Android Central Verdict
The Google TV-powered Mecool KD3 streaming stick offers everything you could want for streaming your favorite shows and movies, including support for 4K, HDR10 content, Dolby Vision and Atmos, and AV1 standard. All of this, combined with the most recent Google TV interface and expandable storage, makes the KD3 one of the best alternatives to the Chromecast with Google TV.
4K HDR content
Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos
AVI standard for streaming
More expensive than the competition
No fast forward/rewind and play/pause buttons
It still uses a microUSB port
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The Chromecast with Google TV ushered in an entirely new streaming experience for Android TVs when it launched in September 2020. While the Google TV interface has made its way to a considerable number of smart TVs, it is only available on a few streaming sticks and boxes.
Thankfully, a Chinese company called Mecool introduced its own Google TV-certified streaming dongle in April. The Mecool KD3 checks all the boxes if you're looking for a Chromecast with Google TV (opens in new tab) alternative, although it suffers from the same shortcomings as Google's dated streamer.
In the two weeks that I've been using the streaming stick, I've discovered that it can handle any task you throw at it. When you combine that with an excellent remote that includes a few more 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 (opens in new tab) OS 11. The stick costs $63 in the United States and can be purchased directly from Mecool's online storefront. If you prefer to buy the product through Amazon, it costs $80.
Fortunately, the company has offered Android Central readers a 15% discount. By entering the code KD3MECOOL on the Mecool website (opens in new tab), you can get the KD3 for a lower price.
The company said the product ships to the U.S., EU, and UK markets.
Mecool KD3: What I like
The KD3 comes in a pretty compact package. Its design is monotonous, which is fine because it's not something meant to be seen all the time. The dongle itself has got some weight to it, giving it a solid feel despite its small size. It plugs directly into the HDMI port of your TV, just like Google's streamer. If you have trouble plugging the dongle into your TV's HDMI port, the KD3 ships with an HDMI extension cable to help you out.
The majority of the stick is also matte plastic, with a glossy strip in the middle bearing the Mecool logo on one end and the power indicator light on the other. A micro USB port on the back connects to the included USB power cable, which you can use to turn on the dongle by plugging it into the AC adapter.
In my case, however, I didn't need the AC adapter to power the thing because it worked flawlessly on my TCL Union TV's built-in USB port. 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 up to 60fps, HDR10 content, as well as Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.
Mecool did an excellent job of adapting Google's G10 reference design for the remote and adding a few more buttons. While the remote looks similar to those included with many streaming devices or Android TVs, it has a lot more buttons than the Chromecast with Google TV remote.
Of course, the remote won't be complete without a Google Assistant button that allows you to speak to the voice assistant. It's noticeably faster here than on Google's media device, though that's probably because the latter is aging.
As usual, there are the power, input, and volume buttons for your TV. It should be noted that the volume buttons function as expected thanks to HDMI-CEC support and IR blaster configurations, 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 with Google TV still lacks.
In addition, you'll 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 many of the best streaming devices (opens in new tab), and its presence on the KD3's included remote is presumably in preparation for the future rollout of personalized Google TV profiles (opens in new tab).
When you press that button, the profile selector 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 personalized profiles. However, it's 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 newer type of processor with support for AV1 encoded content. This video streaming codec isn't available on many streaming services just yet.
However, compared to the more popular HEVC and H.264 standards, it provides a better compression system that should allow for significant data efficiency savings 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 advantage the KD3 has over the Chromecast with Google TV is 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 enables you to connect a flash drive to the cable's USB port for additional storage space.
In all of these key areas, the KD3 gets the job done well. The setup process is simple, navigating menus and apps is easy, and the video content is excellent.
The Google TV experience is identical to that of the Chromecast, and I had no trouble launching apps on the streamer. As expected, the KD3 did a good job curating content based on what I frequently watch.
Another advantage is that the streaming stick's operating system is one generation ahead of the Chromecast with Google TV. However, the dongle still has the February 2022 security patch, and Mecool has not stated when the latest security update will be released.
Mecool KD3: What I don't like
I wish Mecool would add the ability to map its buttons to its future streaming device. However, while this feature is not common in other media devices, having the ability to customize the remote's button functions is always useful.
While you can't officially remap the buttons, you can always download and install third-party apps from the Play Store. I'm using the Button Mapper app to change how certain 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 KD3's successor come with larger built-in storage. The KD3 suffers from the same app install limits 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 is left for your apps and files due to the large storage space consumed by the system itself.
If you are subscribed to multiple streaming services, you may want to consider the NVIDIA Shield TV, which comes with more storage. While there's an official workaround for this shortcoming with Mecool's dongle, it's always 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 Mecool's streaming stick faces a heap of competition from more popular brands that cost less. At $50, Google's hardware might still be the better option for some consumers, except that it's a bit dated already.
Perhaps the KD3's closest rival is the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K (opens in new tab), which supports 4K HDR streaming with Dolby Vision and Atmos for only $50. It includes an Alexa-powered voice remote and offers the same 8GB of storage. The two only differ in the software they run.
You might also be interested in the TiVo Stream 4K (opens in new tab), 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 is only $49.
Mecool KD3: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if...
- You prefer to stream content in 4K at 60fps, HDR, and Dolby Vision
- You want an interface that does a great job of curating content
- You're looking for an option to increase the 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 you have to for other options
- You want more than 8GB of fixed internal storage
- You hate micro USB ports
At $63, it's hard to recommend this product as a better purchase than the Chromecast with Google TV. The KD3 is also not as spec-heavy as the NVIDIA Shield TV 4K (opens in new tab), which has everything you could ask for in a streaming device. But when it comes to helping you discover content, it's an excellent 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 more 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 run for its money.
If you're looking for a streaming device that supports 4K, HDR10 content, Dolby Vision and Atmos, as well as an excellent remote, the Mecool KD3 Android TV streaming stick is a worthy alternative to the Chromecast with Google TV. It does the job well and has some future-proofing features, such as support for the AV1 standard.
Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.
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