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Full Review! Chromecast with Google TV


hey everybody it’s lon seidman and we’re taking a look today at the google chromecast with google tv this is something a lot of you wanted me to get in to review and i’ve been playing with it for the last couple of days it’s a really solid streaming device now this behaves just like a chromecast does in that you can take content from your mobile phone and stream it over to your television but in addition to that it has its own interface because there’s a remote control so it really performs a lot like what you would expect out of a fire tv stick or a roku but it is running with a special version of android tv and we’re going to be taking a closer look at this in just a second but i do want to let you know in the interest of full disclosure that i paid for this with my own funds all the opinions you’re about to hear are my own no one is paying for this review nor has anyone reviewed or approved what you’re about to see before it was uploaded so let’s get into it now and see what this device is all about now the price point on this is competitive with its peers in the marketplace 49 for what you see here that of course gets you the chromecast itself and the remote there’s also a power cable in the box now what we’re going to do in the review today is start off with the basics all the streaming and core functionality and then in the latter part of the video we’re going to get into some more advanced topics so if you’re looking for things like plex and side loading and attaching usb hubs we’re

going to do all of that again in the latter part of the video and you’ll find a full index down below in the video description so let’s take a closer look now at the hardware there isn’t much to this you have your hdmi connector here on one end very flexible so no matter where that port is located this should fit just fine and then on the bottom here you have a usb type-c port and there is some flexibility with this port and i’ll show you some things that i was able to hook up to it when we get to the advanced topics a little bit later in the review it supports 4k video it also supports hdr video so we were able to get this to work in hdr hdr 10 and dolby vision now i found the setup process to be pretty simple on this i plugged it into my lg oled tv upstairs it detected everything automatically no problems there but it does lock your tv into whatever the highest hdr mode it supports so on my television it detected dolby vision and then it locked itself in on dolby vision even for content that wasn’t encoded with dolby vision there is a setting though to have the device automatically switch color modes based on the content and i would suggest turning that feature on to ensure that everything looks proper on the device here because again by default at least for me it was locking me in at dolby vision all the time it does support dolby atmos audio along with other digital audio formats and it was able to properly deliver that audio along with dolby vision on netflix although disney plus at the time i’m recording this video did not support dolby vision or atmos but it did support hdr color so it’s going to vary from one provider to the next as to what features they support at the moment although over time i am sure they will make improvements on compatibility now as i mentioned this is a chromecast that allows you to install apps and you navigate the device of course with a remote control like you do on competing devices pretty simple remote here not the best build quality out there but it does the job you do have a directional pad here for navigating content you have your youtube and netflix buttons here like you see on a lot of other boxes and it’s got some simple device control so i could turn on my

tv and receiver with the power button here and control the volume and they walk you through that in the setup process to get all of that stuff working it also supports the google assistant and you can activate it just by holding down the button and talking into the remote and we’ll demo that in a few minutes when we get everything booted up and that is pretty much it for the hardware so let’s get this thing attached to my monitor here and we’ll see what it can do all right so we are all booted up now and i’ve got it running in its native 4k resolution so you can get a feel for how fast and responsive everything is this has a cortex a55 processor running in 32-bit mode this is about the same chip we’re seeing in other low-cost 4k devices that we’ve looked at recently it has two gigabytes of ram though which is a little more than what we’ve seen in other low price devices like this one from major brands at least but only four gigabytes of onboard storage so you’re going to be limited as to what kind of games you could install on this for example but there are ways to expand the storage which we’ll talk about when we get into the techie portion of this review now at the top you’re going to be presented with some advertising these placements here are all paid placements and prime video and 2b and others are paying google for your attention here and you can click on these things and go into the apps that have that content but the next leg down are recommended pieces of content that google thinks you might want to watch based on your search history and probably on things that you’ve watched on youtube and although this is creepy i’m finding just like youtube it’s finding things that i might find of interest on other platforms and you can continue to refine this stuff so for example i’m not into survivor here so i can click on that and just tell it i don’t want to see any more of that kind of thumbs down that one and

i probably won’t get recommended reality tv shows like that again but some things that i may not have seen before i might want to check out so if i click on night flyers here which i’ve never heard of but it looks like it’s not very well reviewed i can go in here and see where i can watch it so right now i can jump over to netflix to tune into it i can go and find it on other services as well so it shows me that it’s available on prime in addition to netflix or i could buy the episodes on google tv and then it keeps a watch list so i could add this to the watch list and then come back to it later and i thought that was really helpful because there’s stuff that i’m always trying to keep track of that i want to check out and i’ve been using just the to-do app on my phone to make a list of things that i want to watch when i have time but it’s nice to have all of that integrated into the interface here and again i’m finding it’s pretty good at getting getting me good recommendations to check out here’s the cage the original star trek episode for example and i can kind of go through here and curate that a little bit more if i want now unless i’m missing something i haven’t figured out a way to have multiple users on this device so if my wife comes up to it and turns it on it’s always going to be my account with my recommendations i did add a few accounts to it but that’s really for the purposes of purchasing media and that sort of thing it doesn’t give a separate set of recommendations for my wife’s account versus mine and again i could be missing something but at the moment it looks like it is a very personal device now by contrast if i jump into netflix here it always asks me who’s watching so that i can give me the right recommendations so i’m hoping that i’m either missing something or

perhaps down the road google will add multi-user support to this to really take advantage of the strength of their recommendation engines i think that would be very useful but if my wife tries to use this she’s not going to have a very good experience versus what i’m going to have with my preferences now you do have apps on here of course these are all the standard android tv apps you might have used on other android tv devices so you can load those up and just about every app that’s available on my nvidia shield tv which is my daily driver is available here no problems with that at all you can fit 12 apps here on the home page and you have the ability to move things around too so if i wanted to adjust the position of plex here on the shelf i can hold down the button over plex and then select move and i can move it over here a notch push the button and drop it back down and if you have more than 12 apps installed you can go over here to see all and that will show you all the apps on your device now the apps that are in this section here with the lighter background or the ones that are visible on the home page and then the ones below it here are not visible but you can move them into position so for example if i wanted to move crossy road over i can do the same thing hold the button down and move it and you’ll see it’ll drop hulu down the list there so you can get things organized i think the way you want if you do have a lot of apps it might be easiest just to issue a voice command to the device and have it booted up that way so you do have some customization available now below the app shelf are more content recommendations and these are based on trends that are going on on google for example i’m pretty close to halloween at the time i’m

recording this video so we’ve got a lot of halloween content then it’s got a bunch of genre based recommendations and you can kind of go through here i’m sure they’ll change this stuff over time and hopefully find something to watch you can also tweak these settings a little bit here at the bottom by letting google know what services you’re subscribed to so it will find things you can actually watch when it puts them in there one thing to note is that what will appear here is based on who google has deals with so it’s not going to be a true universal search it’s going to be a universal search of those who they have agreements with so just bear that in mind now if you don’t like all that content showing up on screen you can put it into app only mode you can get there through your account settings and what it does is it takes all of the content recommendations away and just leaves you with the list of apps so you do have the option to turn off all this stuff if you don’t want to see it now at the top of the screen here you have the option to execute a search and we’ll look at that when we do some voice commands in a little bit you can also have it just give you recommendations for movies or just recommendations for tv shows and i think the biggest departure here on this version of android tv from others we’ve looked at is that it no longer has a google play app that you load up it is tightly integrated into the interface here so this is essentially the new google play it’s called apps and all the apps you have installed are located here and you can search for new ones in here as well along with browsing and again the library is pretty much the same as what you’ll find on other

android tv devices out there there’s a lot of compatibility if for some reason you can’t find something through the app section here you can do a install through the google play website on your computer and it will remotely install them on and again there’s very few things that i found that were not compatible here so i was very pleased with that in the library section you have your watch list that we just started building here with night flyers and we’ll have other content in there as time goes on so that’s pretty cool and then you have all the stuff that might be on your google account already and i’ve talked in the past about movies anywhere which is a service that allows you to take the movies that you buy physically and add them to your digital accounts and that’s what i’ve got here is a bunch of movies that i have on blu-ray or 4k blu-ray that i can also boot up here and run off of my google account so that’s nice to have it all there and then of course we’ve got tv shows that i’ve purchased in the past as well so pretty cool stuff here and again just a better interface i think versus what i’ve been using on android tv and i would actually love this interface on my shield tv let’s take a look now and see how this little box performs all right we’re going to jump into youtube here real quick and i’ve got a 4k 60 video queued up that won’t get me kicked off of youtube for copyright purposes and we’ll just go ahead and play this back i’ve been running this video on a few different displays including the oled tv that i have upstairs and if you got a decent wi-fi signal i think you’ll be fine with 4k content here youtube’s not dropping any frames even at 60 hertz it’s felt like a really good playback

device here very solid for the price point and i’ve had no complaints about doing any of the basics like watching this stuff or watching things on netflix or some of the other services that i’m subscribed to and if those services do support atmos and dolby vision you get all of those features as well now this is a google chromecast and these came out initially a few years back and what separated chromecast from other tv devices is that they allowed you to take video from apps on your phone and send them to a television and that feature still is here in this new product now right now mine is on its screen saver mode and when it’s in this mode you’ll see what the name of it is here on your network mine is called living room tv and if i go over to my phone now running netflix i can click on this little icon here in the right hand corner and that will pull up a list of compatible devices on the network that i can cast to and as you can see living room tv is here so if i tap on that what’s going to happen here is that the netflix app will load up and i can start playing media back from the phone now if i select the good place here what will happen when i click play is it will automatically trigger netflix to load up the last episode that i’ve got selected here on the phone and i can pause it and start it again i can basically control everything from the

phone but have it play on the television and again that’s a feature that’s been a part of chromecast since the beginning and it’s still in this new product but what is different about this chromecast device of course is that it’s running with a version of android tv on it and it has bluetooth support so you can connect things up like a game controller here and actually play games on it so this is crossy road your standard casual mobile game but it runs pretty nicely here and it’s got game controller support too so i can hop around here with my little bird and get hit by cars or whatever and have some fun with casual games and because developers for this platform tend to target lower end devices like this most of the games that you will encounter at least on the app store will probably run well on here well enough to play at a decent frame rate so i found that to be a good experience and in addition to of course hooking up game controllers you can also attach up keyboards and mice and that sort of thing so you can see i’ve got a mouse pointer here i could start typing in searches and whatnot if i wanted to do that but you also have a pretty robust voice capability with this too let’s check that out now to execute voice searches you push and hold this button here and speak so we’ll do a content search first show me star trek the next generation and what we’ll get here is a readout of what we just said and it will pull up star trek the next generation with the same interface we saw earlier it’s on five different services here so we can go in and find it where we want to watch it and again i really like the fact that you are getting some multi-service curation here and the ability to browse to

specific episodes and then be able to pick and choose where you want to watch them all good stuff it also works though with the google assistant so for example if you have smart home devices set up through the google home mobile app you can control them with this so i could actually have it turn off my studio lights right now turn off the studio lights and there they go so you can get all of your home stuff done through the google chromecast here too so now with the basic features out of the way let’s take a look at some of the more advanced things that you can do with this box the first thing i tried was side loading applications onto it basically taking android apps that are not on the app store and installing them manually through an apk file and we were able to do that but we first had to put it into developer mode and to do that you have to go into this about section here tap on an android tv os build a number of times and then it will make you a developer so you can then have your apps make those installations and if you have apps that are not android tv specific they’re not going to show up here on the app list as before so what you really should be looking for is an app called side load launcher which i have used on android tv for many years now and what you’ll get here is a list of all of the installed apps even if they’re not android tv compatible so for example one of the apps i installed was the ds file app for my network attached storage device and i’m able to boot that up here even though it’s not appearing on my active list of applications because this is a regular android mobile app

now one of the standout features of android tv since its beginning was the ability to play live tv through the use of a usb or network tv tuner that feature was initially missing from this device although i found i could install it via the google play store website so i was able to go and find it there click on this install button and then my chromecast showed up on the list of compatible devices although it’s already got it installed now but when i got back to my device it wasn’t here and for whatever reason it doesn’t show up as an app that you can load up like it can on other android tv devices so we had to go into the side load launcher here to find it so even though we installed it through the proper channels it wasn’t appearing as a proper app but you can find it in here and boot it up and get your live tv going like you had before and it seems to work just as well as it does on other android tv devices so that was one thing if you are looking for this you can get at it which is not going to be as easy as it was before now we also tried out plex a little bit earlier the app of course is available and it runs great for most of what you’re going to want to do with it but if you wanted to get into some more higher end home theater stuff like you might do with an nvidia shield this unfortunately is not going to cut it what it doesn’t do is automatically switch into 24p mode that’s a big one for me because i like my movies to run at their intended frame rate it was locking everything in at 60.

it also wasn’t passing through lossless audio that was another issue the good news though is that it did support hdr modes for movies that i had that supported that so at least it did that but the other areas there don’t make this a good replacement for an nvidia shield tv unfortunately but i was happy to see that the usbc port here has some versatility to it so i connected up this belkin usbc ethernet adapter that in full disclosure came in free of charge through the amazon vine program a little while ago and what this does is it combines an ethernet jack with a usbc port so power gets passed through to the device but also ethernet becomes available as well and if we switch over to our box here you can see that it’s detected the ethernet connection here and turn the wi-fi off so if you are watching live tv on here this is probably the more reliable way to go if you can get ethernet connected for the best performance and it was nice to see that this work with it now this fun little device is a usb type-c hub that i bought a little while ago from minix and it includes a 240 gigabyte ssd built right in so it’s got power delivery here which is working properly and then the hub is also activating properly too so i’m able to get that storage to appear i’ve got this file explorer app open and i can browse that ssd if i want i can also browse the sandisk usb drive that i have plugged into it as well so all of that is working the hdmi port on this of course doesn’t work but i think you can get most of your usb devices working through one of these hubs i did try some of my usb a ethernet adapters that are sometimes hit or miss on android it

did not work here but i think if you’ve got one that works on android devices it should work through a usb hub configuration like this and hopefully somebody out there will compile a list of compatible ethernet things if you do want to connect more than one device to it now i also noticed that when i had this external storage attached i have the option like i do on other android tv devices to have it get adopted as device storage so i could dramatically increase the amount of storage i have available on the chromecast here by using this drive that’s connected and we’ve covered this with the nvidia shield in the past it can get complicated because it encrypts everything and you can’t use the drive on anything else unless you reformat it but it does allow you some degree of flexibility on storage if you did want to give it a shot so there’s a lot more to this device than just the basics and it was really neat to see the ability to work with some of these usbc hubs another thing we checked out was emulation and before we jump into that let’s have a look at the 3d mark benchmark and see how this stacks up against other devices at its price point and on that 3d mark slingshot benchmark we got a score of 578 and that puts it pretty much in line with its peers the tivo stream 4k which is another android tv dongle and of course the fire tv stick 4k which is running amazon’s version of android and while these scores are decent for what it is it’s nowhere nearly as good as what you’d get out of a shield tv from nvidia which is still light years

ahead of all of these other devices out on the market but we were able to get retro arch installed on here this went right in through the google play store we were able to access content on external storage all of that worked fine and i think what you’ll be able to do with this is play a lot of the games from the 80s and 90s but i think once you get up to the nintendo 64 you’ll start hitting the limits of it so you can see us playing a little bit of wave race a little bit earlier it just didn’t perform all that great it was playable to a degree but again not as good as what you’ll have on a pc or a higher end device but still fun for a lot of the older stuff and i think it’s worth taking a look at if you are a casual emulator now we also tested out some game streaming and although stadia is not officially available yet on this chromecast you can sideload it of course we did boot up the geforce now app which was available in the app store and as you can see it’s working pretty well no issues streaming one of our favorite games no man’s sky from the cloud and i’m sure other streaming services will perform equally well now of course the nvidia shield still remains the top android tv device on the market but this one is definitely the best android tv device on the market that’s not an nvidia shield i love the new interface i think it’s great for casual users looking for a nice solid streaming device this is certainly going to do that it’ll work at 4k and other resolutions as well so if you have an older tv it’ll work just fine with that the only thing missing on it is apple tv at least from the major streaming providers but otherwise it’s a great

experience with a very rich app library because at its heart it is an android tv device i like the fact that the enthusiast community has something to play with here we’ve got a flexible usb c port we can plug ethernet into it we can plug external storage in that’s all good and working the only thing it doesn’t do that i wanted to do at the moment is passing through lossless audio in plex and switching my tv into 24p mode if it did that it would be a great companion to my more powerful nvidia shields in the house but even with that issue it’s still really the best android tv device i’ve looked at in quite some time and i think this one will definitely be on my list of top products of the year so if you’re in the market for a low cost streamer look no further they’ve done great here and i’m looking forward to seeing what future software iterations will bring on this one that’s going to do it for now until next time this is lon simon thanks for watching this channel is brought to you by the london tv supporters including gold level supporters tom albrecht chris allegretta mike patterson and bill pomerantz if you want to help the channel you can by contributing as little as a dollar a month head over to lawn dot tv support to learn more and don’t forget to subscribe

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