I love digital streaming services and decided 2020 was the time to move away from traditional cable/satellite completely…cut the cord so to speak. I already had Amazon Prime, Netflix, Spotify and Hulu streaming services, all that was left was to replace my regular TV channels. I did this with Google’s YouTube TV. At the time I made the switch, there was a promotion to receive a free Chromecast with Google TV with my first month.
First, Google TV is a separate product from YouTube TV. It’s not a subscription service, but rather tied to devices like the Chromecast or the Google Nest Hub. It allows you to access all your various streaming services from one easy to use menu. I connected the Chromecast to my TV and after signing in to everything, I can easily browse content from all my services without having to switch between devices (my Firestick has now been retired).
The Google TV Chromecast also came with a remote. I Bluetooth paired it with the Chromecast, which is connected to my TV via HDMI. In the remote’s settings menu, I was able to add my Panasonic TV and my Samsung soundbar to its list of controlled devices. Now, I can use the power button to turn my TV off and on, as well as select the TV input source (in case I want to switch to the BlueRay or game console). The volume keys on the the remote now control the soundbar volume. I was able to store the TV and soundbar remotes away in a drawer as the new Google Remote controls everything.
Another unexpected feature from the Google TV remote is you can talk to it. Google Assistant is embedded (I do have to push and hold the Assistant button when I speak, the the best of my knowledge it is not always listening). I tried some commands: “Play a random song by Queen” It went to my Spotify service and started playing Bohemian Rhapsody. “Watch the Terminator” I own the movie on Google Play Movies so it started to stream it. “What temperature is it outside?” Weather information came up on my screen and the Assistant spoke the details.
YouTube TV is the service that replaces my regular TV subscription. It’s $65 a month and has all my local channels plus a huge list of all the popular news, sports and entertainment channels. It has every channel I was already watching and many more I didn’t even get with my current cable package. I would have to upgrade to a larger package on my cable to get many of the channels that are standard with YouTube TV.
One of the major selling points for me was the services comes with the ability to stream to three different screens simultaneously. I have four TVs in my house and can use YouTube TV on all of them (each with their own Chromecast device of course). But I can stream different content to three of them at once, so it is perfect for a small family.
Speaking of families, I can add up to five people to my TV account. This is useful because YouTube TV comes with an unlimited cloud DVR. I can set any number of programs to auto-record, record movies, live TV, everything, without space concerns. The content I record is available for up to nine months. Family members you add each get their own cloud DVR. My partner can record her favorite things and I can record mine and we don’t have to sort through each other’s recording to find what we want to watch.
Also, unlike cable, YouTube TV is not bound to my house. It’s a streaming service. This means I can watch it anywhere I go. All my channels and all my recording are instantly accessible through my phone. Earlier this year we had to travel and we chose to drive (we have decided to avoid airplanes during the pandemic). The trip took over ten hours by car. We have a portable WiFi hotspot with unlimited, unthrottled data (from the Calyx Institute) so we were able to stream TV so whoever was driving could relax and watch TV. As we moved through different broadcast regions, the local TV stations would update to whatever was in the area. Live TV in the car was pretty cool.
I was able to drop my cable which was over $100 a month and replaced it with more channels for $65 a month. I can easily rearrange my rooms any time without having to worry about running a cable from a receiver to wherever I move my TV. Chromecast connects to my WiFi.
I have encountered a couple of problems with the Chromecast so far. One was the remote becoming unpaired while assigning buttons to my TV and soundbar. The solution was fairly simple and just involved pressing a small button on the Chromecast to re-initiate pairing with the remote.
The second issue was with the Chromecast locking up after not being used overnight. I leave it connected and “on” like I expect most people will. The remote still turns on the TV (using IR) but the Chromecast is frozen on the main screen and not responsive to input from the remote. The resolution for this was simply to unplug the power from the Chromecast and plug it back in. After a quick reboot, everything is normal.
Both of these are minor issues to me. The remote has not become unpaired after that initial glitch.
The Chromecast with Google TV is currently priced around $50 and is not a subscription service. It’s more advanced than the Firestick, Roku and other similar products. It is fast and can stream 4K. It has voice control and can run a variety of additional apps. It has some minor glitches that do not affect video streaming performance.
YouTube TV is fast, will stream nicely even over 4G cellular data. It has a huge selection of live channels, including local stations, video on demand selections and an unlimited storage DVR for up to five different users in your family. It can stream to up to three different screens simultaneously (TVs, tablets, phones, etc.). It is non-contract and in most cases, cheaper than cable/satellite. It does require an Internet connection to work.