Couple of weeks ago I got a Chromecast with Google TV, or as you can elegantly abbreviate it: CCwGTV. Main reason was to remove my Apple TV 4K box so I had one less box hooked up, along with its 3 cables (power, ethernet, HDMI).
Unfortunately, this Chromecast requires dedicated power (can't just run it off your TV's USB port like you could with older Chromecasts) so I still have to have 1 cable running to it (not counting the HDMI since it's practically just a stump).
Anyway, it's fine but I hate a lot of things about it:
Other than that, it's a fine Chromecast, it's like a Chromecast Ultra but with extra bloat. There are a couple of things I miss from my Apple TV (like good Plex app and AirPods support), but I watch so little Plex nowadays that I figured it makes sense to optimize for YouTube instead.
And then today, out of nowhere, I woke up and wanted to try running emulators on it.
There's nothing weird about this really. Since it is Android TV, you can just search for emulators on the Play Store and install them. To get files (roms) onto the device you'll probably want to install something that can host a FTP server - I use Solid Explorer - but there are probably millions of apps that can do this.
Once you have a FTP server running you can just go on your computer and transfer roms over to it. Then you just pair a Bluetooth controller to it, fire up an emulator, pick your rom, and there you go: you are now emulating games on the CCwGTV.
As easy as it is, there are some discoveries I made throughout the day I figured I should share to save everyone some time in the future. But before I do, let's go over our priorities here.
Our main priority is convenience, not accuracy. If your main goal is accuracy and performance you should get out your CRT, all the consoles, and all the cables. That is a very messy setup and not very convenient. If you get tired of retro games you have all that crap out just collecting dust. Contrast that with the CCwGTV: if you get bored of retro games literally nothing changes, it's just stuck there behind the TV as it always was. And then when you wanna play again you just pull out the controller and you're good to go again.
In essence, my priorities are:
Convenience > Performance/Latency > Visuals > Emulation Accuracy
If you're one of those people that want your scanlines, sub frame input lag and 100% accuracy, this ain't for you, go hug your CRT. This is for us who want to get 90% there and not have a bunch of shit hooked up.
So, here are my notes:
Google/Android TV works well to navigate with a game controller. I used some 8bitdo controllers and a PS4 controller and both worked fine.
There is only about 2 GB of free space on the CCwGTV. This means you cannot put a ton of roms on there, especially PS1 stuff is tricky... a game like Final Fantasy VII is about 1.5 GB when compressed to a
RetroArch works, with all of its RetroArch features, but performance is not great. If you're not super picky about performance and latency, it's fine (I was able to beat Back To The Future 3 using it), but you will get dropped frames and audio stutter here and there. It felt very juddery. Maybe with some future updates it'll be great.
Instead of RetroArch I recommend using the "dedicated" apps that are on the Play Store. You can just do generic search terms like "nes", "snes", "genesis", "ps1" and "n64" and they should be the first result. Most of them are paid but I've found them well worth it, I bought them years ago, probably when I had my first Android phone. They're not that fancy but they're solid and have been around forever.
In each emulator input settings, make sure to map a button to the menu, otherwise you have to use the Google remote to get out of the game, which is very annoying.
NES, SNES and Genesis works great. No issues. Atleast in the games I played.
PS1 seems good. I only tried Castlevania SOTN and Spyro the Dragon and they seemed to run well in ePSXe.
N64 games are... not great. They're not terrible either, but they obviously have problems. It feels like playing on Project64 back in 2006 again and it doesn't look very pretty. With that said, if you don't have your N64 and just wanna do a casual playthrough of Ocarina of Time again after 20 years, it's probably good enough for you.
GBA games seem fine. They had some lag sometimes, but not much. I am not very into GBA though so I don't know what to look for. I played some Super Mario Advance and I found them very playable.
Overall, I think using a CCwGTV for emulation is very enticing as it is a very clean setup. No extra cables, no upscalers, no scart splitters, no power cables or bricks... The Chromecast is just hanging out behind your TV like it always is. The only visible thing is your wireless controller, but that is very easy to put away.
Seriously, I cannot make this point clear enough: even if you have a HTPC, Raspberry Pi or a Mister, that is atleast 2 extra cables, but probably more, and a box added to your setup. A CCwGTV is invisible: it's behind your TV. It's a very clean and elegant setup.
If Google releases another CCwGTV that is faster I think it could be really good. I mean, it's already pretty good, but I feel like it's right on the edge of being good enough. Would be nice to have a little boost, especially for N64 stuff.
Updated 2022-01-16: Added .zip details