Practical: Google’s Android TV remote designs are delightful

TV remotes can end up being a deeply personal thing and design matters. Some remotes feel cheap in the hand or have buttons that aren’t pleasant to press. Others are too thin and have stupid navigation methods and take 6 years to be replaced by one that is still too expensive. As Android TV grows, it’s a problem Google is trying to limit by setting a standard with the reference G10 and G20 remotes. After using them for a while, I think they are a delightful standard for makers.

Manufactured by UK-based TW Electronics, but designed in-house by Google, the G10 and G20 remotes are expected to hit a slew of Android TV and Google TV products over the next year. Examples we know of already include the Walmart streaming device duo, an upcoming streaming dongle from Anker/Nebula, and the Mecool KM2. These all use the smaller G10 design.

Starting with the G10, we’re looking at a 22-key design that includes dedicated buttons for four apps, a live TV button, a watchlist button, as well as keys for the assistant and settings. There are also the usual navigation keys, volume, mute and channel up/down. Power and input buttons complete the package. Each remote also has an IR blaster that can be used for power, input and volume functions. However, this alone works if the Android TV device supports it and usually this means it will only work if one of these remotes was included with the device.

G10 design

For devices that offer live TV service, there is also the G20 design. This Android TV remote has all the same functions and basic design as the G10, but adds a full number pad at the top as well as four programmable color keys, a subtitle shortcut and an info button.

This remote would most likely be used with actual TV panels or devices similar to Verizon Stream TV or TiVo Stream 4K. By default, Android TV apps don’t accept numeric inputs, so the buttons must be mapped to a specific app, as seen on these two devices.

G20 design

With both remotes, I was pleasantly surprised by the hardware throughout. The buttons are all tactile without emitting a loud click or leaving room for squeaks as the remotes age. The rounded bottom also feels nice in the hand and the two are well balanced. Despite its height, the G20 felt particularly pleasant in the hand during everyday use.

In how they feel in the hand, comparing these to the Chromecast’s remote definitely favors those benchmark designs. The flatter design feels slightly better in the hand and the texture also provides more grip without feeling sticky. Navigation is also improved as the extra space above the D-Pad makes the G10 and especially the G20 more ergonomic compared to the Chromecast remote.

Color wise, the two feel identical in the hand, but I’m definitely partial to the “Dark Anthracite” color over the lighter “Rock Candy.” Button contrast is superb, especially with the white D-Pad and Assistant icons. The battery situation is also fairly standard with a pair of triple-As in either remote. The back door is also very easy to remove, but didn’t come off when I dropped either remote from sofa height.

Overall, there really isn’t much to complain about. These are well-designed remotes that make a great base for any Android TV device.

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. You might be wondering if you can use these remotes with a Chromecast with Google TV and, you can, but not to its full capacity. General buttons work such as navigation D-Pad, home, back, assistant and volume. The “Watchlist” button also works, allowing users to easily add content to their watchlist simply by hovering over it and pressing the button.

Experienced Android TV users are likely familiar with an app called Button Mapper, and the plethora of unused buttons on those remotes associated with this app can lead to some great ideas. Unfortunately, Chromecast with Google TV doesn’t receive any input from most of the G10’s extra buttons on its current firmware. Future software updates might open the door to more, but at the moment the input, settings, YouTube, Netflix, and the other two blank app buttons don’t work properly. They are recognized by the Button Mapper app, which is fine, but the YouTube and Netflix buttons work backwards. However, this only applies to these sample units and may not apply to the models you may obtain.

However, the G20 is exactly the opposite. This remote with its number pad, four unlinked buttons, and buttons for information and closed captions supports many other options on the current Chromecast firmware. All 16 of these buttons are recognized by Button Mapper even though they do nothing on the default Chromecast software. This opens up a whole host of tantalizing possibilities.

The other bad news? You can’t just buy these remotes on their own to use with the Chromecast or other Android TV devices. You can technically get the G10 remote with cheap Walmart Android TV streamers, but it faces the same issues. For now, it’s best to wait if your intention is to use this remote with the current Chromecast. It’s possible that either will be sold independently at some point, although TW Electronics couldn’t confirm if this was planned.

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