Review: Google's cheaper Chromecast with Google TV is a go-to device - if you've not already embraced the smart age

Google's sleek Chromecast with TV is a lower end price point.
Google's sleek Chromecast with TV is a lower end price point. Photo credit: supplied/Google

You may find yourself wondering why you'd need a Google Chromecast with Google TV in this day and age of Smart TVs and their easy-to-access apps.

It's something I found myself pondering when I got this device, given I already use an Android-powered Smart TV which can easily load up apps and let me watch whatever I want, whenever I want.

Yet for those unable to access the newer televisions, or who struggle with the often confusing UI of a Smart TV and its various intricacies, it has to be said this NZ$69 piece of kit actually does everything you'd need - and a little bit more.

The latest Chromecast is a small, very sleek piece of kit. 

No larger than a mouse and washed down in a sleek white coating, the dongle and its handheld device betrays how sophisticated it can be if you know how to use it.

The box's contents aren't exactly overflowing - it's minimalism in extremis, as all you get is the remote, batteries, the dongle itself, a plug and a power cable, as well as the most basic of instructions.

All you need is a TV with HDMI port, a personal Google account, broadband and the ability to access the Google Home app version 2.57 on Android or iOS.

The good

It's surprisingly simple to set up and assemble the Chromecast with Google TV kit - just connect into the port, plug it in and then power it on.

Use of the Google Home App is a necessity as well, but again, this is easy to install and easy to add your device in once it's all sorted out.

There were a couple of minor issues in the set up (see below) but largely this is a "plug it in and go, any idiot can use it" type of device, which I deeply admire.

Coming pre-loaded with apps helped but in truth, this is a very slick and clean UI that does largely what it says on the tin and allows you to dive directly into streaming TV shows and movies, or playing music.

There's no lag between the remote and the TV itself - though perhaps the biggest issue is given the remote's size (no longer than your index finger), you're likely to lose it more easily down the side of the sofa if you're not careful.

Downloading new apps to the device is swift, too, meaning you can pick up and play as quickly as you want to. Again, a simple UI makes this an easy operation that's less about fiddling around, and more about ensuring you can do what you want when you want.

I also really liked the search option. Using the Google assistant on the remote, searches brought up universal results from all of your various apps. Searching for 'Doctor Who' proffered up watching on both TVNZ+ or Prime Video, which means it's a good way for you to traverse different content offerings on any platforms you already subscribe to rather than wondering about where's best to view and which you have access to.

The smart tech option is largely about positioning the Chromecast as a hub for your home.
The smart tech option is largely about positioning the Chromecast as a hub for your home. Photo credit: supplied/Google

Casting from your phone is easy too and controlling the volume from the app is also simple to negotiate - especially useful if you've lost the remote somewhere.

The ability to set up watchlists for different users in households, your own favourite apps and personalised recommendations are all worth a mention, too. While heavy, tech-savvy users may be struggling to validate the Chromecast's existence, the device does much to justify its very being and ensure its own vitality.

Especially if your Smart TV ends up being out of date and won't download new versions of the apps, the Chromecast could come into its own.

And I'm not going to lie - I did have fun asking Google Assistant what the weather would be doing tomorrow, what time is it in various countries, as well as getting it to sing me songs and tell me jokes. Look, my family was out for the day, and I was lonely - and in fairness, the assistant more than covered my own childish tendencies - and it didn't judge me. 

The bad

While I have to admit the cable from the Dongle itself to the power port just wasn't long enough for my requirements and necessitated the use of a messy-looking extension cord, that probably speaks more to my wiring setup than most users will find problematic.

Despite being powered up to the best Wi-Fi available, I was a little stunned to see how long an 85mb update took to download and install on initial load up - a little shy of 10 minutes, which was a real head-scratcher and somewhat of a shock.

Thankfully downloading new apps to the device itself was much swifter once everything was set up - but I wasn't expecting a delay for the simplest of uploads.

Worth mentioning

The accompanying instructions make a big thing of accessing the Google Nest and other smart home devices, as well as offering a Google TV app for your phone as well. 

While I'm not a homeowner whose home is riddled with smart devices in its structure, it's clear this positioning is about ensuring the Google Chromecast becomes a home hub for controlling all of your smart devices.

The verdict

For a simple "does what it says on the tin" device, the Google Chromecast with Google TV HD more than justifies its lower price point.

Its simplicity of design and its sophistication of execution makes it worthwhile. Even if you already own a Smart TV, this powerful little pod is worth keeping on standby.

You may even end up using it instead of the apps already on your TV - or as an extension for 1000s more choices.

Newshub was supplied a Google Chromecast for the purposes of this review.