Chromecast With Google TV 2022: The 5 Things on My Wish List
Commentary: Dear Google, your streaming device is great, but it's time for an update.
Eli BlumenthalSenior Editor
Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
Expertise5G, mobile networks, wireless carriers, phones, tablets, streaming devices, streaming platforms, mobile and console gaming,
Google's television ambitions have had a rocky history. The first wave of Google TV devices in 2010, including the Logitech Revue set-top box and Sony NSX-GT1 television, were promising but plagued by complexity, unpolished software and blocked content. Things seemed to be looking up for Google TV's successor, the first, $35 Chromecast in 2013, but they stagnated as apps proved to be more popular and accessible than casting content off a device. The company's most recent TV product, 2020's Chromecast with Google TV streaming device, is hands-down its best effort to date.
For $50, this device brings useful Google Assistant and YouTube TV tie-ins, support for pretty much all the major streaming apps and -- notably for Google -- a real remote paired with a stylish, simple, powerful on-screen menu system. I love the current device and rank it second overall, a notch below my favorite, Roku. But as we approach Google's annual I/O developer conference, set for May 11, and the Chromecast with Google TV's second birthday, now is a good time for an update. Here are a few things I'd love to see Google embrace in its next streamer, whenever it might be released.
A faster chip is almost always a given in technology upgrades, but Google's hardware in particular is starting to show its age. It's not bad, but the Chromecast with Google TV definitely lags compared to more recent players like Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K Max. Some of this can be fixed with more refined software, but two years is a long time in tech terms, and I wouldn't mind some extra silicon horsepower under the hood.
So while Google Stadia and even Nvidia GeForce Now are supported on the Chromecast today, why not have an Xbox Game Pass app or one for PlayStation Plus? Microsoft and/or Sony gain a new avenue to boost their platforms without requiring the costly purchase of a console. Google gains new partners, and gamers pick up a new way to stream games onto their televisions -- or to be able to play on TV outside the home, or on a second TV, without needing to move a console. Seems like it could be a win all around, and with a more powerful processor, the Chromecast with Google TV could probably run those services easily since it already can run Stadia.
Chromecasts can already cast content from Apple devices in certain apps, including nearly all the major ones like Netflix, Disney Plus, Spotify and YouTube, or the Chrome browser on Macs. But it would be great if Google and Apple could continue to build on Apple TV's presence on Google TVs by enabling AirPlay, too.
This could open up the ability to use many other apps and even games on your big screen. An ever-growing number of newer TVs (including those from Sony, which run Google TV software), plus the latest streamers from Roku, already support AirPlay. Adding this little bit of extra functionality may not even be too difficult to implement.
Create a Google version of Roku's Voice Remote Pro
Roku's $30 Voice Remote Pro isn't perfect, but it is a pretty nice upgrade compared to Roku's standard clickers. The Pro packs a built-in rechargeable battery and midfield microphone to allow you to bark "Hey Roku, find my remote" to locate the clicker when it's inevitably lost under the couch cushions.
Google already has better voice support than Roku, thanks to Google Assistant, so now it's time to give the Chromecast with Google TV a better remote. Saying "Hey Google" would be great for those looking to add that functionality without plugging in a new device. And every single remote in 2022 should have the ability to be found by either a voice command or smart tracker.
If Google is working on a new Chromecast, a smarter, stronger remote with these features would only elevate an already impressive product. They can even follow in Roku and Apple's steps and sell the new controller to allow those with existing Chromecasts (or even Google TV or Android TV televisions) to upgrade for a one-time fee. Say, the same $30 Roku charges for its Voice Remote Pro.
Apple TV has a cool feature for calibrating your TV through an iPhone, and a new Chromecast could be the perfect place for Google to debut a similar feature for Android devices. Apple's feature requires holding an iPhone X or later up to your TV screen, though there's nothing to say Google can't do something similar with Android devices, like its Pixels or Samsung's Galaxy S line, or even with iPhones.
If Google continues to price the Chromecast at $50, it's looking for a higher-quality experience than some of the more budget-focused players from Roku, Amazon, Walmart and others. Adding TV video calibration capability could go a long way toward making sure users see that experience, even if they aren't comfortable fiddling with their TV picture settings.
As I said at the outset, the Chromecast with Google TV is already an excellent streamer. A few of these improvements could make it even better.