4K streaming and the Chromecast Ultra
Google’s new Chromecast Ultra is now available and sells for $69. The new device lets you stream in 4K and offers better processing power. Android Central has a helpful guide to get you started using the Chromecast Ultra to stream 4K content to your television.
Andrew Martonik reports for Android Central:
The most important starting point for this equation is a screen with a 4K (or UHD) resolution. Though that can mean a computer monitor, chances are you’re looking to use this with a TV. 4K TVs aren’t nearly as expensive as they used to be, and it’s actually getting kind of tough to buy a new TV that isn’t 4K. Go pick up a new TV with the resolution, and you’ll be good to go.
You either have a 4K screen or you don’t — that part is pretty easy — but whether or not you have enough internet bandwidth is definitely another question. In order to stream in 4K, Google recommends at least 20 mbps sustained speeds for the Chromecast Ultra — and for what it’s worth, Netflix recommends 25 mbps. That honestly doesn’t sound like too much if you live in a major city and have cable internet, but there are a few things to consider here.
If you had one of the prior two Chromecast models before your Ultra you may have enjoyed the freedom of running your Chromecast off the power provided by a USB port on the back of your TV — saving you from extra cables and power outlets. With the Chromecast Ultra, it’s a requirement that you use the included power brick if you want to stream in 4K, as the new model draws more power than previous generations, and more than any TV can reliably provide.
So you’ve jumped through all of the hoops in terms of hardware, now you just have to find some content that actually streams in 4K. It’s true that the majority of what you’ll find out there today is still in 1080p, but there are a few reliable sources for finding that high-resolution goodness you bought the Chromecast Ultra for.
PCMag reviews Google’s Chromecast Ultra
So how well does Google’s new Chromecast Ultra actually work? Is it worth buying if you already own an older Chromecast? PCMag has a very helpful review that covers the pros and cons of the Chromecast Ultra.
Will Greenwald reports for PCMag:
The Google Cast app has become Google Home on Android and iOS, but for devices like the Chromecast Ultra (which is still described as supporting Google Cast) the distinction is negligible. You need to set up the device using the Google Home app, but the process is just as quick and direct as it is with the regular Chromecast and the Google Cast app. When you plug in the Chromecast Ultra, it will show the device name on your television and prompt you to set it up using the app. The app will find it and walk you through connecting it to your home network. Once it’s connected, it will perform a quick firmware update process and show up as a networked Chromecast you can then stream to with any Google Cast-capable app.
4K video is the biggest advantage the Chromecast Ultra has over the standard 1080p Chromecast, but Google also promises improved performance with “ultra fast load times” (compared with the “fast load times” the Chromecast offers). While load times depend more on network speeds than streaming hardware, the Chromecast Ultra does feel a bit peppier than the standard model.
Google’s Chromecast Ultra is the least expensive 4K media streamer currently available, and it has all the ease of use, reliability, and convenience of the original Chromecast. At nearly $70, however, it costs almost as much as the 4K-capable Roku Premiere (though the Premiere doesn’t have Ethernet connectivity), and loses much of the luster the original Chromecast, which is just $35. The slightly pricier Roku Premiere+ is a superior 4K streamer with Ethernet, a functional on-screen interface that doesn’t require a separate device, and a remote control with a very convenient headphone jack for private listening. For the extra $30, it’s easy to call the Roku Premiere+ our Editors’ Choice.
If 4K isn’t a priority for you, the standard Chromecast is still a very accessible media streamer, though the Amazon Fire TV Stick With Alexa Voice Remote offers its own on-screen interface and a dedicated remote that can use Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant for just $5 more. And both Amazon and Roku’s streamers support smartphone and tablet controls with their own apps as well, including screen mirroring.
Ethernet port for reliable 4K streaming. Relatively inexpensive for a 4K media streamer.
Requires a smartphone, tablet, or PC. Almost twice the price of the 1080p Chromecast.
- Bottom Line
Google's 4K-capable Chromecast Ultra is the least expensive UHD media streamer available, but you still need a smartphone, tablet, or computer to control it.
What people are saying about Google’s Chromecast Ultra
News about the release of the Chromecast Ultra hit the Android subreddit and folks there shared their thoughts about Google’s new 4K streaming device:
Mw75892: “This may just be me, but the Chromecast Ultra is a pretty hard sell when a Mi Box costs the same, has Google Home/Cast all the same, and is a full standalone Android TV experience with a mic-enabled remote.”
Carlosabia: “Last week I bought a Roku 4, sent it back the same day. I’m just so used to Chromecast, controlling everything from my phone, having anyone cast anything from their devices by just being connected to the same network. I won’t buy this because my TV isn’t even 4K, but the convenience of Chromecast over every other streaming is huge, IMO. ”
Jimbo91: “Does anyone else think it’s bizarre how the new Chromecasts just dangle out the TV like that.”
Square965: “I don’t have a 4k TV, so my opinion on this doesn’t really matter, but I find 2x the price of a standard Chromecast to bit a bit excessive. 1.5x seems fair.”
Archon810: “It’s been available for almost a week now, but it’s been flopping in and out of stock.”
Getcashmoney: “Where is 4k Google play movies? I would buy a Mibox over this unless you need Dolby Vision support.”
Billyjohn: “If doesn’t support mkv and ac3 then it has no purpose. Does any know if it does?”
JinSantosAndria: “MKV is just an envelope for everything else and AC3 was always supported as passthrough only.”
WillNotGrowUp: “This is coming from someone who loves Android TV, but Android TV is not as easy/user friendly as a Chromecast. The Chromecast just works while some ATV apps just refuse to cast or crash or just flat out refuse to play because the app is signed is as someone else (Netflix). While with a Chromecast, you only have to be signed into the app on your phone so anybody can cast anything at any time without limitations.”
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