Google today announced a new Chromecast at its livestreamed ‘Launch Night In’ event, but it isn’t the smartphone-controlled Chromecast that most people are used to. No, the $50 Chromecast with Google TV is a fully-fledged streaming device with a proper menu system, a remote control, and an interface that brings all of your streaming services together.
Google’s new Chromecast runs on the Android TV operating system, which should feel familiar to NVIDIA Shield TV or Xiaomi Mi Box S users. Android TV is a simple interface that lets you download apps and games from the Google Play Store. It’s compatible with most streaming services, and it integrates perfectly with Google Assistant for voice navigation or smart home controls. Android TV also supports casting from your phone or laptop—so don’t let anybody tell you that this new thing is just a Chromecast by name!
Still, Google is putting a custom spin on its Chromecast with Google TV interface. Instead of the usual Android TV homescreen, which holds rows of organizable apps and games, Google populates the custom “Google TV” homescreen with aggregated content from all the streaming services you’re subscribed to.
In other words, Google TV is a one-stop-shop for all your streaming needs. You don’t need to dig through the Hulu and Netflix apps just to find a show—simply look at your Google TV homescreen, use the universal search function, or check your universal watch list. Google TV also has a custom “For You” section full of recommended content across services, and the option to aggregate shows by genre or content.
The new Google TV remote comes in three colors and sports a minimalist design. It has dedicated buttons for Google Assistant, YouTube, and Netflix. And instead of using boring arrow keys, the Google TV remote has an iPod-styled dial that lets you quickly navigate shows, movies, and on-screen keyboards.
Some Google fans and journalists got their hands on the Chromecast with Google TV early. Their main complaint is that you can’t ditch the aggregated Google TV homescreen for the regular, hyper-customizable Android TV homescreen. Google also says that its Stadia game streaming software isn’t coming to Google TV until 2021, which is odd considering that Chris Wlech at The Verge managed to successfully sideload the Stadia Android app onto his new Chromecast on September 29th (a day before the official Google TV announcement).
Either way, Chromecast with Google TV is the next logical step for the Chromecast brand. Google wants to provide an all-in-one platform for streaming, listening to music, controlling your smart home, and playing Stadia. For many people, the remote-controlled Chromecast with Google TV is more accessible than the basic phone-controlled system. At $50, it’s $20 cheaper than the 4K Chromecast Ultra, and Google is offering a limited $90 Google TV bundle that comes with half a year of Netflix.