Google TV is arguably the most versatile smart TV platform around. You’ll find it in some of the latest TVs from Sony and TCL. There’s a simplified version for Android phones and you can get it for any TV by buying a Chromecast with Google TV dongle.
Plug the dongle into an HDMI port on your TV (or just turn on your TV if it has Google TV built in) and it opens you up to a world of streamed content, from Google’s own massive library to Amazon Prime, Netflix, Now TV, Disney+, Crunchyroll and more.
They are all delivered through a slick and intuitive interface you navigate using a remote. Or you can fling content directly from your phone with apps that support Chromecast.
There’s more to Google TV than just the services you can stream from when using it, though. The many sides of Google TV make it a true home entertainment hub. Here are some of the extras you may not have seen yet.
This is one of our favorite Google TV features: Watchlist. It is the antidote to spending hours browsing through streaming libraries to find something to watch.
Whenever you have a dig into Google TV, you can simply hit a button on a TV show or movie listing to add it to your Watchlist. This acts as a list of content you plan on watching when you have the time. But there’s more to it.
Your Watchlist will also be used to inform the suggestions Google TV displays on the home screen, and this will of course include items actually on the list.
It won’t just feature items from Google’s own library either. Content from Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ features, and more services will be added in the future.
Google TV brings all streaming services into one place.
2. It’s a game console
Google TV may primarily be a video platform, but it’s also great for gaming. There’s more than one dimension to this side of Google TV too.
You can play loads of casual classics like Crossy Road and Asphalt 8 directly on Google TV. Connect a Bluetooth gamepad to Google TV and it feels much like a games console.
Not satisfied with big-screen versions of titles you might play on your phone? No problem. You can play Google Stadia instead.
You can either buy them from the Stadia store, or sign up go Stadia Pro for all-you-can-eat access to a huge library of games.
3. Profiles for kids
If you have kids, Google TV lets you restrict their access (not available in all markets). This means you can let them loose on the smart TV system without keeping an eye on them the whole time.
In the Who’s Watching home screen, just select your profile and then “add a kid”.
They don’t need a Google account either, handy for younger children who don’t have phones or email addresses yet.
You can limit the apps these profiles have access to, set screen time limits per day and a bed time, so they won’t end up binging content like the adults.
4. Multi-room audio
Here’s a handy tip if you use a good sound bar or have a Chromecast with Google TV plugged into an AV receiver and surround sound speaker system. Google TV shows up as a Chromecast device in apps on your phone.
That means you can easily fling songs from services like Spotify right to your Google TV device, using it as a music station.
Fire up the Google Home app and you can also treat it as a multi-room speaker, controlling tunes from across the house.
This is one of the delights of Google TV and its related gadgets, they can always do more than you think they can.
5. Local network content streaming
Many of us have gone “full streaming” these days, but Google TV is here for those who still like to keep a content library stored locally, on a PC or a NAS drive.
If you download one of the DLNA apps for Google TV, like Plex, it turns the system into a convenient and quick way to get access to your music and video files, subscription free.
Alternatively, if you have a Chromecast with Google TV, you can buy a USB-C hub and plug in a high-capacity USB drive or external hard drive loaded with music and videos.
This lets you give it direct access to a huge library of content without worrying about getting it connected wirelessly.