The Chromecast with Google TV ushered in a whole new streaming experience for Android TVs when it launched in September 2020. Although the Google TV interface has made its way to a massive number of smart TVs, it’s only available on some sticks and streaming boxes. .
Luckily, a Chinese company called Mecool introduced its own Google TV-certified streaming dongle in April. The Mecool KD3 ticks all the boxes if you’re looking for a Chromecast alternative with Google TV, although it suffers from the same shortcomings as Google’s dated streamer.
In the two weeks I’ve used the streaming stick, I’ve found that it can handle any task you throw at it. When you combine that with a great remote that includes a few extra dedicated buttons for your favorite streaming services, the KD3 becomes a worthy rival to the best Google TV-compatible streaming sticks and boxes money can buy.
Mecool KD3: Price and Availability
Mecool announced the KD3 on April 20, running Android TV OS 11. The stick costs $63 in the US and can be purchased directly from Mecool’s online storefront. If you prefer to buy the product through Amazon, it costs $80.
Luckily, the company has given Android Central readers a 15% discount. By entering the code KD3MECOOL on the Mecool website, you can get the KD3 at a lower price.
The company said the product is shipping to US, EU and UK markets.
Mecool KD3: What I like
The KD3 comes in a fairly compact package. Its design is monotonous, which is good because it’s not something meant to be seen all the time. The dongle itself has some heft to it, which makes it feel solid despite its small size. It plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI port, just like Google’s streamer. If you’re having trouble plugging the dongle into your TV’s HDMI port, the KD3 comes with an HDMI extension cable to help you out.
The majority of the stick is also matte plastic, with a shiny strip down the middle featuring the Mecool logo on one end and the power light on the other. A micro USB port on the back connects to the included USB power cable, which you can use to power up the dongle by plugging it into the power adapter.
In my case, however, I didn’t need the AC adapter to power the thing as it worked just fine on the built-in USB port of my TCL Union TV. This eliminates the need for an additional power outlet, which is always a plus.
Like the Chromecast with Google TV, it includes support for 4K streaming at up to 60fps, HDR10 content, as well as Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.
Mecool did a great job adapting Google’s G10 reference design for the remote and adding a few extra buttons. Although the remote looks like the ones included with many streaming devices or Android TVs, it has a lot more buttons than the Chromecast remote with Google TV.
Of course, the remote wouldn’t be complete without a Google Assistant button that lets you talk to the voice assistant. It’s noticeably faster here than on Google’s media device, although that’s probably because the latter is getting old.
As usual, there are power, input and volume buttons for your TV. It’s worth noting that the volume buttons work as expected thanks to HDMI-CEC support and IR blaster setups, so you won’t need to use your TV’s included remote to adjust the volume.
At the bottom there are dedicated buttons for YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. You can’t help but appreciate the quick access to major streaming platforms they provide, and for someone like me who uses Netflix and YouTube frequently, the shortcuts come in handy.
If you have an Apple TV subscription, you’ll be pleased to know that the KD3 supports Apple’s streaming service. This is something that even after a few years the Chromecast still lacks with Google TV.
Additionally, you will notice a unique profile button on the left side of the Assistant button. You won’t typically find this button in the included remote of most top streaming devices, and its presence on the KD3’s included remote is likely in preparation for the future rollout of custom Google TV profiles.
When you press this button, the profile switcher appears, allowing you to switch between your main profile and a child’s profile. However, you won’t find it very useful until Google introduces custom profiles. However, it is encouraging to see Mecool preparing the media device for the future.
Speaking of future-proofing, the KD3 is powered by an Amlogic S905Y4 chipset, a new type of processor supporting AV1 encoded content. This video streaming codec is not yet available on many streaming services.
However, compared to the more popular HEVC and H.264 standards, it provides a better compression scheme which should provide significant savings in data efficiency without compromising video quality. As a result, it is poised to become a more ideal standard in the future as video content adopts higher frame rates and 8K resolution.
One more thing: Mecool also deserves a pat on the back for accomplishing what Google failed to do with the Chromecast with Google TV. One of the advantages of the KD3 over the Chromecast with Google TV is the expandable storage. While the streamer has the same 8GB of internal storage as Google’s media device, you can officially expand that space with a $9 OTG cable. It allows you to connect a USB flash drive to the cable’s USB port for additional storage space.
In all of these key areas, the KD3 does the job well. The setup process is straightforward, navigating through menus and apps is easy, and the video content is excellent.
The Google TV experience is identical to the Chromecast, and I had no trouble casting apps on the streamer. As expected, the KD3 did a good job of organizing content based on what I watch frequently.
Another plus is that the streaming stick OS is a generation ahead of the Chromecast with Google TV. However, the dongle still has the February 2022 security patch and Mecool did not specify when the latest security update will be released.
Mecool KD3: What I don’t like
I would like Mecool to add the ability to map its buttons to its future streaming device. However, while this feature is not common on other media devices, it is still useful to be able to customize the functions of the buttons on the remote.
Although you cannot officially remap the buttons, you can still download and install third-party apps from the Play Store. I’m using the Button Mapper app to change how some buttons work. For example, I remapped the home button for things like taking a screenshot in addition to navigating to the home screen.
I would also like to see the successor to the KD3 come with larger onboard storage. The KD3 suffers from the same app install limitations as the Chromecast with Google TV, which didn’t sit well with customers. 8GB of storage space alone is obviously not enough, and right off the bat, only half of that space is left for your apps and files due to the large storage consumed by the system itself.
If you subscribe to multiple streaming services, you might want to consider the NVIDIA Shield TV, which comes with more storage. While there is an official workaround for this shortcoming with Mecool’s dongle, it’s still a plus to be able to install as many apps as you need without running into this kind of limitation.
Mecool KD3: The competition
The KD3 is a solid challenger to the Chromecast with Google TV if you don’t mind paying more for a few features not available on the latter. This means the Mecool Streaming Stick faces a whole lot of competition from more popular brands that cost less. At $50, Google’s hardware might still be the best option for some consumers, except it’s already a bit dated.
Perhaps the KD3’s closest rival is the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, which supports 4K HDR streaming with Dolby Vision and Atmos for just $50. It includes an Alexa-powered voice remote and offers the same 8GB of storage. The two differ only in the software they run.
You might also be interested in the TiVo Stream 4K, which is another Android TV-powered device that supports 4K resolution, HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos. It also includes the TiVo Stream app, which provides personalized content based on your subscriptions. The best part is that it’s only $49.
Mecool KD3: Should you buy it?
You should buy it if…
- You prefer to stream content in 4K at 60 fps, HDR and Dolby Vision
- You want an interface that does a great job of curating content
- Looking for an option to increase storage space
- You want an all-in-one remote
- You watch a lot of Apple TV content
You shouldn’t buy this if…
- You don’t want to pay more than necessary for other options
- You want more than 8 GB of fixed internal storage
- You hate micro USB ports
At $63, it’s hard to recommend this product as a better buy than the Chromecast with Google TV. The KD3 also isn’t quite as heavy as the NVIDIA Shield TV 4K, which has everything you could ask for in a streaming device. But when it comes to helping you discover content, it’s a great choice.
Google I/O 2022 is in full swing, which means tons of new updates for the search giant’s TV operating system. We’ll have to wait and see how the KD3 holds up, as other streaming devices are expected to add support for the interface in the coming months. While the streamer is a worthy challenger to Google’s hardware, it’s far from giving it a hard time.
Mecool KD3 Android TV Streaming Stick
If you’re looking for a streaming device that supports 4K, HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Atmos content, as well as a great remote control, the Mecool KD3 Android TV Streaming Stick is a worthy alternative to Chromecast with Google TV. It does the job well and has future-proof features, such as support for the AV1 standard.