Tech

Better than Fire TV, but nowhere near perfect

In the test report, Google has to prove where the successor for Android TV stands. A good package has been achieved with the new Chromecast.

Google has presented a more or less completely new TV set. The latest Chromecast 4th Gen has its own remote control and Android TV has been turned inside out to become the new Google TV. Google delivers solid streaming hardware for every screen with an HDMI input, but the new or heavily revised software is much more exciting for us. I switched from Fire TV straight away, for a couple of reasons.

The new remote control is heaven and hell at the same time for me. The material actually feels good, the matt surface makes it attractive to the touch. The battery cover is a bit too loose and the volume buttons on the side are not positioned optimally. I use YouTube and Netflix a lot, these dedicated buttons make sense to me. Depending on the app, the control pad works directly with the first press for pause and rewind, but unfortunately not always.

The first Chromecast with remote control

As stupid as it sounds, the real highlight of the remote control for me is the additional infrared transmitter. With this I can control the volume of my soundbar without latency. Although the remote control Bluetooth would also be via HDMI CEC for control, this solution had an enormous and therefore very annoying delay with the Fire TV 4K. And infrared can be used if HDMI CEC is not even available. Old school, but nice to have.

A freer assignment of the keys would be desirable. Actually, I would have liked two empty buttons without branding, which I can assign according to individual needs. But of course that doesn’t bring any money, a few euros will certainly have flowed for the Netflix button. You will quickly notice that Netflix is ​​integrated much more seamlessly into the Google software.

Google’s watch list, Rotten Tomatoes and more

I’ve been using Google extensively every day for many years, so the company knows me well. This is an advantage in this case, because I get endless recommendations from all video services. Here I can choose in advance which video services Google should even include for the content. However, this does not apply to all functions, some of the recommendations shown include all popular services, including Joyn and Co.

If you don’t really like recommendations, you can use an apps-only mode:

The general overview quickly shows when content has to be paid for and via which streaming service it is offered. In addition, Google shows the data from Rotten Tomatoes (critic score) for reviews, which has turned out to be more useful for me. Last but not least, my absolute highlight is the watch list, which I can fill out directly via Google search. No other apps are necessary for this, I like that a lot.

In addition, I am now telling Google directly what content I have seen and how I find it. The better the algorithms can tailor their recommendations to me. The only disadvantage is that I actually have to manually confirm in the Google TV software when I have seen content. I also don’t see how far I have already watched a series, it only becomes visible in the respective app.

Since I’m also willing to rent a film for money, the mix of flat-rate and paid content actually suits me very well. As already indicated, the origin or, if applicable, the lowest price due is always directly under the content.

Room for improvement: Google TV is weak here and there

I like Google TV’s software, it’s fast and, in my opinion, relatively intuitive. But there are also some weaknesses that I don’t want to hide. The setup was really annoying because the transfer of the Android phone’s settings only scratches the base. I was hoping for a takeover of all registered apps, but in fact I had to register manually almost everywhere. Except for the apps, they got their passwords from Google’s “Smart Lock”, which only a few do.

At the start, Google TV is far from complete. One example is the “Watch Next” area, which has not yet shown any content from Prime Video. In addition, I only ever see a maximum of two pieces of content next to each other. Not exactly practical when we watch several series alternately at the same time. In addition, we cannot remove content from this area ourselves, which I would like for one or the other prematurely canceled film.

There was criticism from others for the search, which I personally rarely use. Usually more targeted, otherwise I like to click my way through recommendations, “similar titles” and such menus. Google Assistant is integrated for voice control, which cuts a fine figure for me in voice recognition. To be honest, I would like the “For you” area without series, but there are alternatively individual areas for films and series. There is currently no profile function for Google TV, but it should come.

It is also inconsistent that Rotten Tomatoes and Google TV cannot be linked to each other, for example to compare your own data. There is therefore only the Critic Score and not the Audience Score. Perhaps Google will improve something here in the future and tie the connection closer. Last but not least, this also applies to the Google Home app on the smartphone, in which I would like a virtual remote control for the Chromecast.

Google TV has made a comeback

I can’t say whether the Chromecast 4th Gen is technically at a high level. For me, the image quality and operating speed are definitely right. The software also suits me well, I had little reason for criticism. I like to rummage through colorful pictures when I feel like watching a random film. That works better for me with Google TV than with Fire TV. Also because Google cannot force my own flat-rate streaming service on me, as there is none.

Google TV existed many years ago, then the platform was relaunched as Android TV. Since then, the platform has been languishing, Google hasn’t even offered its own device with it in recent years. The second restart as Google TV and with a streaming dongle looks more sophisticated and works for me absolutely. You just had to set the price differently, the almost 70 euros are already steep. If you consider the hardware. The Chromecast doesn’t exactly contain the most expensive high-end components.

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