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Chromecast With Google TV (HD) Review: Worth Buying If You Don’t Need 4K

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The Chromecast with Google TV (HD) works great when considering the low asking price, but it won’t be for everyone. For some homes, the lack of 4K might prove to be a problem, even though that’s where the Chromecast with Google TV (4K) comes in. For others, the performance could prove to be a concern. For everyone else, it is mostly the same product and experience as the 4K version but at a much cheaper price, making it a worthwhile purchase.

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The big and main selling point with the new Chromecast with Google TV (HD) is that it only costs $29.99. At $20 cheaper than the original model, the new HD version is designed to appeal to an even wider audience. Whether that’s homes looking for a streaming player on a budget, or homes simply looking for something for an additional room, Google has priced the new model to compete with the cheapest from Amazon and Roku.

Chromecast with Google TV (HD) $29.99
  • Design
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Price
3.9

Our opinion

At $30, it is hard to argue with the value on offer with the Chromecast with Google TV (HD). This streaming player won’t be the best option for every home, but for those looking for a low-cost and easy to use device, it’s worth buying.

Pros

Cheap
Compact design
Google TV
Lots of compatible apps

Cons

No 4K or Dolby Vision
Snow only color option
Limited storage
Sometimes slow to respond

While the Chromecast lineup is not new, things took quite a turn in late 2020 when Google announced the first Chromecast with Google TV. As the name suggests, this was more than just the Chromecast of before. Not only did it come running on Google TV, but it was also packaged with its own voice-enabled remote. The newer Chromecast with Google TV (HD) is largely the same.

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In general, it is hard to find anything too bad to complain about with the Chromecast with Google TV HD. At least, not anything that also couldn’t be leveled at the original model. For those that do want a better idea of what the new HD version is like, here is our full review.

A familiar Chromecast design

For those that prefer changes to be made with a new device, that’s not what’s happening here. Google has taken the original Chromecast with Google TV and simply changed a few things under the hood to cut down on the cost. The overall result being a unit that looks, weighs, and pretty much is exactly the same.

Chromecast with Google TV HD and 4K
Chromecast with Google TV HD (white) and 4K (blue)

For those unfamiliar with the original, the Chromecast with Google TV is an HDMI device but without a separate HDMI lead. Instead, the connector is directly attached to the player and the device itself is what plugs into the TV. While this does result in the device dangling somewhat, there shouldn’t be any issues with durability over the long term. I’ve been using the original 4K model since it became available and without any signs of wear and tear.

One design choice that is different is the color. More specifically, the lack of color choices. The Chromecast with Google TV (HD) is only available to buy from the Google Store (and elsewhere) in Snow (white) which is a downgrade compared to the three colors the original model can be purchased in.

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Personally, Snow is the most boring and the lack of color choices does take away from the typical Google hardware experience. While not necessarily an issue with the player, considering it mostly hidden behind the TV, the remote just looks too bland when compared to the Sky (blue) and Sunrise (pink) colors.

Chromecast with Google TV HD and 4K remotes
Chromecast with Google TV HD (white) and 4K (blue) remotes

Again, not a major criticism, but the lack of choice is a compromise nonetheless.

A familiar Chromecast experience

Unsurprisingly, the Chromecast with Google TV (HD) works and feels very much like the Chromecast with Google TV (4K). Google TV doesn’t really leave much room for negotiating the experience, so those already using this operating system will feel right at home when switching to the Chromecast with Google TV HD.

Chromecast with Google TV home screen
Chromecast with Google TV HD’s ‘For You’ section

Google TV itself is the evolution of Android TV and offers a more personalized approach to content discovery. The home screen makes it easy enough to navigate to specific categories for Movies, Shows, and Apps. There’s also a Watchlist section which houses all the videos that the user has bookmarked to watch later, and a Live section that can be synced with select live TV streaming services to display a live TV guide.

Outside of these tabs, the home screen is mostly made up of shows and movies that Google thinks the viewer might be interested in watching, and these are typically broken down by genre rather than app. This in itself is the big selling point with Google TV, as it is a lot more focused on actual movies and shows, with apps taking more of a back seat.

Chromecast with Google TV popular movies shows
Google TV focuses more on content than apps

Although some apps are visible on the home screen, just as many are buried in the dedicated Apps section. For those that want to prioritize certain apps over others, the default visible apps can be customized by heading to the Apps section and rearranging the order as needed.

As to be expected with a Google product, the Google Assistant comes pre-loaded and ready to use on the Chromecast with Google TV HD. The Google Assistant can, among other things, help to find movies or shows to watch by searching for genres or generic words, answer some questions, or help access various settings.

Google Assistant on Google TV
Google Assistant on Chromecast with Google TV HD

All in all, for anyone familiar with Google TV, or Android TV for that matter, the Chromecast with Google TV (HD) will feel extremely familiar. For those new to the operating system, it does take a little getting used to, but quickly becomes useful.

(Mostly) familiar Chromecast performance

Where there is some cause for concern is in the general performance. As the name suggests, this model is already limited in the sense that it doesn’t support 4K, unlike the original. There’s also no Dolby Vision support either, unlike the original. However, these are known limitations that help to lower the cost. One of the potentially less clear cost-cutting measures is the performance.

Compared to the original model, the Chromecast with Google TV (HD) felt sluggish right out of the box. Considering the original model isn’t exactly a beacon of speed, that could be a problem. Generally navigating around the interface doesn’t cause too many issues, but the faster the user attempts to navigate Google TV, the more sluggish it can feel. This was all the more apparent when navigating the system settings or when the device starts up.

To be clear, there’s nothing majorly wrong with the performance. It is just sometimes noticeably slow to respond when navigating, launching apps, and so on. That’s also when comparing a fresh out-of-the-box Chromecast with Google TV (HD) to a two-year-old Chromecast with Google TV (4K) that’s weighed down with too many apps. Of course, this could simply be due to how new the device is and software updates may improve any sluggish behavior. If not, then given enough time and under the same weight of too many apps, the HD model could potentially become even slower.

None of this is that surprising considering the specs. While the Chromecast with Google TV (4K) is armed with 2GB of RAM and an Amlogic S905X3, the Chromecast with Google TV (HD) relies on 1.5GB RAM and an Amlogic S805X2 processor. It is, by design, not as powerful as the older model.

Importantly, there were no issues noted with the actual streaming experience. The Chromecast with Google TV (HD) is very stable and reliable when it comes to streaming video and this is potentially due to its AV1 support. AV1 is designed to offer an improved streaming experience, which is arguably what should matter the most when considering a new streaming player.

Chromecast with Google TV (HD) review: summary

The reality here is not much has changed with the new Chromecast and that may or may not be a good thing depending on perspective. The new Chromecast is a less powerful streaming player and that’s not the only ‘buyer beware’ to be aware of. Storage is limited, and there’s no 4K or Dolby Vision support. However, considering the original Chromecast with Google TV isn’t exactly a powerful device, or one loaded with storage space, these are not issues specific to the newer HD Chromecast. For those that do want a more powerful device, there are better options available, including others powered by Google TV, such as Nvidia’s Shield TV.

For those simply looking for a cheap and capable streaming player, it is hard not to recommend the Chromecast with Google TV HD. Not only does it offer a like-for-like experience to the original model, but does so at a much cheaper price. Potentially cheap enough to even sway a few Fire TV and Roku users over to Google TV.

Additional information

Chromecast with Google TV (HD) specs:

Model numberGA03131-US
ResolutionUp to 1080p HDR, 60 fps
Video formatsHDR10
HDR10+
HLG
Audio formatsDolby Digital
Dolby Digital Plus
Dolby Atmos via HDMI pass-through
PortsHDMI
USB Type-C power
Power5 Volt DC, 1.5 amp
ColorSnow
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11ac (2.4GHz/5GHz)
Bluetooth
RAM1.5GB
Storage8GB
ProcessorAmlogic S805X2
Operating systemAndroid TV OS
DimensionsLength: 6.4 in (162.5 mm)
Width: 2.4 in (61 mm)
Height: 0.5 in (12.5 mm)
WeightWeight: 1.9 oz (55 g)
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John Finn

By John Finn

John started Streaming Better to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been writing about technology and TV-related services and devices since 2014 and believes the best streaming approach is to bounce between services as needed. Contact John via email at john@streamingbetter.com or on Twitter

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