I found myself having to replace my television at what is probably the worst time of the year. Too late for model introductions and too early for Christmas. Low stock and limited discounts – Whatever! My first inclination was to evaluate Android TV and while traveling this path I discovered something I did not know existed; Chromecast built-in products. Wow, Android TV with Chromecast; no, just Chromecast. Google refers to this as a Google Cast enabled device. What are the brands?
For better or worse, I decided on a Smartcast 50 inch Vizio 4K E50E3. No Android TV, just Google Cast.
Google argues this is a better solution for the following reasons.
- Voice / Google Home enabled
- Familiar interface
- Secured by your device
- Personalized by you
- Works with multiple users simultaneously
- Leverages the power of your smart device
Let me expound on the last point. With my previous solution to search Netflix I had to slowly navigate to and click a character from a keyboard grid using my remote. In addition to being slow, sometimes the cursor would overshoot the desired character. The entire experience was just painful. With the new solution a traditional search box appears and you type what you are looking for. The experience is fluid and quick.
I am not going to rip my TV apart to inspect components but my assumption is they will the same or better than the Chromecast Ultra.
- Chip: ARMADA 1500 PRO 4K
- 3840×2160 (UHD) at 60 frames per second
- Quad Core ARM CPU
- RAM: 512MB
- Storage: 256MB
- Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi (2.4GHz/5GHz) 1×2 MISO Wi-Fi
What makes this better than Android TV is its simplicity and the vast quantity of Cast enabled apps.
The big names include but are not limited to:
- Amazon Prime
- Google Play
- Sling TV
While viewing content through a supported app offers the best experience, Google states a Cast enabled TV can become a second screen for your Android phone, tablet, or Chromebook through screen mirroring.
Obviously this is not the same as a gaming console, but if you like playing a game on a smart device, casting it to the big screen should be fun. Other options like NVIDIA and Steam cloud solutions are more complicated, but if it runs in a browser you should be able to cast it to the big screen.
I’ve been living with the new Vizio TV for over two weeks and it’s working well. Screen mirroring does not work from my Chromebook, but no problems with Youtube. It is hard to say if this is an incorrect setting, Google, or Vizio issue.
I am not a big fan of battery draining apps which appear to be running all of the time. Weather apps are notorious for this and the Vizio app is the same. I decided to remove it from my phone and installed it on a tablet which works really well.
For those who are curious about the TV, it’s a good choice if you don’t have deep pockets as it is available online for less than $500.
- Class Size – 50″
- Screen Size – (Diag.) 49.5″
- Smart Platform – VIZIO SmartCast™ w/ Google Cast™ Built-in
- Resolution – Ultra HD @ 3840×2160
- UHD Upscale Engine – Spatial Scaling Engine™
- Display Processor – V8 Octa-Core
- Backlight Type – Full-Array LED
- Wi-Fi – 802.11ac @ 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
- UHD Codec Support – HEVC (H.265), VP9
- Bluetooth – 4.1 LE
What’s going to happen to Android TV? There is the release of Oreo and some new features in tow, but the sad truth is manufactures have been slow in rolling out updates to these devices. Android TV’s fate may really depend upon the adoption of Google Cast devices. My assumption is adding Cast functionality to a device is not a big deal for a manufacturer and the low cost of the hardware must be appealing. Creating an app to support a Cast device should be very affordable as the APIs do all the heavy lifting and the quantity of Cast enabled apps is impressive. If the current offerings are successful, we will probably see additional announcements at the 2018 Consumer’s Electronic Show or silent introductions just in time for the 2017 holiday rush.
There is risk to customer acceptance as a couple of popular brands have invested heavily in their own smart solution and may be wary of offering an alternative. I am thinking of Samsung and LG. In addition and in direct competition with Android TV and Cast devices, Roku enabled products will apply pressure at the low and mid tier.