Google has two Chromecast with Google TV dongles on the market, which look identical. But the first version, which comes in three colours, is technically the old one with 4K capabilities, while the new version was released a month ago and tops out at 1080p. There’s a $US20 ($28) price difference between the two.
Save your money and buy the newer, cheaper version of the Chromecast with Google TV that just came out. Most folks will get away with the $US30 ($42) HD version. If you’re not paying to stream 4K content, there’s no need for the $US50 ($69) dongle that does. I’ve been using both versions of the Chromecast with Google TV for about a month, and I’ve hardly noticed a difference in performance between the two since I only stream HD content.
4K versus HD
There’s a handy Google support page detailing the differences between the Chromecast with Google TV 4K and HD. But first, the similarities: They plug in via HDMI and support HDR 10, HDR 10+, and HLG, another HDR format floating out there. Both devices also support Dolby Atmos, Bluetooth, and 324.60 ha Wi-Fi connections.
The two Chromecasts look the same, down to Google’s iconic remote (a leftover from its virtual reality days). Both my Chromecasts are in the “snow white” colour, and the white remotes confused me. After a closer look, I realised the 4K version’s remote has yellowed-out buttons — the one I’ve had around the longest. That’s something to keep in mind about the longevity of this remote.
Display resolution is the main difference between the two Chromecast with Google TV dongles. The original Chromecast with Google TV supports 4K content up to 60 frames per second, the HD version stops at 1080p. The Chromecast with Google TV HD doesn’t have Dolby Vision HDR either, while the Chromecast with Google TV 4K doesn’t support AV1 video decoding.
The HD version of the Chromecast with Google TV has a tiny bit more storage onboard than its predecessor — about 300MB worth. That storage can help with data caching and squeezing in an extra streaming app. Most Google TV apps are around the hundred-megabyte range in size.
Performance between 4K and HD
The two dongles look and act alike, despite the differences in their processors. The Chromecast with Google TV 4K has a slightly more capable processor than the HD version. The latter is a bit of an older chip, but it’s coupled with 1.5 GB of memory, which helps it keep up with the 4K version, which has 2GB.
I performed some time tests between the 4K and HD devices to see if the experience was discernable between the two. I noticed some stuttering while using Google Assistant voice commands on the Chromecast with Google TV HD.
It turned out that was the only part that indicated I was on the slightly lower-specced HD version, and I only encountered it while watching live TV. I hate having the backroom light on because it creates glare, but I also hate shouting at the smart display across the room. As Google intends, I use the Chromecast with Google TV remote to tell the Assistant to turn off the lights. On the HD version of the dongle, the live feed pauses for a brief moment. I didn’t experience this with the 4K version, and that’s probably because it has more RAM.
Besides that, the two Chromecasts performed the same with every other feature I tested. That included catching up on my DVR library and casting Beverly Hills, 90210 from the Pluto TV app on my smartphone. I’m not currently running profiles on my Chromecasts, so I only tested it with my main user account.
Do you pay for 4K content?
After about a month of testing, I forgot that I had two dongles plugged into my 32-inch TV and defaulted to the HD version every time. For a situation like this, where you’re introducing intelligent TV functionality to an HD-only “dumb TV,” you only need the $US30 ($42) Chromecast with Google TV. You might even find it on sale during the shopping seasons, which would make it around the same price as some of Wal-Mart’s house brand streaming sticks. The Onn brand runs Google TV, but I prefer the first-party Google TV experience over the third-party one. Google is continually pushing updates to Google TV and software rollouts tend to be delayed for third-party devices.
If you pay for 4K content — whether through Netflix or YouTube TV’s add-on package — you’re probably paying for faster internet with higher bandwidth allotment and want to get your money’s worth. But you don’t have to default to the Chromecast with Google TV 4K simply because it’s the option mentioned here. If you already have one, stick with it. If not, there are other platforms to consider. For instance, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K Max supports Av1 decoding, which is a format receiving some buzz for its bandwidth efficiency. It’s also not shutting down its Luna cloud gaming service if that’s something you’ve been meaning to try on your TV.
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