to get your bidding done.
The on-screen interface is clean and simple to navigate, and – gallantly – the Chromecast doesn’t front-load it with Google-centric and/or cost options. If what you want is available for free of Netflix, for example, it’ll be there, front and centre.
Chromecast with Google TV review: Verdict
Thanks to the addition of “...with Google TV” (and the great remote control and voice control options), the latest Chromecast is not only the best yet but it’s one of the very best 4K video streamers around.
It's easy to find what you want, the video quality is excellent, and there's impressive audio. It's a shame about the occasional missing apps, but overall it's an excellent choice.