I switched to Chromecast with Google TV — here's why I'm leaving

Chromecast with Google TV is the best streaming device I’ve ever owned
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Weeks ago, I thought "hey, I should see what the Chromecast with Google TV is all about." So I pulled one from our testing cabinets, set it up on my TV, downloaded all my favorite apps and waited for the magic to happen. Unfortunately, nothing really felt too magical.

Maybe I'm too much of a seasoned streaming editor, but I quickly realized (in a matter of a few weeks) that I wasn't going to be keeping the pleasant-looking streaming dongle in one of my TV's precious few HDMI ports. Yes, the Chromecast with Google TV is definitely one of the best streaming devices, but it's not going to be mine.

Why did I switch to the Chromecast with Google TV? I've heard a lot of people rave about it, and I've also got a bit of curiosity. I've used it for research and comparisons, but it's a device I haven't spent heaps of time with (my colleague Mike Prospero wrote our Chromecast with Google TV review).

The Chromecast with Google TV's home screen is not for me

a movie called One For The Money is promoted on The Chromecast with Google TV's home screen

(Image credit: Future)

A home screen matters a lot. Don't believe me? Just look at how your phone's home screen is laid out. You hide the stuff you don't want, right? Well, the Chromecast with Google TV's home screen (titled "For you") became too much for me, with a bunch of stuff getting in the way. None of it more annoying than the ads for movies I frankly don't care about (sorry Katherine Heigl, no offense to your movie One for the Money, but I'll click down two times to go away). 

Personally, I just want to get to specific apps quickly. And since the Chromecast with Google TV remote only has pre-programmed Netflix and YouTube buttons, the ads and "Top picks for you" rows just seem like fodder I don't need. Especially when it's suggesting I watch SportsCenter (via YouTube TV). 

Wasn't the cord-cutter future supposed to be about ditching the stuff we don't use?

I like that live TV service integration has begun with YouTube TV and Sling TV, but this recommendation is without base: I've never actually watched SportsCenter on YouTube TV, and I'm not planning to now. Wasn't the cord-cutter future supposed to be about ditching the stuff we don't use? Why does it always feel like we're on a slow march back to a cable-like situation, under a different name?

Sportscenter via YouTube TV is promoted on the Chromecast with Google TV's home screen

(Image credit: Future)

Why does the home screen stuff I don't like irritate me so much? Well, on Tuesday night, when I was jumping between Sling TV and YouTube TV, testing for a future article, I found that the excess of menus and a case of butter-fingers syndrome led to more mistakes. 

I was accidentally clicking through the row of tabs at the very top of the screen, as there's so many clicks you need to make to get to the right apps.

And while I'm expecting to spend some time with the Fire TV (which has a similar interface) next, this style just doesn't fit how I want to stream.

Continue watching and live TV should be better

I wanted to test the Chromecast with Google TV, in part, because it does things differently, trying to surface stuff intelligently so you spend less time looking and more time watching. Unfortunately, I haven't had a great experience.

As I've previously explained, the Chromecast with Google TV's Continue Watching row isn't really working that well. Some days you can't remove items you don't want to watch, other times the wrong episode or season number shows up.

Then, there's the other feature I was excited about. The "Live" section. Except, again, the reality didn't meet my hopes. 

The Chromecast with Google TV's live screen

(Image credit: Future)

First, I used the Live section with Sling TV, which didn't really work that well because the order of channels didn't match my personalized version, which put my clicker finger through the ringer. 

But even when I used it with YouTube TV — which has my favorites at the top of the grid — it still had the big boxes you can see, for channels I do not watch. Sure, I could click down a couple of rows, but if it can tell the channels I watch most, why not put them in those boxes? It makes no sense.

Yes, you can select and favorite a channel, but who wants to go through that work? Things like this should be more automatic.

The Chromecast's remote buttons leave me wanting more

Maybe I'm the problem here. But all six of the top buttons of the Chromecast's first remote ever get awfully confusing if you don't want to look at your device. 

Look at most other remotes, and you'll see that everyone else figured out that people like physically dissimilar buttons. It's because it's easier to "feel" out which button is which. Even Apple's remote has a concave 'back' button. 

The Chromecast with Google TV's remote

(Image credit: Future)

Also, I'd love to have a dedicated play/pause button, and not just use the 'center' button in the middle of the navigation buttons. 

Apple Music on Chromecast is flawed at best

I guess this one's on me. "Who would get a Chromecast if they already use Apple Music?" I hear no-one in particular ask. Surely, you'd think us Apple Music users would prefer the Apple TV, right? Well, what about those who don't want to spend $179 on the Apple TV 4K when the $49 Chromecast with Google TV (which looks pretty much like an Apple device, in terms of hardware) is right there?

Well, as I learned when I tried to stream Apple Music on the Chromecast, there is no Apple Music app for the device. Sure, there's an Android Apple Music app (which can Cast to the Chromecast), but there's no dedicated app. 

getting apple music on the chromecast with google tv

(Image credit: Future)

So, instead, you set up Apple Music with Google Home in order to hear Apple Music on Chromecast with Google TV.

So, that means you're limited to voice commands, which is kind of silly. And you use a home screen widget of sorts to get back to your playback screen. I don't blame Google for this — Apple shares the blame — but the two parties ought to get it together. Especially now that Apple Music is finally on Roku.

The last straw

Randomly on Sunday night, as I was watching a live WWE event, I kept getting the below "Device pairing request" as my Google Home app (which I use as a software remote) kept disconnecting from the Chromecast with Google TV. 

The Google Home software remote pairing message on the Chromecast with Google TV.

(Image credit: Future)

And this is the kind of thing that just does not work. It didn't pop up after Sunday (I used the Chromecast up until Wednesday), but it was the kind of annoying nuisance that I didn't even want to risk recurring.

Bottom line: Choice is good, but this isn't my choice

So, the Chromecast with Google TV isn't for me. And that's very OK. Right now, all of the best streaming services are on most of the best streaming devices. So you can just jump between sticks and dongles and streaming boxes to find the right fit for you. 

I started using different streaming devices for my personal streaming when a Netflix audio issue on my Apple TV 4K reared its head during Formula 1: Drive to Survive binges. That bug may be fixed (I'm not sure), but I'm still going to be spending time on other devices anyways. Roku's hardware is still great, but I'd prefer the Apple TV if all things were equal.

Next up? I'm going to stream on the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, the first Fire Stick we've put on our top streaming devices list. I'll let you know how that turns out.

Love reality TV? Get ready for the Bling Empire season 2 release date — as the drama and fashion is back.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.

  • ibm650
    admin said:
    Our streaming editor tried to switch to the Chromecast with Google TV, but that trial didn't last.

    I switched to Chromecast with Google TV — here's why I'm leaving : Read more

    Apple intentionally does not play well with others, blame Apple not Google.
  • Wandering Moose
    admin said:
    Our streaming editor tried to switch to the Chromecast with Google TV, but that trial didn't last.

    I switched to Chromecast with Google TV — here's why I'm leaving : Read more

    You know you can put it in developer mode and load a custom launcher.
  • RG Geiger
    Fair review. My first choice is the firetv because it integrates live linear tv better. I have 500 stations from about 8 sources on the grid guide. I was not impressed with android tv which is the TV's OS, so I side loaded goggle tv. I can live with it when I must but the firetv is my main input source. Both run ads for shows and movies which usually do not float my boat. But, goggle knows me better than Amazon and has given me things which I have ended up watching.
  • Diablo_Huevos
    So I have the nest hub max bundle w/chrmcst-gtv I have had no issues with it. No adds, go straight to apps like Hulu,HBO and/or AMC+. I can just choose a movie, n stream, see I'm an actual seasoned streamer n gamer. You can set the dongle 4 ur needs n leave the bs out. You should research more, also use developer mode to change interface of home page, u knew that ur a pro-streamer. I also have a new fire cube its great but Alexa is limited vs. googles a.i. 1 last thing u can play stadia on g-tv now so I have more screens to play in 4k ultra.
  • Boogernish
    As a few others have pointed out, before writing a strongly opinionated piece against what amounts to a major player in the streaming space, especially as the Tom's Guide senior editor for streaming media, I might have taken a moment to determine what other power users are doing to circumvent trivial annoyances. You would have found that, unsurprisingly, being an Android device after all, it can be customized and "hacked" to more closely fall in line with your preferences and particular use case. You can unlock the bootloader and go crazy with custom OSs, hide ads, run custom launchers... The world is your oyster with just a bit of effort on your part and a visit to the XDA forums. Most of the mods you can make don't even require the slightly more intensive need to root the device, however that is an option and will give the end-user ultimate control/root access.

    As is, it comes off as someone that perhaps didn't want to like it or was predisposed to dislike it regardless of what the desired outcome was.

    I would've expected more from a senior editor, especially one generally overseeing all media streaming!

    PS - I understand you may have been unwilling to do any of the above for the sake of this article but you still could have presented optionsfor circumventing the many downsides you cite. That would've presented a balanced argument to readers perhaps on the fence about making a purchase of the device, especially if they're the type that aren't afraid to roll their sleeves up and get into the muck with rooting and whatnot.
  • Barefoot Mike
    Some good points, especially wrt the blatant attempts to get you to watch what you aren't interested in, and for admitting that's becoming a problem on all smart tv platforms, not just Google's.

    OTOH, Apple Music not being supported is because Apple doesn't like sharing. Blame them. Then again, who cares? Aside from just testing to see if it works, I've never had any desire to use my tv as a music player. I have better ways to listen to music that don't include the wasted energy and wear-and-tear of keeping a tv screen lit that nobody is looking at.
  • danny19901
    I think it's a half decent review I mean personally you can connect other remotes to the Chromecast and use it for stuff other than media however if you want a great device just for media get yourself a Nvidia Shield pro 2019 model and you will thank me as hands down it's the best all round for media, android and gaming as well as AI Upscaling 720p movies upscaled to 4k etc... And the results are amazing I had IP TV and upscaled the TV channels without issues also works in many apps Plex, Netflix, YouTube and more
  • Dwatt
    admin said:
    Our streaming editor tried to switch to the Chromecast with Google TV, but that trial didn't last.

    I switched to Chromecast with Google TV — here's why I'm leaving : Read more
    Sometime you geeks think too much. I have all my apps on my IPad, including my cable app, and simply cast using Chromecast. Simple. All the streaming aggregator apps are too clumsy to navigate and duplicate what I already have on my Ipad.
  • Moose and Squirrel
    I made it through 2 paragraphs of this before saying to myself "This is an apple person, who did this entire exercise just to say he wasn't going to use it.

    Yeah, the remote is too small and ridiculous. Clearly the engineers were forced to accept the idea that not everyone carries a phone with them 24x7. But there are others that are cheap. In fact, you can get a remote with the Onn TV version from walmart, and the streaming device and remote cost less than an Apple TV remote alone.

    And nobody invested in the apple world was ever going to be happy with a non apple product.

    What a waste of electrons to post this drivel.
  • Jaychis
    I find it interesting that as someone who writes for a technical publication you approached using the streaming device as an older first time user. First, there are remapping apps that can reprogram the remote buttons. Possibly more than you wanted to do, but this is commonly known, even for us less technical savvy people. Also, the interface is customizable and learns your viewing habits with time and also will ask you what type of programming you like to watch. Actually I have found the complete opposite from your experience. When I turn my TV on, my programming I tend to watch is immediately displayed and I just scroll to the program and immediately starts playing. This is completely the opposite of any other streaming device I have ever used. Usually it requires me to scroll to the app, open the app, then scroll through the channels to find the program I want to watch. While the article represents your opinion and experience, for someone who uses the device it's apparent that you had a preconceived opinion of the device or you flat out did not spend much time using the device.
    I may sound pro CCWGTV. I'm actually not. There are better streaming devices and there are far more devices that are worse. I find for the money, it's definitely one of the better devices. I find it surprising that a tech publication would write an article that clearly demonstrates a lack of interest in writing a thorough review. I have found this true in a few other reviews with this site. What you write has an influence on what people purchase. Please spend some time using items you review outside of a couple of days or week. If you can't do that simple task, then don't write reviews.