Realme 4K Smart Google TV Stick review: Bugs galore
Last year, Google finally gave us a Chromecast with a remote and a real interface. However, the streaming stick never made it to India, leaving us with Sony’s rather expensive lineup of 4K TVs as the only way to experience the spruced-up Google TV interface. The Realme 4K Smart Google TV Stick bridges that gap by bringing Google’s latest take on Android TV to a more approachable price. And considering how capable this streaming stick is for its price, there’s probably no need to pine for the Chromecast with Google TV.
If you’re in the market for an Android TV streaming stick, this should be it.
- Operating System: Google TV based on Android 11
- Resolution: 4K 60fps, HDR10+
- Ports: HDMI 2.1 out, micro-USB in
- RAM/storage: 2GB/8GB
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
- Dimensions: 90 x 29.8 x 14.5mm, 30 grams
- Price: ₹3,999 (~$53)
- The Google TV UI is a nice step up from Android TV with smart recommendations.
- Integrates well with Hotstar, among other streaming apps.
- The Bluetooth remote is responsive and works without a hiccup.
- It costs a smidge more than the 1080p Chromecast, which is great news for budget shoppers.
- 4K with HDR10+ makes for a decent combination at this price.
- Google TV lags when it comes to integrating local content.
- 8GB storage fills up fast.
- Pairing earphones over Bluetooth can be unreliable.
- There’s no support for Dolby Vision.
Realme 4K Smart Google TV Stick
Design, hardware, what’s in the box
The Realme dongle resembles an Amazon Fire TV stick more than a Chromecast with its boring, boxy design. But its looks don’t matter at all since it’s going to spend most of its time tucked behind your TV. It’s got an HDMI out on one end and a micro-USB port on its side for connecting to a power source. Because of this micro-USB port, you won’t be able to connect a USB hub (with pass-through charging) like you can on the Chromecast. And if you’re wondering, the Realme stick works fine if you power it through your TV’s USB port instead of the supplied adapter.
Realme ships the Google TV stick with the same Bluetooth remote that comes with its other Android TV sets. It’s sleek, lightweight, and ergonomic, with all the buttons that you’ll need. Aside from the dedicated keys for volume, mute, and Google Assistant, there are shortcuts for four streaming services. The controller works like a charm, be it for instantly sending commands to Assistant over Bluetooth or waking up the stick from sleep within a second.
One thing about the remote that I don’t love is the click sound its buttons make when navigating around the interface, which gets pretty irritating. Other than that, power cycling the dongle sometimes unpairs the remote, though the pairing process is straightforward and takes just a couple of seconds.
Inside the box, the Realme 4K Google TV stick is accompanied by an HDMI extender, the remote controller, a micro-USB cable, a USB adapter, and a pair of AAA batteries for the remote.
Software and performance
The biggest selling point for the Realme stick has to be its software. It is the first streaming stick to use the Google TV interface in India and makes everything else running Android TV look ancient by comparison. Sharing the same launcher as Google’s own Chromecast, the Realme stick gets a rich home screen with large thumbnails that give it a modern look. Scrolling further down on the home screen will give you a list of recommendations from the apps you’ve installed. So far, the only Indian apps that integrate with Google TV for recommendations are Disney+ Hotstar and MX Player, in addition to YouTube, Prime Video, and Apple TV. An upside to this limited support is that the sponsored ads from Google that have been bothering people elsewhere haven’t reached India — yet.
This streaming stick comes out of the box running the August patch and Android TV 11 (the latest version Google has to offer), which doesn’t mean much for the interface itself, but it’s still good to be on the latest. The new UI feels snappy and responsive, with virtually no delay between pressing the button and the cursor moving on the screen — for the most part, that is. There are occasional hiccups here and there but nothing major, and that’s frankly fine for 2GB of RAM, which is the best you’ll find in this price range. However, I would’ve liked to see at least 16GB of onboard storage instead of 8GB, out of which you only get close to 4GB for all your apps and games.
As its name makes it abundantly clear, the Realme stick is 4K capable and supports HDR10+ playback. The combination in itself should be good enough for most users, but it’s going to be a tough sell for those with a Dolby Vision-enabled TV, considering you can easily get Dolby’s premium HDR standard on both the Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. I noticed that the dongle gets a bit warmer when plugged into a 4K TV versus a 1080p TV, though that didn’t have any impact on its performance.
My only issue with the software is that Google TV isn’t currently optimized well for India. The recommendations aren’t aggregated from a lot of local apps, and the integration pales in comparison to what you get on the Fire TV sticks and Xiaomi’s Patchwall interface. The main carousel on Home (which is labeled For You in the States) isn’t updated frequently, while the Movies and Shows tabs are entirely missing from the top menu. Even the rebranded Google TV app isn’t available for everyone here despite being announced a few weeks ago. But all that’s for Google to fix, not Realme. At least, multi-user profiles should be arriving sooner rather than later.
What Realme needs to address is the Bluetooth-related issues I faced during my time with the streaming stick. Each time I tried to connect a pair of earphones, it threw an error, and I could successfully connect it only after resetting the dongle. But even after that, I couldn’t add any new earphones. Realme tells us they’re looking into the problem here, so hopefully, it’ll get patched soon.
Should you buy it?
Sure. There’s no point in picking up an Android TV stick when you now have one that runs Google TV in India. And since there’s little chance that Google will launch its new Chromecast in India anytime soon, the Realme 4K Smart Google TV Stick is your best bet. The only reason you should still keep an eye out for the Chromecast is Dolby Vision and Atmos.
Realme is currently selling the stick at a 25% discount for Diwali, but even at its full ₹4,000 price, it is priced competitively against the previous-gen FHD Chromecast that costs ₹3,500. That’s with all the same benefits of pairing it with your Google Home speakers and other Chromecast-enabled smart home devices — but now with an actual interface that opens several new doors for power users. I know I would’ve picked it up to add to my Google Home-enabled smart home setup.
However, it’s a different story if you aren’t tied to the Google ecosystem. When you look at the more popular Fire TV lineup, this Realme offering starts to look less appealing. The non-Max Fire TV Stick 4K may be a few years old, but it supports Dolby Vision, works better with Indian streaming services, and is routinely discounted to ₹3,000 — the same as Realme’s current price. It might be a better choice if you haven’t already invested in a bunch of Chromecasts and Google Home speakers.
Buy it if…
- You’re in the market for a budget Android TV stick.
- You’ve been waiting for the Chromecast with Google TV to launch in India.
Don’t buy it if…
- You’re not locked into Google’s ecosystem.
- Dolby Vision is a must for you.
UPDATE: 2021/12/04 00:05 EST BY KARANDEEP SINGH
Realme’s streaming stick had a fair share of issues when I first reviewed it, but over the last month, it has gotten worse. For starters, the interface feels choppier when connected to a 4K screen (the experience is a lot better on a 1080p TV), which gets particularly noticeable when you try to quickly move around the cursor, even on the home screen. Thankfully, the 4K video playback itself on various mainstream services isn’t compromised.
While the choppy interface is still bearable, this Google TV stick also struggles with basic connectivity features. When on the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band, it has issues connecting to Bluetooth accessories, probably because of signal interference. Switching to the 5GHz band does help, but this shouldn’t be happening in the first place. And it could be a deal-breaker for those who need the range of 2.4GHz to connect to their routers.
That workaround, though, alleviated my Bluetooth woes only to a point. The sub-par radios in the Realme Google TV Stick are so unreliable that it would drop the connection to my earphones randomly — and I tried with multiple Bluetooth audio devices to be sure it wasn’t my earbuds acting up. Bluetooth range is another problem that I faced as it can’t keep a steady connection even if you’re in the same room — even putting your hands in front of the earbuds can break the audio. All the Bluetooth issues, of course, don’t matter if you never use headphones with your streaming stick.
Some people are having much more trouble with things like the Prime Video app not appearing on the Play Store, Hotstar not supporting 4K playback, and HDR not showing up on 4K60 resolution. However, I didn’t face any of those issues myself being on a newer build. Though there still are certain flaws that Realme has yet to fix, as also pointed out by scores of affected users in a dedicated Telegram channel. For instance, Dolby Digital 5.1 on Prime Video doesn’t work with some speaker models and the 10-bit color profile isn’t available with 4K60 on a few TV sets. People are understandably upset about all this, so we reached out to Realme for comment. We’ll update if we hear back.
It looks like Realme pushed its 4K streaming stick with half-baked software just so it could cash in on the holiday rush. While it’s still better than most Android TV boxes in several key areas, all those bugs kill the mood when you sit down to enjoy the show, and we’ve changed our review score to reflect that. Unless you want to stick with Android TV, I’d still say that you’re better off going for Amazon’s more well-rounded 4K Fire TV sticks. They cost a little more but you won’t waste hours of your life troubleshooting bugs.
Buy them here:
We hope you like the items we recommend and discuss! AndroidPolice has affiliate
and sponsored partnerships, so we receive a share of the revenue from some of your purchases. This
won’t affect the price you pay and helps us offer the best product recommendations.
About The Author