After seven years on the market, Google is finally giving the Chromecast its most-requested feature: a remote control. Today, the company is announcing the launch of a new Chromecast that also runs new software. And its official name is the somewhat awkward “Chromecast with Google TV.” The company is resurrecting the Google TV as an interface layer that runs on top of the actual OS powering the new Chromecast, Android TV.
The Chromecast with Google TV will cost $49.99 and is available in the US beginning today. Actually, it was available a couple days ago if you happened to visit the right Home Depot, and Chris Welch has already posted his review which you can go look at right now. It comes in three colors: gray, pink, and blue (or as Google calls them, “Snow, Sunrise, and Sky”). It’s available for preorder in a few other countries as well, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and the UK.
The new Chromecast has nearly all the same capabilities of the Chromecast Ultra, supporting 4K HDR at up to 60 frames per second and Dolby Vision. It’s still an HDMI dongle that you plug into the back of your TV instead of being a small box you set under it. It also still supports all the same cast functionality.
But now that it’s running the Google TV skin on top of Android TV, it has its own on-screen interface that you can navigate with the remote control. The interface looks pretty standard for streaming boxes, more reminiscent of Amazon’s Fire TV than of the Roku or Apple TV.
The remote itself seems perfectly fine. It’s relatively small and uses both IR and Bluetooth. It has a power button and volume buttons for controlling your TV and sound system. It also has an input button, which means you’ll be less likely to need to reach for another remote to switch over to the Chromecast if HDMI-CEC fails to switch you over (which it often does).
There’s one more very fascinating button on the remote: Netflix. Google declined to disclose any details on the negotiations that led to that button, but it’s probably safe to say that somebody paid somebody. It sits next to the YouTube button, and there is of course also a Google Assistant button.
As for supported content, Google TV covers everything Android TV does, and it has special integration for YouTube TV. Google says other live TV providers will have equal access to its Live tab via the same API, and that it’s in discussions with some — including Sling. Unfortunately, Google TV doesn’t appear to have Apple TV support yet.
Oddly, the new Chromecast can’t do what the old Chromecast Ultra can do: stream Stadia games. It’s an odd omission and whatever the technical details are that prevent it ought to have been worked out by launch. Instead, Google says Stadia will be available for it in the first half of 2021.
Since the new Chromecast already went on store shelves earlier this week, we expect to have a full review from Chris Welch for you very soon. We also have a few more details on the new Google TV platform, here.