Google Chromecast with Google TV Review

Google finally released their latest Google Chromecast with Google TV. Unlike previous generation Chromecasts, this Chromecast is integrated with the Google TV GUI (graphic user interface). The Google TV GUI is used in many smart TV’s as well as Android TV boxes. It is a easy way to manage streaming subscriptions such as Netflix, Amazon Prime TV, Hulu, HBO, Youtube, Disney+, ESPN, and more.

The timing worked out perfectly as I was just testing Youtube TV as an alternative to my cable TV which I was getting tired of. Our cable TV provider was stuck in 1080i and could not record more than 2 shows at a time of which one had to be what you were watching! Price kept creeping up and the only reason why we stayed with them was the live sports package for the local professional teams such as Lakers and Dodgers.

Going with Youtube TV saved me about $20/month and had much more features such as unlimited* recording and much better fluid integration with my other streaming accounts such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBOMAX, Disneyplus, and Youtube. Previously, I would had to launch individual apps using my TV, which is a good 5 years old or cast from my phone. Both not very good user experiences.

Hardware

I normally like black everything but as they didn’t offer black, I opted for Snow. Other available colors include Sunrise and Sky.


First thing that caught my attention is the remote. Previous Chromecast relied on another device, such as a phone or your PC from a Chrome browser, to initiate the cast of the content to your TV. This required me to step away to my PC or find my phone to initiate the Chromecast. Then you had to go back to your device to pause, rewind or change to another content. Not a great experience. With the remote, you can control your Chromecast with Google TV interface to navigate across.

The remote has a circular 4 direction navigation control key at the top with a clicker to confirm or enter, 8 buttons in the front and volume buttons on the left. The 8 buttons, listing them from left to right, top to bottom, are back, Google Assist, home, mute, Youtube, Netflix, power and source.


The latest generation Chromecast comes with an AC USB-C adapter, USB-C cable, 2 AA batteries, Chromecast HDMI dongle, remote and a quick start guide. Note! Whereas previous generation Chromecast was able to be powered by the USB port on your TV, this setup will NOT work for this Chromecast. You must power it using your AC adapter.

Google TV Interface

The Google TV interface is intuitive for the most part and easy to use. You can sign in on various TV streaming services such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime video, Disney+, HBO Max, and more. Using Google Assist, you can search across all of your services.

At the top of the menu, you can search, ‘For You’ or recommended things to watch, Live, Movies, Shows, Apps and Library. You can record a large number of shows and series and it will be available in the library I do know after a while it gets deleted but so far it’s been recording multiple shows without any limits.

Negatives

As great as the latest Chromecast and Google TV is, one negative thing that I have encountered is if I record a show, say a movie, and I go to my library later to watch it, you cannot skip the commercials. Google TV will inject their own ads and ‘force’ you to watch the ads. I have an issue with this as I paid for my hardware AND pay to subscribe to the service.

Google announced Pixel 3a and 3a XL at Google i/o

google pixel 3a

Overview

In a bit of a surprise to techies, Google announced their new line of Pixel phones – 3a and 3a XL at Google i/o on May 7th. On the surface, the phones have the same great features that made Pixel 3 series great. Bare Android OS, great battery life, fast charging and most importantly, the camera as well as the great software package. But probably what stands out the most is that the Pixel 3a starts at $399 which is a full 50% off of Pixel 3! Also, a surprise to many, they included a 35mm headphone jack which is missing in Pixel 3 to accommodate wireless charging.

This pricing is reminiscent of the inaugural Google’s Nexus line particularly Nexus 5 which launched Oct 2013 for $349. It boasted features and specs that rivaled the flagship phones at the time with great prices.

The Pixel 3a starts at $399 and the 3a XL starts at $479. There are currently several trade in deals available up to $400 back. To cut costs, there are only two variants available, the 3a and 3a XL. There are no options for storage or ram. There are three colors available – Just Black, Purple-lish, and Clearly White.

What’s missing?

Here are the main differences when comparing the Pixel 3 from the Pixel 3a.

Pixel 3

Display

FDH+ flexible OLED at 443 ppi with HDR support

Battery

2915 mAh
Fast wireless charging

Design

Soft touch glass back
Active Edge
Water Resistant

Memory & Storage

4GB RAM
Up to 128 GB storage plus unlimited storage at original quality with Google Photos

Processors

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 with Octa-Core
Pixel Visual Core
Titan M security module

Audio

Dual, front firing stero speakers
USB C audio

Pixel 3a

Display

FHD+ OLED at 441 ppi

Battery

3000 mAh
Fast charging

Design

Polycarbonate unibody
Active Edge


Memory & Storage

4GB RAM
64GB storage plus unlimited storage for photos and videos at high quality with Google Photos

Processors

Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 with Octa-Core

Titan M security module

Audio

Dual stereo speakers
USB C audio
3.5mm audio jack


As stated earlier, the camera hardware is the same and the software photo package is virtually the same.

In a time where many tech blogs and reviewers claim they prefer the photos Pixel camera takes in comparison to iPhones, $399 is hard to beat.

Finally, both will come with Android Pie OS pre-installed of which Google is guaranteeing 3 years of software and security support.

Google Chromecast Ultra Review!

Google announced the Chromecast Ultra on Nov. 6, 2016. It was launched at the price of $69 US dollars with 4K Ultra HD and high dynamic range support primarily HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

The form factory is similar to the 2nd Generation Chromecast puck shape with an HDMI connector tethered to it.

For the most part, the functionality of the Chromecast Ultra is no different than the 2nd generation. You can use your device as the remote, mirror content, and play games. But this is must faster and noticeably clearer. The wireless network hardware has not changed.

If you have a 4K TV especially with HDR, this is the streaming device to get. Many youtube videos also have 4K as well as Netflix and Amazon Prime videos.

Currently, the best deal involving a 4K HDTV with HDR is Sony XBR43X800D 43-Inch 4K Ultra HD TV. It is currently being sold on Amazon for $679.

Latest Google update blocks Chromecast from using Android Hotspot

If you recently noticed that you can no longer connect your Chromecast to your Android phone’s hotspot, you are not alone. Google pushed an update (11.0.55) to Google Play Services where you can no longer connect to Android’s hotspot. A member of the Chromecast team on productforum.google.com responded. See below:

In summary, Google disabled this ability to improve the reliability of Chromecast as it was never an official functionality. The fix is to use a separate device to function as an Wi-Fi hotspot or tether another device to cast your content.

This is a real bummer especially for those who use their Android phone as their sole source of Internet provider. With the increase in popularity of cord cutters, many are turning to true unlimited hotspots for their home or places like RV or boats. We are not sure when Google plans on lifting up this restriction.

As a workaround, you can try to uninstall google play service and update an older version of google play service apk. Make sure you uncheck auto update app in the Google Play Store app and turn off in settings, accounts, your google account, ‘sync app data’.

What channel is the Super Bowl on?

Super Bowl 51 will be on the Fox channel. In order to find out your TV channel, look at the chart from Wikipedia. These are the over the air TV channels. Your cable or satellite may have a different channel so please check your digital program guide. There is probably a standard definition (480p) or high definition (1080i, 1080p, or 4K) specific TV channels. check for that as well.

If you want to watch the game via streaming devices such as a pc or chromecast, it is possible.

  1. From a PC (Computer) Go to https://www.foxsportsgo.com/ and stream the game. You will not need to sign onto a premium cable or satellite account to watch it. Take note, it will be slightly delayed. If you have a Chromecast, launch Fox Sports Go site from your Chrome browser and you can cast the game to your TV.
  2. Download the Fox Sports Go app on your tablet and you can stream the game.
  3. For phone users, you must have Verizon service to stream from the Fox Sports Go app. Verizon struck an exclusive deal to stream Super Bowl 51. If you have another service such as AT&T, Tmobile, Sprint and ask “why can’t I stream Super Bowl from my phone?”, you won’t be able to.

If you don’t have access to any TV or streaming device, you can go throwback and listen to the game on the radio. The game will be broadcasted over Westwood One.

 

ifixit’s Google Home tear down reveals it is a Chromecast with speakers!

ifixit is known of its tear down walk through to reveal the internal components of popular electronic gadgets. They do this to understand hidden components, give each device a repair index scorecard, and approximate cost of parts.

Google Home was released this past week on Nov. 4th and ifixit did not waste time to get on in hand and do one of its tear down to reveal its parts and component costs.

I don’t want to take any credit for their pictures or steal their page views. Go to the link above and to step 8. You will see that the motherboard consists of parts (CPU, flash, and RAM) from the 2nd gen Chromecast! This includes:

  • Armada 1500 Mini Plus dual core ARM Cortex A7 media processor
  • Toshiba 256 MB NAND flash
  • Marvel Avaster 88W8897 WLAN/BLUETOOTH/NFC chip
  • Texas Instrument audio amplifier TAS5720
  • and Samsung 512bm B-Bie DDR3 SDRAM

What do you know? The Google Home is a pyched up 2nd Gen Chromecast!

 

How to stream the World Series

Gone are the days where you need to rush home to your TV screen to watch a must-see TV like the World Series. Today, you have multiple means of watching the World Series. First, you can DVR it but that isn’t exciting. With the Internet, smart phones, and social media, it is almost impossible to avoid finding out the result if you watch the game at a later time. You can also follow game casts through Yahoo Sports, ESPN, or MLB.com where you can almost see pitch by pitch updates. However, if you want to watch near real time stream of the game you have a few (legal) options.

Unfortunately, none of these are free with the exception of Sling TV. With Sling TV, you can get a free 7 day trial but it requires a valid credit card and you must cancel prior.  If you have a cable / satellite subscription, you can use Fox Sports Go for free with your cable / satellite sign in.

MLB.com at Bat app
mlb-at-bat-app Fox Sports Go app

Free with your Cable or Satellite subsciption

fox-sports-go-app

PlayStation Vue – requires monthly subscription

playstation-vue-mobile-app

Sling TV – now comes with free 7 day trial

sling-app

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Setup Chromecast on your Windows 10 or Mac

Setting up your Chromecast on Windows 10 has changed recently and we will go step by step on how to download and setup your Chromecast. When Chromecast initially rolled out, most of us still had Windows 8 or even Windows XP. At that time, you were to download a setup file to install a Chromecast application onto your Windows machine. However, when Google re-branded Chromecast to just Cast, things have changed. You know no longer need to download a Chromecast app to use Chromecast or to setup. As a matter of fact, if you go to

https://www.google.com/chromecast/setup/

you are only given option to download the Google Cast app for Android Play store and Apple App Store.

chromecast-windows-download

To use Chromecast on your Windows 10 machine, all you need is the Google Chrome browser which you can download here.



Once you have installed your Chrome browser, go to this link -> chromecast.com/setup
If the link doesn’t work, copy and paste (chrome://cast/#devices) into your url.

From here, it will search for Chromecast in your WiFi. If it doesn’t detect your Chromecast, make sure your TV is on and the input it set to the HDMI port, the USB power is plugged in, and your Windows PC is connected on the same WiFi as your Chromecast.

Walk through the setup Wizard per below. chromecast-windows-setup-1

chromecast-windows-setup-2chromecast-windows-setup-3chromecast-windows-setup-5chromecast-windows-setup-4 Once you see the below screen, you are ready to cast! You can click on the upper right icon for more settings.

chromecast-windows-setup-5-5

Under settings, you may change the name of your Chromecast, forget or reset your WiFi network, change the timezone and see what firmware version you are on. You may also perform remote reboot or even factory reset.

chromecast-windows-setup-6

To start casting your Chrome tab, click on the Google cast icon which will be next to your Chrome extension add ons on the upper right of your screen. In the middle of your screen, you should find the name of the Chromecast you assigned at setup.

cast-iconI named mine, Digital 1.

chromecast-windows-setup-7

And here I am Watching Amazon Prime using my Chromecast. chromecast-amazon-primechromecast-windows-setup-8

 

Chromecast not disconnecting

A few users have reported on the Google Forums that their Chromecast is not disconnecting after you are done using it or want to switch to another source. I have experience this when I am using Netflix and when I am done, I want to switch to another source and no longer want the Chromecast connected to Netflix. However, nothing I do to disconnect works! I try clicking the Cast icon to unlink it but that didn’t work.

Here are some suggestions on how to force your Chromecast to disconnect after casting from an app or screen.

  1. Force stop the app – After you are done casting to your Chromecast from the app you are using and if Chromecast doesn’t disconnect, force stop the app. For Android, you can do this by going to the home screen, navigate to the app icon you were using the Chromecast, then hold on to the app to go to ‘info’. From there, you can click ‘stop application’. For Apple iOS, you can double click your home button and swipe the app to force quit it.
  2. Disconnect the device from your Google Cast app – Another way to force close your Chromecast is to disconnect the device using your Google Cast app.
  3. Force reboot the device from your Google Cast app – If it still doesn’t disconnect, you can force a reboot remotely from your Google Cast app.
  4. Power cycle your Chromecast – If there is no response when you try to remotely reboot your Chromecast, go and physically remove the usb power source from your Chromecast. When you do this, make sure you leave the power cable off for at least 30 seconds to make sure there is no residual memory stored in the RAM.

If this issue still persists, I would recommend you do two things. First, is to perform a factory reset. After you reboot your Chromecast, do not connect to any apps or cast any content. Simply, go to your Google Cast app and connect to your device. Next, go to settings and perform a factory reset to default settings. Once you do this, just perform setup again.

The 2nd thing to do is to report your issue to the Google Cast Help Forum. You can report your issue and someone from Google will ask you some questions. It is monitored pretty regularly and the response from other users are quite helpful.

 

#madebygoogle Launch Event Chromecast Google Home (Part 2 of 2)

Here is part two of the @madebygoogle launch event summary. Part 1 we covered Google’s new phone Pixel, Google VR headset – Daydram, and Google Wifi. In part 2, we will go into detail with Chromecast Ultra and Google Home

Chromecast Ultra

Google announced their 2nd generation Chromecast roughly a year ago. At that time, it was rumored to offer 4K Ultra HD and HDR support but were dissapointed. Today, Google made the announcement for Chromecast Ultra which did exactly this. As of this day, Google has sold over 30 million gen 1 and gen 2 Chromecasts. chromecast-ultra

Google Play Movies will offer 4K movies soon. It will support Dolby vision, 4K, and HDR. With an adapter, you will be able to connect directly with an Ethernet cable. It is 1.8x faster than 2nd gen Chromecast.

Cost $69 and will be available in Nov.

Here is a quick comparison difference between Chromecast 2nd Gen and Chromecast Ultra.

chromecast-compare-1

chromecast-compare-2

Sadly, the least amount of time was spent on Chromecast Ultra 🙁

Google Home

google-home

A lot of time was spent on demo’ing Google Home. Here we are introduced to Google Assistant again.

Simple things you can do:
Enjoy music, get answers from Google, manage everyday tasks, control devices at home.

Features:
-Exchangeable Base for customization
-Far field speech recognition. Amazon Echo has this problem where it is hard to speak over the music. I am keen to find out how Google has resolved this.
-Voice activation
-LED status display
-Mute button
-Capacitive buttons

Music
-Direct access to Youtube Music
-Access to spotify, tunein, pandora, ihearttradio

google-home-music-subscription

 

 

 

 

-Google Assistant can search the music you have in mind such as “find me shakira’s song from zootopia” and it will play. First time a ‘smart’ feature has been used and demonstrated.

Getting Answers from Google
You can ask various pictures and Google will pull info from their knowledge, Wikipedia, and others. It uses featured snippets by reading a quote from a certain website which may have the answer. No explanation on how they determine what is an authoritative site.

You can also use Google Home to search for businesses nearby, how to get there, traffic conditions and more.

it can also read certain answers in a foreign language. Spanish was demo’d.

Google can help manage everyday Tasks

You can get Google Assistant to read you a summary by simply saying, “Ok Google, Good morning”. It will give you a briefing of the weather, traffic, schedule, and reminder which can be customized. You can also ask Google Assistant to display your shopping list on your phone. This is something Amazon Echo cannot do.

Control devices at home

Next is controlling smart devices. They listed nest, Samsung SmartThings, Philips hue, IFTTT.

google-home-smart

 

 

 
If you have Chromecast, you can use Google Home to play content on your TV. It may be able to be used to turn the TV on if it supports the feature.

Photos – you can ask Google Home to display photos from Google Photo album by name and time.

Similarly, you can use Google Assistant through Google Home to activate your Google Cast Audio enabled speakers.

Google Home will support multi device support to stream or play across all devices. You can also create a group such as living room and kitchen but not the bedrooms. Echo cannot do this.

Google assured that Google Assistant will continue improve.

Google Home is $129. Great price!
Includes free 6 months trial to Youtube Red.
Pre-order starts today and will be shipped Nov. 4th. It will also be available in certain brick and mortar stores.

google-home-options-colors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
As an Amazon Echo owner, I’m finding it hard to justify Google Home when the features are so similar. There are advantages to both with Google fully integrated with my Android phone and Alexa with the full Prime features.

Will you get the Google Home? Why or why not?