Some time ago I would like to watch few shows from HBO Max. To my surprise, my TV does not have app for it. And then after some research I was surprised even more. Basically, only possible ways are: buy Samsung TV (some specific models); watch from tablet or phone; watch from PC; stream from phone to TV. Also, pretty much all smart devices like Amazon Firestick and Roku does not support it. Basically, all these reasons are legal and not technical.
And then I accidentally found that Chromecast with Google TV does support HBO Max. I have LG LF6300 TV for more than 5 years. It is great TV and they still sometimes release updates to it. But it slowly showing its age. And I think that device like Chromecast will extend life of my TV by quite a bit. I am quite happy with picture quality and I do not really need 4K because from distance I am watching there will be no difference in quality. Chromecast with Google TV costs $50 and it looks like reasonable price for what it offers. Reviews were good and I went ahead and ordered it.
It was Apple-style, nicely packed device. Still even it looks close to Apple, it feels not as polished as Apple devices. But I really like clips on USB cable. It was nice touch. Anyway, I unpacked device and plugged it in to my TV and there was my first surprise. You cannot set it up without phone. TV displayed QR code and some access code, name of device and stating that you must download app.
This device has full fledged Android and absolutely capable of setting up by itself. Why do I need phone? And just in case I must state that it is possible to change every single parameter you entered during setup process in Chromecast itself, but you still need phone. All I want to plug device, press power button on remote and I should be able to start watching stuff. Why do I need phone in first place?
Anyway, I downloaded app to my phone, signed in, created new home and I tried to add new device. App immediately requested permissions to access local network. No. Asked for location. No. It also requested permissions to use Bluetooth, and No again. Then app asked me to connect to Chromecast Wi-Fi network and continue setup. As it turns out in the left top corner was name of device’s Wi-Fi. But where is password? Password was under QR code in right bottom corner and it was not that obvious that it is password. It stated that it is access code. If it was Apple, then it will say something like that: here is name of Wi-Fi network you have to connect, and here is password you have to use. I know that technically it is called Access Code, but in heads of most people it called password.
I finally able to connect to device’s Wi-Fi but application does not want to continue. After fiddling with permissions, it turns out that it needs Bluetooth. Why in this case I need to connect to device’s Wi-Fi? Why does it need to access to my local network? For comparison, I will tell you how app for TV works. I started app, it prompts me to switch on TV and then displayed list of TVs it can connect. I selected necessary TV and then TV displayed QR code and password and I can scan QR code or enter password manually. Done. Whole process took less than 30 seconds and even 5 years old was able to do this. Here I spent like 10 minutes and I’m pretty sure that even most adults will struggle.
Anyway, setup continues on my phone. Finally, it asked me to scan QR code, even I entered it as Access Code before. Ok, I entered it again. Then device asked me to select Wi-Fi network to connect and password. I provided that information and device displayed message that it successfully connected to my home Wi-Fi network. After that device and my phone switched to that Wi-Fi and setup continues over my home Wi-Fi.
Few more steps, device happily announced that everything done and seconds later without my consent, it decided to install firmware update. And few seconds later it informed me that it cannot download because I am not connected to Wi-Fi that it was able to use few seconds ago. Ok, I changed Wi-Fi to 2.4GHz and after like 20 minutes device updated firmware and all application and finally was ready. I said to myself: “Finally, now I after 30 minutes I can use this device”. But show continues.
As soon as I start using it, Chromecast decided to setup remote control that I was using for last 30 minutes. After that I got error that device cannot connect to Google services. There was Retry and Cancel buttons. I did try Retry few times, but it still showing the same message. As result I had to press Cancel and I still have no idea how to try to run it again.
Then I did remember that it is Google product, so I immediately disabled everything that possible in privacy settings that I did not disable during setup process. This is very important step on Google products. Usually I do not mind sending anonymous statistics and usage data, but not with Google. With Google everything should be disabled.
In conclusion I would like to state that if I need to explain in one word my whole experience with setting up Chromecast with Google TV, I will use word “pain”. I did connect my oven to Wi-Fi. It does not have display and it was still simpler and faster. And I do not remember any device with screen and remote that took that much time and that was that unintuitive to setup. Sure, there were devices with bugs and troubles, but intent was simple and easy. Intend for Chromecast with Google TV is definitely not simple or easy.
I also have to mention that Google Home app style looks like typical Android app and feels quite foreign and unintuitive on iPhone.