Chromecast with Google TV HD review: Super simple 1080p streaming

Google’s latest streaming dongle is so similar to the previous one that I felt a bit of deja vu when I first opened it. The new Chromecast with Google TV still has a pucky oval design, it comes with an identical remote control and even the operating system that powers everything is (largely) unchanged. The only big difference (at least on the outside) is the updated packaging, with a label that says “HD”. So instead of supporting 4K displays, this new, cheaper Chromecast is aimed squarely at people who want to stream shows and movies on 1080p screens. And from where I’m sitting, that’s fine because while it’s limited to HD content, this thing offers essentially the same great viewing experience that we loved on the original.

The basics

I won’t bore you with the typical design section because the Chromecast with Google TV (HD) is incredibly simple and almost a copy of its predecessor. There’s the Chromecast itself, which connects directly to your TV via HDMI, a separate remote with built-in mic and Google Assistant button for voice control, and a power adapter with a USB cable to use if your TV can’t deliver enough Juice only with HDMI.

The Chromecast with the Google TV UI is also almost completely unchanged, offering a simple layout with a bunch of important tabs for different content at the top.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Setup is also incredibly easy. Thanks to an update in Android 12 for TV (which comes pre-installed), there’s a new sign-in process that works by using your phone to scan a QR code in the Google Home app. This saves you from the hassle of entering your credentials, connecting to WiFi, and so on. However, if you want to do things manually, that’s still an option too.

Once the Chromecast is up and running, you can log into your favorite streaming apps as usual, then dive into some of the more advanced settings like HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control), which automatically turns the Chromecast on when you fire up your TV. You can also use Google’s controller pairing setting to program the Chromecast remote to mirror key functions like adjusting volume or switching inputs. That means if you’re like me and have a relatively easy setup, you might even be able to stow your TV remote in a drawer and rely entirely on Chromecast, which is a great way to reduce clutter.

The streaming experience

The Chromecast with Google TV remote is very compact and has a volume rocker on the side, similar to a smartphone.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

When it comes to finding something to watch, things couldn’t be easier. At the top is a dedicated row that makes it easy to find shows, movies, apps, and purchased content, as well as a Live tab that works with a handful of streaming TV services (YouTube TV, Pluto TV, Sling TV, Philo) for you can jump directly from the main start screen to the program currently being broadcast.

Of course, as this model focuses on 1080p content, you don’t get 4K video support. But even with the HD model’s relatively light specs (just 1.5GB of RAM with an Amlogic S805X2 chip), performance felt very similar to that of the original Chromecast with Google TV. There is often a small delay at startup as the dongle loads the operating system and pulls down graphics for content recommendations. And if you pay attention, you might also notice some small glitches when switching between apps or settings very quickly. But generally things run smoothly, especially during playback where it really counts.

Gallery: Chromecast with Google TV HD photos | 7 photos

The other notable feature you don’t get on this new cheaper Chromecast is support for Dolby Vision. That omission doesn’t feel like a big deal, though, as many 1080p TVs (especially older ones) can’t handle it anyway. At least there is still support for HDR10.

More new additions to Android 12 for TV

As the first device to come preinstalled with Android 12 for TV, the new Chromecast includes a number of hands-on quality of life improvements that will eventually spread to other Google TV devices as well. These include the ability to adjust text scaling (from 85 percent up to 130 percent), options to adjust your content’s frame rate (which defaults to Auto), and some additional surround sound controls. And just like Android 12 on phones, you’ll also get a small popup when Chromecast activates its microphone, so there’s no confusion as to when it’s listening to you.

Wrap up

The Chromecast with Google TV HD comes with an included remote control, the dongle itself, and a USB cable and adapter for power.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

With the Chromecast with Google TV (HD), it’s clear the company hasn’t tried to do too much. And that’s perfectly fine, because the original blueprint works perfectly. It’s only cropped for 1080p screens here. You get the same great user interface, a nifty, compact remote that covers all the bases, and more than adequate performance—all for just $30. So if you have an aging device or a secondary display that could benefit from a modern streaming TV OS (and haven’t invested in other streaming platforms yet), Chromecast with Google TV (HD) is the watch buddy you need to need.

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