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Chromecast with Google TV HD review: A great cheap streamer

A great cheap streaming device for those who want to add smarts to an older TV or monitor

(R to L) The Chromecast with Google TV HD and remote
(Image: © Henry T. Casey for Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Our Chromecast with Google TV HD review shows that while it is a good 1080p streamer — one of the best, even — it still has room to improve.

Pros

  • +

    Same great Chromecast with Google TV... now in HD

  • +

    One of the best streaming device remotes

  • +

    Hides easily behind TV

  • +

    Supports HDR

Cons

  • -

    Continue Watching row continues to confuse

  • -

    No 4K limits use cases

The thing about the Chromecast with Google TV HD is that its name says almost everything you need to know. It's practically the same exact device as the 4K Chromecast with Google TV, but just, you know, not in 4K.

That means I'll spend this Chromecast with Google TV HD review comparing it against other non-4K devices. But that also means the Chromecast with Google TV HD has limited use cases. As we see every Prime Day and Black Friday (and expect to see at the Prime Early Access Sale), 4K TV prices are getting lower and lower all the time. On top of that, most TVs sold today are smart TVs — and don't need one of the best streaming devices attached.

So, why would you buy the Chromecast with Google TV HD? Well, the target audiences for this device are those considering smartening up an older dumb TV or monitor. While I'm not the smart home or cloud gamer type, the Nest and Stadia support (though the latter dies in January) are nice-to-be-included features.

Should you buy the Chromecast with Google TV, though? let's find out.

Chromecast with Google TV HD specs

Chromecast with Google TV HD
Starting price$29.99
ResolutionUp to 1080p at 60 fps
WirelessWi-Fi 802.11ac (2.4 GHz / 5 GHz) and Bluetooth
PortUSB-C (for power)
Dimensions6.4 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches
ColorsWhite
AudioDolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Atmos via HDMI passthrough
VideoHDR10, HDR10+, HLG
RemoteVoice remote

Chromecast with Google TV HD review: Price and availability

The Chromecast with Google TV HD's box

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey for Tom's Guide)

The Chromecast with Google TV HD costs $29.99 (opens in new tab) and it's available online right now. This places it alongside the newly announced Roku Express (2022) and the Fire TV Stick Lite — which both also start at $29.99.

Google announced the Chromecast with Google TV HD on Sept. 22, 2022 — and it was available that same day.

Chromecast with Google TV HD review: Design

Looking at the Chromecast with Google TV HD, I can clearly hear David Byrne singing "same as it ever was." This streaming device, which dangles from an HDMI port, is identical to its 4K forefather. The one minor difference is that the HD model is only sold in white, and not the pinkish Sunrise and blue Sky colorways that the 4K version is sold in. Its matte chassis may scuff or pick up dust easily, but that doesn't matter much, since it's meant to be tucked away behind your TV or display.

The Chromecast with Google TV HD in hand

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey for Tom's Guide)

All told, it's a very simple device. Its HDMI cord is permanently fixed to the 3 x 2.4-inch oval that holds the actual brains of the operation. The Chromecast has a small button for resetting it, a power indicator light and USB-C port used to draw power from an included USB-A brick. 

The Chromecast with Google TV HD

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey for Tom's Guide)

I prefer the Chromecast with Google TV design over that of the Roku Express, which is more of a streaming box than a dongle. In the past, it has proven too lightweight to sit properly without adhesive, and it's so light that its HDMI cord can awkwardly lift it in the air. I look forward to seeing if that's changed in the 2022 model once we review it. The Fire TV Stick Max is more similar: a rigid rectangular dongle (with an optional extender adapter that lets it dangle if you want) that stays hidden behind your TV.

Chromecast with Google TV HD review: Interface

The Chromecast with Google TV HD also inherited its visual layout from its big brother. The "For you" home screen — with a giant banner carousel that offers suggested programming up top, which is sometimes marked with an "Ad" sticker — is similar enough to Amazon's Fire TV home screen, but better and worse in certain ways. 

I prefer the Chromecast with Google TV HD layout over Amazon's interface, which seemingly packs more ads. Roku's simpler aesthetic is the best of the bunch for people who want less bells and whistles, and just want to see a grid of apps to select from. Both the Chromecast with Google TV and Fire TV interfaces limit you to a row of app icons, and you have to click to a different window to see all of your apps.

The Chromecast with Google TV HD home screen with a DC League of Super Pets recommendation on a 4K TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey for Tom's Guide)

I love how the Chromecast's home screen, under "Top picks for you," pulls in currently streaming shows and movies from my Sling TV subscription (a feature that also works with YouTube TV, Pluto TV and Philo). At the same time, I also like Fire TV's implementation that shows favorited channels when you hover over your live TV  streaming app's button. But Google shows them no matter what. The next row down shows recently opened apps, and below that, you have Continue Watching.

Continue Watching, as I've written, doesn't always pull in all of the right data. For example, during this testing, it only pulled in the last thing I'd watched on Sling TV (Avengers: Endgame) and not the show (WWE's NXT) that I switched to from that. And it kept the What We Do In The Shadows season 4 finale at the front of the queue even though I'd not touched that in weeks. Then you have rows of suggested content below that — organized by topics, themes and services. 

The Chromecast with Google TV's Continue Watching row

(Image credit: Tom's Guide/Henry T. Casey)

There are other easily explained tabs (search, movies, shows, apps, library), but the one that deserves some praise is the Live tab. Here, you can see a grid of the channels from your connected live TV service, which you can mark as favorites for viewing in the below grid. This up-front placement is better than how Fire TV slightly hides its tab. I wish all of the top-of-screen "On now" boxes would be tuned to your favorites, as I have no interest in whatever the Disney Channel is showing (sorry, Hotel Transylvania). 

Lastly, let's talk search. You'll primarily hunt for content with remote's Google Assistant button and the search tab. It all works well enough, unless you try and get clever. When I asked for Jordan Peele's movies, it presented the trio (Get Out, Us and Nope) he's directed, plus Candyman (2021), which he wrote and produced.

Chromecast with Google TV HD review: Performance

The Chromecast with Google TV HD (which doesn't have publicly available specs for storage, processor and memory) may be less expensive than most streaming devices, but its user experience doesn't feel cheap. Loading shows and apps isn't notably slower than on the other $29 streaming devices. I tried to measure the time it took for a broadcast or move to become stable, but the gaps were too short to measure.

I got my stopwatch app out to put the HD Chromecast up against the Fire TV Stick Lite, and often I got shockingly similar results. I saw the literal same load times for Netflix (18 seconds), Apple TV Plus (instantly) and Sling TV (20 seconds), while HBO Max actually took a bit longer on the Chromecast (21 seconds) than on the Fire TV Stick Lite (10 seconds).

The Chromecast with Google TV HD screensaver shows a field on a 4K TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey for Tom's Guide)

Navigating the Google TV home screens, and all of its menus, I only rarely noticed pauses — at around 1 out of 10 clicks, if not less. The only consistent slow-down showed when I clicked over to the Search tab on the home screen. And that's not something I'd ever do normally, as the Google Assistant button is right there on the remote.

Also, if an app uses an animated graphic during its load screen — as Sling and Netflix do — expect that awkward slow animation (which also happens on the Fire TV Stick Lite) when you boot it up.

Chromecast with Google TV HD review: Audio and video

Smart Hulk in Avengers: Endgame on a monitor, playing off the Chromecast with Google TV HD

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey for Tom's Guide)

For a cheap streaming device, the Chromecast with Google TV HD still tries to offer a decent audio and video experience. That said, I thought it would be good to test it out by plugging it into my only dumb monitor — the ultra-wide Dell display I use for work. Hilariously, this is how I learned that my monitor doesn't have speakers, and that (with the equipment I have) the only audio-out I have is through a headphone jack.

As I watched Endgame, Smart Hulk rendered in a decent-enough green hue — this 'dumb' monitor doesn't have HDR either — and the flaming text lit by wrestler Alba Fyre on WWE NXT appeared in a properly warm tone. Johnny Knoxville and Keegan-Michael Key also looked accurate when I watched Reboot on Hulu.

(L to R) Johnny Knoxville and Keegan-Michael Key in Hulu's Reboot on a monitor, playing off the Chromecast with Google TV HD

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey for Tom's Guide)

I quickly grew tired of watching the Chromecast with Google TV on my monitor at my desk, so I moved it to my 55-inch 4K LG OLED55C7P TV. Where it continued to work like a charm. Finishing Endgame, I heard all the right thuds and clanks and yells during the big battle at the end where all the snapped heroes emerged to save the day. Sure, none of it's in Dolby Atmos (restricted to pricier devices), but the HDR support does provide decent enough contrast.

I use a wide array of streaming devices, often defaulting back to the excellent Apple TV 4K. But because Sling TV doesn't offer 4K, there were moments as I watched various content throughout the week that I forgot I was watching on a device that costs 16% as much.

The Chromecast with Google TV HD's audio and video spec support is solid, and mirrors the Fire TV Stick Lite while beating the Roku Express. Here's how they stack up.

Chromecast with Google TVFire TV Stick LiteRoku Express (2020)
1080pYes (at 60fps)Yes (at 60fps)Yes (with upscaling from 720)
HDR10YesYesNo
HDR10+YesYesNo
Dolby AudioYesYesYes

Chromecast with Google TV HD review: Remote

Stop me if you've heard this one before: the Chromecast with Google TV HD has the same remote as the 4K model. And this is (pretty much) a great thing. Complete with navigation buttons, the Google Assistant button and TV controls for power and volume, it's pretty complete.

The Chromecast with Google TV HD remote

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey for Tom's Guide)

It also has a button to switch your TV's input devices, which is great if your set doesn't automatically move to whatever device you're using. That said, I'd love a dedicated play/pause button (which is standard on competitor remotes). The circle inside the navigation wheel does the trick, but I'd value that more than the included Netflix and YouTube buttons — as I never think to use those.

This remote, though is where the HD Chromecast beats the Roku Express (or at least past models) handily. That Roku uses an IR-based remote that requires a bit of effort and accuracy when zapping, whereas the Chromecast with Google TV HD remote can be aimed in any direction.

Chromecast with Google TV HD review: Apps

First of all, let's not let the Chromecast with Google TV HD's box make us think it's a regular old streaming device. You can still cast streams to it from your laptop or phone.

you'll only be limited by your monthly budget

But, buy the Chromecast with Google TV HD, and you won't be lacking for streaming options. With every big streaming service available, from Prime Video to Hulu to Netflix to Peacock to Paramount Plus to our favorite HBO Max (the best streaming service), and even the niche-ier ones as well (your Criterion Collections, Shudders and MUBIs), you'll only be limited by your monthly budget. 

The only app I like that's missing is the movie-rating social network Letterboxd, which isn't on Roku or Fire TV, but on Apple's tvOS.

The Chromecast with Google TV HD even has Google's suite of in-house app extras, including support for Google Stadia (its cloud-based gaming program that is being killed off in January 2023). It also has support for connected Nest devices, so you can turn lights on and off, check cameras and even change the thermostat — all from the remote.

Chromecast with Google TV HD review: Bottom line

Streaming devices limited to HD resolution, as I've noted above, push a peculiar proposition. They're made for people who want to add apps to a TV, but don't see a need to spend at least $10 more (the Roku Express 4K Plus is $39.99) for 4K. But when Google and Roku are re-investing in this target audience, who am I to tell them they're chasing a niche crowd?

As I've noted in this Chromecast with Google TV HD review, it's a perfectly capable streaming device. It's not speedy, but it's snappy enough, the interface has its own perks and, doggone it, I like it.

The Chromecast with Google TV HD plugged into a TV's HDMI port

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey for Tom's Guide)

At the end of the day, buying a $30 streaming device puts you in a question of which platform you like the most. Do you want the agnostic Roku, the Amazon-heavy Fire TV or the Google-friendly Chromecast with Google TV? Aside from how the Roku Express is missing HDR video and its remote has disappointed us in the past, these devices are very similar.

The only proviso I have to say is, if you're thinking about buying it to smarten a dumb screen, make sure that display has speakers and HDR. While the Chromecast with Google TV HD can make your monitor more capable, it doesn't fix every 'dumb' display problem.

Henry T. Casey
Senior Editor

Henry is a senior 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.