The Google TV with Chromecast graphic.

When it comes to branding, Google isn’t the best at eliminating confusion. The lines between the company’s streaming products got even blurrier with the introduction of the Chromecast with Google TV. So, what exactly is the difference between Chromecast and Google TV? Let’s break it down!

The mess that is Google Home and Nest is just one example of confusing Google branding, but its streaming media products might be even worse. There’s Google TV versus Android TV, Android TV versus Chromecast, and now Chromecast versus Google TV. Yikes!

What Is Chromecast?

A Google Chromecast dongle.

Chromecast is Google’s name for its line of streaming media dongles. Typically, these devices don’t include physical remotes. Rather, you just plug them into a TV’s HDMI port to receive content from a mobile device.

This is what makes a Chromecast a Chromecast: your phone, tablet, or computer is, essentially, the “remote.” There isn’t an interface on the TV you can navigate; it’s simply a blank canvas waiting to receive content from another device.

To do this, tap or click the Cast icon (shown in the image below) in a mobile app or Chrome browser. A list of devices you can cast to, including your Chromecast, will then appear.

You can cast videos, slideshows, music, or even screen mirror. This is made possible by a protocol called “Google Cast.” Not only can Google Cast send streaming video to a Chromecast dongle connected to a TV, but it’s also what sends music to Google Nest smart speakers.

The term “Google Cast” only refers to the protocol, not consumer products. Devices that have the Google Cast technology are marketed as having “Chromecast built-in.”

This brings us to the confusingly named Chromecast with Google TV. It’s not really a Chromecast in the way we described above. Rather, it includes a physical remote and an actual interface on the TV. It can, however, still receive content you cast from another device.

What Is Google TV?

The Google TV Home screen.

In short, Google TV is Android TV for televisions. Android TV devices, set-top boxes, and televisions run Android 9 or later, while Google TV is built on Android 10+.

Unlike the Chromecast without Google TV devices we covered above, Google TV offers a more traditional Smart TV interface. Apps, games, TV shows, and movies appear on a Home screen that you can navigate with the included remote (or a remote app).

RELATED: How to Control the Chromecast with Google TV with Your Phone

Just like on Android phones and tablets, you can access the Google Play Store on Google TV. Most of the popular streaming services are available on Google TV devices, as are plenty of games.

RELATED: How to Install Apps and Games on Google TV

That’s the main difference between Chromecast and Google TV: Chromecast doesn’t have any apps (it just receives content). Google TV is a full operating system that can run apps and games.

Someone holding a Chromecast with Google TV remote control.
Chromecast with Google TV includes a remote. Justin Duino / How-To Geek

You’ll also find the previously mentioned “Chromecast built-in” on Google TV devices. The remote and Home screen are meant to be the primary method of navigation. However, you can also cast content from your phone, tablet, or computer.

Chromecast with Google TV does sound confusing, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Google TV devices are essentially Chromecasts because they can receive content you cast in exactly the same way. The only difference is you also have the Google TV interface.

Which Is Best for You?

Whether you should get a Chromecast or Google TV comes down to what you do on your television. The lines between the two are getting blurrier, though.

A Chromecast is a simple, affordable way to convert any TV with an HDMI port into a smart TV. It’s also great for casual viewing. Many people use Chromecasts in a secondary input to supplement a cable box.

Chromecasts are also handy for parties or groups because anyone can connect to your Wi-Fi network and cast content to your TV. Many apps also include a queue feature so people can add videos to a list, and then watch them in order.

Google TV is better if you prefer a more “lean-back” experience because you can browse through your services with a remote. The Home screen is full of recommendations, as well, which makes it easy to quickly launch movies or TV shows.

The Home screen on a Chromecast with Google TV.
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

These devices tend to be more powerful than Chromecast dongles. You can do things like sideload apps, change the screen saver, watch over-the-air TV, and connect gaming controllers. Generally, they can just do a lot more.

Price is the final thing you have to consider. Fortunately, this is where the two have gotten closer. Chromecasts were traditionally much cheaper, hovering around $30 range, while Android TV devices went for $100 or more.

At this writing, however, the Chromecast with Google TV is $50, making that price gap a lot smaller.

So, if casting movies and TV shows is the main thing you want to do, a Chromecast is all you need. If you want casting abilities and an on-screen menu you can navigate, you want Google TV.

Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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