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One of my favorite gadgets has received a major update. Since 2013, Google’s Chromecast has evolved over a few generations as the media player for TVs and other displays. It was the first HDMI stick that made streaming from your phone to TV really easy. With the latest generation, Google wants to add a lot to that: the Chromecast with Google TV.
Google TV is a variant of Android TV, where Google makes a big promise: no more switching between apps, just watch. It therefore promises that the various streaming services and purchased films and series are in one overview.
It’s actually quite strange that the 2020 Chromecast bears the same name as the previous Chromecast. Because the remote control ensures that they no longer look alike. The new Chromecast can also be operated with a remote control, making it no longer the service hatch that the old Chromecast is. With the latter, you necessarily need your phone or laptop to turn on something. That is still possible with the new Chromecast, but it is no longer necessary.
The Google TV operating system lets you browse all available Android TV apps with the remote control, you can search by voice or with the remote control and you click something without effort. This makes the Chromecast equal to the Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV and the Mi Box S from Xiaomi. I like that very much, not again something on your phone so that you end up in your WhatsApp and have already forgotten what you wanted to do.
It supports 4K HDR videos at 60 fps, which is comparable to the Chromecast Ultra, but you don’t get that Google TV operating system. So you get more options, for less money. At least if you can buy one.
Not in the Netherlands
The new Chromecast is not for sale in the Netherlands. In Germany and France, the Chromecast costs 69.99 euros. This makes it cheaper than the Chromecast Ultra in the Netherlands, which costs 79 euros. That Ultra is therefore no longer available in Germany, because of course nobody wants to pay more for less.
There are all kinds of ways to order the new Chromecast in the Netherlands. I myself have it from America, via intermediary BigAppleBuddy. It was there within a few days, but you pay about 120 dollars, or a little more than 100 euros. For that money you can also find the Chromecasts on Marktplaats from traders who have just crossed the border. Another option is to order via a webshop in France or Germany. It’s not that easy, since many webshops do not deliver to the Netherlands, but at the French Fnac you are ready for 75 euros, including shipping.
At first I was very frustrated that Google did not just put the Chromecast on sale in the Netherlands. The new Chromecast works completely in Dutch, without sloppy translations and with all the apps you want. NLZiet, NPO Plus, Videoland, ZiggoGo, you can find them all and they work without any problems. In any case, Google’s offering is pretty much the most complete I’ve ever seen: I haven’t found a major streaming service that isn’t listed yet.
But now that I’ve been playing with it a bit longer, I understand that it is a bit more complicated than just ticking the box ‘Netherlands’. And then I come back to the ambition of Google TV: it wants to display all films and series that you need at that moment in one list. So you don’t have to go to Prime, or Netflix, or YouTube first, but everything is criss-crossed, in a row.
To do that properly, you also need to understand all the content that is available. In other words; In order to connect Dutch apps, Google must know what content is on it. Of course, it has algorithms to read all this in, but apparently it was too much trouble to do that for the Netherlands now.
It ensures that the Dutch experience is now different from the English and the German. You don’t have a “For You” page in the navigation bar, nor a split between movies and series, just Your Apps and Library. Not all recommendations in one list, so, but a summary of the apps.
That immediately leads to more frustration: you cannot adjust the homepage. So you have to make do with Google’s general recommendations. For me, the Google Play Movies app is still at the top, while I hardly ever do anything with it. Google draws its own service for this, but removal is not possible. Then you have many more options with a Fire TV or Mi Box S.
You also notice that the search by voice is also not at all adapted for Dutch. Searching for Dutch is really worthless. He really doesn’t know anything and you never get what you want. He almost always comes up with a list of YouTube videos that you don’t want. And again YouTube is a Google service, so that doesn’t seem quite right to me. He also only searches a few apps; the Dutch apps from Ziggo, NLZiet and Videoland do not work.
In English it is a lot better. If I look up: ‘find Sean Connery movies’, then I get a neat list, and then I click one, then he immediately sees what I have a subscription for or how I can see it.
The Chromecast with Google TV can become so much better if it ‘really’ comes to the Netherlands. Does it already pay to order it via the detour? If you don’t want a half-finished product without freedom on your home screen, then I recommend the Mi Box S. Does about the same, looks just as bad, but is cheaper and available.
If you are considering putting a Chromecast Ultra under the Christmas tree, don’t do this and go for the new Chromecast with Google TV. The same image quality for less money and you get more for it. And then just hope that the Dutch update will come soon. Google tells us that ‘it can’t let us know’, so that may take a while.
Bram van Dijk, presenter Bright