I’ve been a Roku user for years, and for the longest time, I couldn’t understand why I would ever need a Chromecast. Why would I want to use my phone to play videos on my TV? It’s awkward. Also, my inexpensive Roku works great, streams from just about every service, and is easier to use. But then Google released its new Chromecast, which offers multiple ways to find and stream content. And after using it for a while, I’m questioning my loyalty to that Roku.
For $50—that’s $15 more than the original bare-bones Chromecast—you get the new model with Google TV built in. Google TV is the new name of Android TV, a smart TV platform with a user interface that rivals the usability of a Roku or an Apple TV. For that same $50, you also get a remote control in the box. The Chromecast supports Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, and streams content at up to 4K resolution. The actual device is pretty too, packaged in a slim, modern oval shape that comes in one of three soft colors, though it will most likely stay hidden from view behind your TV.
An Interface Tailored to You
Google TV’s helpful interface is its biggest strength against rival streaming devices. It attempts to tailor its suggestions to your preferences, and the guide includes movies and TV shows across all platforms at once. This makes the process of finding something to watch much easier overall, since you’ll see options from services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, YouTube TV, Peacock, and Tubi without having to go into each individual app. Of course, you won’t see the entire library of each service unless you open each app, but that’s where the tailored suggestions are useful. A nice perk is there are no ads in the interface, which just complements the altogether pleasant experience.
After logging in to my subscriptions and using the Chromecast as my main source of streaming, it had a pretty good idea of what I might be interested in watching. It’s not perfect, but you can long-press the center button on the remote to dislike a title, which will eventually remove it from your suggestions. You can also use that long press to add something to your watchlist.
Google TV also still shows me titles from services I don’t currently subscribe to, like HBO Max and YouTube TV, and obviously Google’s own rentals, but I get a wide enough range of options each time that this doesn’t bother me. Also, if you’re not sure if a certain streaming service is right for you, this might give you enough info to decide if you want to sign up. Included on the home screen are the last few things I currently watched, so I can jump right back into The Haunting of Bly Manor. It also shows me recent uploads from YouTubers I frequently watch and those whose channels I’ve subscribed to.
You can search for something across apps too, instead of just browsing. Search for Practical Magic to find out where it’s streaming (Roku has this option too, though I’ve found it to not always be accurate) or ask it to show you scary movies or comedies across all of the services. The Google Assistant integration on its remote allows you to use voice search as well. More on that in a bit.