Chromecast with Google TV (4K vs HD) Review: Among the Best

The $50 Chromecast with Google TV (4K), released in September 2020, and the new yet lesser HD version that came out in September this year, are a far cry from the original Chromecast Google debuted in 2013, or any previous version for that matter, despite retaining a similar design.

Among other things, they are the first in the family with a remote to work as a serious media streamer in addition to screen casting devices.

The new HD version — designed for older 1080P TVs — has nothing new other than the cheaper $30 price tag. But it inspired me to give Chromecast a serious try.

Though I ended up using the 4K version mostly for my real-world trial — 1080p is hard on the eyes nowadays — keep in mind that the HD version is the same, minus the resolutions.

Here’s the bottom line: If you’re looking for a little device that can do an excellent job of displaying content on a big-screen TV from any source — popular streaming services, your computer, or your mobile device — the Chromecast with Google TV (4K or HD) is an excellent buy. I’d even say it gives Amazon’s Fire TV Stick a run for its money.

Chromecast with Google TV 4K Box Content
The Chromecast with Google TV (4K or HD) includes a power adapter, a USB-C cable, and a remote with built-in Google Assistant.

Chromecast with Google TV: More than a typical Chromecast with a remote

Out of the box, the new Chromecast with Google TV (4K or HD) is what you’ve come to expect from a Chromecast.

It’s a compact HDMI dongle that you can plug directly into a TV’s HDMI port and work as a content source. Switch the TV to take on this source, and you’re game.

The most significant improvement is now, for the first time, it includes a remote so that you can use it independently from a phone — almost. And that changes everything.

Chromecast with Google TV 4K is super compactChromecast with Google TV 4K is a Compact HDMI
The Chromecast with Google TV is a compact HDMI dongle.

And this remote makes the latest Chromecast much better than previous models, making it a true standalone media streaming stick, like the case of the Amazon Fire TV.

But first, let’s check the hardware specifications to see how the new device differs from the Amazon counterpart.

Chromecast with Google TV 4K vs HD vs Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max: Hardware specifications

Sharing a similar hardware design that plugs directly into an HDMI port, and using Android-based operating systems, the Chromecast with Google TV 4K and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max are similar.

Chromecast with Google TV 4K Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max Streamer onlyChromecast with Google TV 4K vs Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max
Chromecast with Google TV 4K vs HD vs Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K: Though distinctive, the two are similar devices.

They support the same amount of mainstream and niche apps, allowing them to be versatile streaming sticks. You can use either to play content from known media streaming services (Amazon Prime, Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, HBOMax, etc.) or local homemade servers (Plex, Emy, DS Video Station, etc.).

Model Chromecast with Google TV (4K) Chromecast with Google TV (HD) Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max
Release Date September 30, 2020 September 30, 2022 October 7, 2021
US Price
(at launch)
$49.99 $29.99 $55
CPU Amlogic S905D3
(1.9 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A55) and Mali-G31 MP2 GPU
Amlogic S805X2
(quad-core ARM Cortex-A35)
MediaTek MT8696
(1.8GHz 4x ARM Cortex-A55)
Memory 2 GB DDR3L 1.5 GB DDR3L 2 GB DDR4
Storage 8 GB 8 GB 8GB
Display Up to 4K UHD at 60 fps Up to 1080p HDR at 60 fps Up to 4K UHD at 60 fps
Remote Control
(with voice control)
Included Included Included
Connectivity HDMI
Wi-Fi 5 (5GHz)
Wi-Fi 4 (2.4GHz)
Bluetooth 4.2
Ethernet
(via adapter)
HDMI
Wi-Fi 5 (5GHz)
Wi-Fi 4 (2.4GHz)
Bluetooth 4.2
Ethernet
(via adapter)
HDMI
Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0 + LE
Ethernet
(via adapter)
Operating System Android TV Android TV Fire OS 7
(based on Android 9)
Streaming Support All popular services,
Third-party app for local media servers (NAS, network computers)
All popular services,
Third-party app for local media servers (NAS, network computers)
All popular services,
Third-party app for local media servers (NAS, network computers)
Power USB-C
(power adapter required)
USB-C
(power adapter required)
Micro-USB
(power adapter recommended)
Dimensions 6.38 × 2.40 × .49 in
(16.2 × .61 × 1.25 cm)
6.40 × 2.40 × 0.49 in
(16.25 × .61 × 1.25 cm)
4.25 x 1.18 x 0.55 inches
(10.8 x 3 x 1.4 cm)
Weight 2.00 oz (56.7 g) 1.9 oz (55 g) 1.7 oz (48.4 g)
Hardware specifications: Chromecast with Google TV 4K vs HD vs Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

The biggest differences between the two are that Google uses USB-C for power and Wi-Fi 5 while Amazon has a Micro-USB port and Wi-Fi 6.

Chromecast with Google TV 4K vs Amazon Fire TV 4K Max Installed on TV
Here’s the new Chromecast with Google TV plugged in next to my well-used and dusty Amazon Fire TV 4K Max. Note how the latter is powered via a USB port of the TV. You can’t do that with the former.

On top of that, the Fire Stick can be powered by a USB port found on most TV, albeit it might suggest being connected to a wall socket with the included power adapter. The Google Chromecast will not work with a USB port at all.

So if you’re looking for a device to carry on a trip, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is a more flexible option.

Simple setup, Google Home app required

Despite having the remote, the new Chromecast with Google TV will ask you to use the Google Home app for the setup process — the same app that you must use for the Google Nest Wifi Pro or any other Google (or Nest) Smart Home device.

After that, the setup process is straightforward. You must sign in with a Google account and agree to various data collection and sharing agreements. In my case, I completed the user-required portion of the setup process in about 10 minutes.

Chrome Cast with Google TV 4K Home AppChrome Cast with Google TV 4K Home App with Remote
You must use the Google Home app to set up the Chromecast with Google TV before using it via the remote. The app itself also has a TV remote function for your phone.

After that, the dongle took another 30 minutes, give or take, to update itself to the latest firmware, download apps, and so on. So, give yourself an hour or so for the entire process to finish.

And then, you only need to use the remote with it, just like the case of any streaming stick. But you can also continue using the Google Home app to add/remove apps or turn the phone into a remote, as you handle previous Chromecast models.

(Mostly) well-designed remote

The Chromecast with Google TV’s remote is quite simple. Similar to the case of the Fire Stick, it comes with a navigation circle with the “Enter” button in the middle.

Use the circle’s up, down, left, and right areas to navigate around items on the screen and the middle button to execute a command, such as launching an app, or to pause/resume playback.

You can also press and hold the middle button for a long modem at specific interface sections for more options.

The remote has a few more buttons, including a black one for voice control — press and hold it to use voice commands with Google Assistant — which worked well in my trial. You can use it to launch an app via voice or search for a new app or a show that you’d like to install or play as well as other general voice commands.

Chromecast with Google TV 4K Remote
The Chromecast with Google TV has a compact remote. Note the unusual layout and the lack of a YouTubTV button.

Unfortunately, you can’t use this button for dictation. So if you need to enter information into an app, such as the username and password, you still have to fumble with an onscreen keyboard one character at a time.

I found the remote a tad too small for my hand, but it worked well. There are a couple of odd things that need some getting used to, especially when you use it in the dark:

  • The frequently-accessed Home button is located under the Back button instead of in a prominent place.
  • There are only two app buttons for YouTube and Netflix. Considering the device’s name, it’s strange that there’s no button for YouTube TV.
  • The volume buttons are on the right side of the remote, but the mute button is on top. Generally, they should be close to one another.

By the way, Chromecast with Google TV supports HDMI Consumer Electronics Control or HDMI-CEC.

Consequently, it can immediately control most TVs’ volume, content source, and power as you plug it into an HDMI port. Also, when you turn it (and the TV) on via the remote, it automatically changes the TV’s source to its HDMI port, which is a nice touch.

The hassle for those with multiple Google accounts

As mentioned above, you must sign in with a Google account before using the new Chromecast. Once signed in, all Google services associated with this account will be available to the device.

For example, when you run the YouTube or YouTube TV app, you’ll note that your content and preferences are already there.

And you can use many Google services with it, including Google Photos, all Google Home-related devices, Google Meet, etc.

So if you have a single Google account for all different services, things are straightforward. It’s super-convinient.

Chromecast with Google TV 4K USB C port
The Chromecast with Google TV comes with a USB-C port for power. You can also use this port and an Ethernet accessory to connect it to a network via a network cable.

However, if you have multiple accounts and use them for different services — such as one account for YouTube TV, one for Google Photos, and another for Meet, things can get complicated.

In this case, you’ll have to switch back and forth between accounts often, and the switching itself can take a long time to complete — from a few seconds to half a minute, depending on the number of services applicable to the account you move to. Now, convenience becomes a bit of a hassle.

On the other hand, if you use a non-Google service, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, your login for each app will remain no matter which Google account you use at a given time.

It would be much better if you could use Google services similarly — per app instead of per account. But my take is that’s never going to happen.

No Wi-Fi 6 but an excellent performance nonetheless

The Chromecast with Google TV (both 4K and HD) is a Dual-band Wi-Fi receiver using the dated Wi-Fi 5 on the 5GHz band and Wi-Fi 4 on the 2.4Ghz. And that’s a disappointment, considering the world is about to move to Wi-Fi 7.

However, in reality, that’s not a huge deal considering the dongle never needs more than 100Mbps of bandwidth anyway. As a streaming device, it generally runs a single app at a time, and 4K content only requires 40Mbps at most.

And in my testing, its Wi-Fi proved to be much faster than that, as you’ll note in the photo below.

Chromecast with Google TV 4K Speed Test
The Chromecast with Google TV (4K)’s Wi-Fi speed out of a 10Gbps Fibe-optic broadband connection.

And in real-world usage, it proved to be responsive. Apps generally took around a second to launch, and I could quickly switch between apps.

Google Assistant often delivered results almost instantly; generally, things moved around with no issues. As for video and audio quality, the new Chromecast was the same as the Amazon Fire Stick or any Smart TV’s built-in streaming apps.

An excellent screen casting accessories

And the Chromecast with Google TV works exceptionally well as a casting device — the area where fast Wi-Fi would play a role.

During my weeks of trial with the 4K version, I used it extensively to mirror my Pixel 7 Pro (and other Pixels) to big-screen TVs for gaming, media streaming, photo viewing, and work purposes. And I loved the responsiveness and ease of use.

While many TV comes with built-in screen mirroring capability — and I can also do that with my Amazon Fire TV Stick — most of the time, the process can be involved, and you can only cast the playback content, not the phone’s screen.

Chromecast with Google TV 4K Casting ScreenChromecast with Google TV 4K Casting
Screen mirroring is the best feature of any Chromecast, and the latest hardware version makes things even better.

The Chromecast makes things so much easier. The casting process takes place instantly with a touch and excellent responsiveness. You can mirror the entire mobile device’s screen or just the video being played. So if you need to demo an app, that will work beautifully.

This screen mirroring capability alone makes the new Chromecast worth the cost if you often need to show your phone, tablet, or computer’s screen on a big TV. It’s the reason I’m considering keeping a new Google Chromecast despite already having multiple Fire Sticks around the house.

Pros

Excellent screen mirroring device for mobile devices

Support popular streaming apps with fast app switching

Responsive and well-designed remote with voice control

Compact, practical design with USB-C connector

Cons

Won’t work with a TV’s USB port for power; the remote’s button layout could be better

Google’s bloated Home mobile app is required for the setup

No voice dictation, no Wi-Fi 6

Hardware seems a bit dated

Conclusion

Though far from perfect, the Chromecast with Google TV (4K) — as well as the new HD version — is the best Chromecast to date. With a functional remote, it’s no longer a simple casting device but now a versatile media streaming device.

Supporting a large selection of apps, the new device can satisfy fans of popular streaming services and geeks who love their local media servers.

However, I’d recommend the Amazon Fire TV if you’re frequently on the go. Its ability to draw power from a TV’s USB port alone means you won’t need to worry about misplacing the power adapter. Plus, it has a more sensible remote.

In any case, either will make an excellent personal streamer. They represent their vendors’ ecosystems, Google TV vs Fire TV, and the choice between the two boils down to which you prefer. Both are giant tech companies with insatiable appetites for consumers’ data.

Pick your poison and an applicable streamer today! Or, if you already have a Google or Fire TV, get either to turn your big screen into a complete streaming and casting experience.