Chromecast with Google TV quickly became my default streaming device and it has pretty much remained the only one I use on a daily basis. While this is meant to be a definitive endorsement of the device, and a clear indication that you should pick one up if looking for a new streaming player, it is far from perfect. In fact, it’s hard to even explain what makes it so good. Arguably, it’s not even that good.
For background, my living room is hardly short on streaming players with a choice of the Nvidia Shield TV, the newest Fire TV Stick, the current Roku Ultra, and the latest Apple TV 4K player. There are others floating around the apartment, but these are the devices that are typically connected to the TV at any given time. Speaking of which, the Sony TV comes loaded with Google TV, so that’s an option as well. While many of the other devices are more powerful than the Chromecast with Google TV, the small dongle does just about enough to refrain from switching inputs.
Chromecast with Google TV is a $50 device that’s available to buy from the Google Store as well as various third-party retailers. It can even be picked up even cheaper if bundling with HBO Max or Netflix through the Google Store. Like a Fire TV or Roku Stick, the player simply plugs into the back of the TV. There is an additional power cable connected to the wall, but that’s about it. It is somewhat weird in the sense that it just hangs from the back of the TV, but that’s not much of an issue considering it is out of view most of the time. Its small and compact design is one of its selling points, but no more than a Fire TV or Roku stick.
A player that just about does it all
To be honest, it is not so much that the Chromecast is a great device and more that Google TV is a great interface. As the successor to Android TV, Google TV is not exclusive to the Chromecast. After all, the Sony TV comes running on the same Google TV, as does the Shield TV. For those that own a device that already offers Google TV, then there might not be much point in investing in a Chromecast with Google TV.
But, therein, is the interesting part here. I have a Sony TV and a Shield TV running the same software. Yet, I don’t use either. Why is not entirely clear other than the very basic suggestion that it just seems to be cleaner and easier to use on the Chromecast. If a gamer, then there’s pretty much no comparison, with the Shield TV a far more capable gaming machine. However, I don’t use a streaming player to game, I use it to stream movies and TV shows.
The thing about the Chromecast is that it does just about enough of what I need it to do to avoid switching to another player. The Play Store is there so there are no major issues with app availability, the integration with YouTube TV, Sling TV and Philo make it easy to access live TV content from the home screen, the recommendations are good enough to keep me interested, and the watchlist keeps everything in order and easy to access. It just works, and the tiny (and strangely perfect-in-the-hand) remote control just feels right.
To reiterate, it is not the most powerful device, nor is it the most capable, and it doesn’t specifically come with any special must-have features. Yet, it is very difficult to stop using. Equally, it’s difficult to specifically say why.
Chromecast is hardly perfect
Ignoring the fact that’s it’s not the most powerful, capable or feature-rich device, the Chromecast with Google TV has its issues. The most notably of which is the storage limitation. With 8GB, the Chromecast is not an app-friendly device at all, and many times I’ve ran into the situation where an app needs to be deleted to install another. One might argue maybe I have too many apps installed and that’s true, but it’s still limited in a way that other devices are not. The lack of storage — without having to mount an external storage device — is a major issue with Chromecast.
It can also be a buggy device at times. While it generally works pretty well, there are times when it just seems to struggle existing. This never really feels like it’s a major issue, but to say it was a perfect experience, that there aren’t delays, or that it doesn’t occasionally need a reboot would be a lie. It’s far from perfect, and it’s certainly less reliable than other devices, such as the Apple TV.
In fact, the Apple TV is really the only device I ever seem to switch over to. Even then, the switching over is only for Apple TV+. Apple’s streaming service is actually available to download on Chromecast with Google TV so it’s not a forced switchover, but just a matter of weirdly preferring to watch Apple’s service on its player, especially considering it is there and connected. The same could be true for Prime Video and the Fire TV Stick, but the same appeal is just not there. The Chromecast supports Prime Video and that’s enough for me. Like the Chromecast remote, there’s also something strangely appealing about using Apple TV’s second-generation Siri Remote.
Still looking for a reason?
By now it should be somewhat clear that there’s no specific reason why the Chromecast with Google TV is the only device — barring the odd use of Apple TV+ on Apple TV — that I use. If it wasn’t clear, then let’s take care of that now. There is no single reason to buy and use a Chromecast with Google TV. If you’re now wondering what was the point of this article then, I’m not entirely sure. There is no major revelation or hidden feature that you should know about. For that, I apologize, but no refunds.
The reality is, the Chromecast is just an average streaming player at a cheap price that’s strangely difficult to explain exactly what makes it so good. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a cheap player and strangely good. If that’s all you want, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better device for the same money. Even if you own a more powerful, capable or feature-rich device, and pick up the Chromecast with Google TV, you may find that Google’s dongle ends up becoming the only device you really use. At least, that’s what happened to me.