Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Using Chromecast with Google TV

Last week, I said I would spend time using Chromecast with Google TV. I actually wrote that a few days before you read it. I began using it, and wrote the post, but scheduled some other posts ahead of that one. So, I've actually spent a lot more time than you might think using Chromecast with Google TV. I've used exclusively for the last several days. I wasn't sure how I would like it. I knew the device was a good device, and is one of my top three devices, behind Roku and Apple TV. After using it, I now wonder if it would have been number two if I had used it as long as I have Apple TV. Chromecast with Google TV is a good device.

One thing I do not like about it is the name. "Chromecast with Google TV" is way too long a name for a device. Sure, Chromecast is taken, as that's the current version of the original Chromecast that was released as a stick in 2013, and converted to the current form of a dongle (yes, I know a stick is a dongle, but this isn't a stick). That device, which uses a mobile device as a remote to launch and control apps, still exists, now in its third generation (released in 2018). The Chromecast with Google TV, released in 2020, adds an interface and remote to the package, making it a complete, full fledged, stand-alone streaming device. It's just that the name is too long.

The name doesn't impact how it works, though. I mean, it does describe it, sure. It's a Chromecast, and it has Google TV built in. How does it work? Actually, it works great. The interface is different from Apple TV's and Roku's, but there are similarities too.

Setup

I didn't set the Chromecast with Google TV up again. I had done it when I got it, and it was easy. The on-screen prompts make it a breeze to set up. The only people that would have trouble setting one up are those that can't remember their Google password. 

Responsiveness

The most important thing to me with a streaming device is when you press a button, does it do what you want it to do, and is quick about it. I've used devices that have a noticeable lag between button press and action. This isn't one of those. Chromecast with Google TV responds like I want a device to respond.

App Selection

Having access to the Google Play store means that Chromecast with Google TV has a huge library of apps. But not all. I looked at 35 major cable alternative apps and other major popular apps. Most work with Chromecast with Google TV, including:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • YouTube TV
  • Sling TV
  • Philo
  • Fubo TV
  • Vidgo
  • Frndly TV
  • Prime Video
  • Apple TV
  • Disney+
  • Discovery+
  • Paramount+
  • Peacock TV
  • YouTube
  • HBO Max
  • ESPN
  • Bally Sports
  • Acorn TV
  • BET+
  • Crackle
  • Fandango Now
  • IMDB TV
  • Locast
  • Movies Anywhere
  • Plex
  • Pluto TV
  • Tablo
  • Tubi
  • Vudu
  • Xumo

Not all those I checked work with Chromecast with Google TV, however, including:

  • AT&T TV
  • Britbox
  • Stirr
  • The Roku Channel

Still, a pretty good representation. By the way, Roku has all but one, YouTube TV, and that's because of a contract dispute that's underway as I write this.

True, this is not a full representation of everything. I didn't even look at apps that work with cable systems, but rather focused on apps that don't require cable. I focused on the cord cutting end of things.

Interface

If the device isn't responsive, it's not one I'll use. If the device doesn't have the apps I want, it's not one I'll use. Chromecast passes both of those tests. But there's one other test: the interface. If the device is difficult to use, I won't use it.

Unlike Roku, Google TV doesn't limit the home screen to a listing of your apps. Your top apps are there, but not all of them. You can drill down to them in a few clicks of the remote, but they aren't all available form the home screen.

On the home screen are recommendations. Apple TV and Fire TV do this also, so if you have used those devices, you'll be familiar with that. Apple TV makes all your apps available on the home screen though. However, Google TV is not like Amazon, which rearranges your apps for you. With Google TV, you control which 12 apps show on the home screen, and the order of the apps, both on the home screen and on the apps screen.

Oh, and while I'm calling it the home screen, Google TV calls the screen "For You." It includes recommendations from your apps.

There's a selection of five highlighted items at the top. Of the different one it game me (5 at a time) I would only click on one or two of the five. Mostly stuff I didn't want, but still there was stuff I did.

There's a Top Picks line that includes movies from your apps or your Google Play library. 

There's a line of Your Apps, which contains, you guessed it, your apps. Well, 12 of them. Plus a link to the rest.

The home screen includes a line of popular movies and TV shows, plus many lines of movies and shows from various genre and categories.

Since it's Google TV, it promotes YouTube, which is owned by Google. There are YouTube video recommendations.

There are several rows of these, in all sorts of categories, and the suggestions are okay. Some are spot on, others miss the mark entirely. Overall, though, the selections aren't too bad. I'm hard to shop for.

Conclusion

It didn't take long to get used to the different (not all that different) remote. The interface isn't difficult to navigate. While I prefer a list of apps, I can see why some would like the recommendations. I usually go to the apps, and though I have a few dozen apps, I only use a handfull regularly. I like that Google TV doesn't rearrange your apps, unlike Amazon's Fire TV.

The device is a good little device. Check that. It's a great little device. It hasn't replaced Roku as my device of choice, but I can see why others would make it their device of choice.

It's a great way to take control of, and enjoy, your Streaming Life.

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