Chromecast Ultra has arrived. Recombu Digital delves into what it does, how it differs to the original Chromecast and whether it is worth the upgrade.
What is Chromecast?
Chromecast is unlike streaming devices such as Roku and Now TV. Instead, it mirrors what you see on a mobile device on a television so you can enjoy compatible apps and Chrome browser web pages on a bigger screen.
Essentially, then, Chromecast can be used to stream content from Netflix and YouTube directly or from your own collection using the likes of RealPlayer Cloud. All you have to do is plug Chromecast into an HDMI port in your television, connect to WiFi and off you go.
The original Chromecast was updated to Chromecast 2 (tips and tricks here) around a year ago and is still available to buy under the name ‘Chromecast’. Now it has been joined a new device called Chromecast Ultra.
Chromecast Ultra vs Chromecast: What is the difference?
The Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra devices look almost identical save for a small ‘G’ on the front instead of the Chrome logo, but it is a very different story for the innards.
For starters, Google claims it is 1.8 times faster in terms of processing power so it can handle its new features and should be snappier when it comes to browsing the menus.
Chromecast Ultra is named so because it can support ultra-high definition content (aka 4K or UHD). Its maximum resolution is 3,840×2,160 pixels, meaning it can display significantly more detail. The benefit is seeing Kevin Spacey’s face in much more detail when watching House of Cards and other shows with 4K capability.
The standard Chromecast, meanwhile, uses the high-definition standard of 1,920×1,080 pixels (‘HD ready’ is 1,280×720 pixels) still used by many new televisions.
What about fancy HDR video?
HDR ─ short for high dynamic range ─ is another technology that helps make footage look even better. It is available on 4K televisions, but usually only the more expensive mid-range sets and upwards. So there is a chance your TV may lack HDR support, even if it has the higher resolution.
In layman’s terms, 4K provides more pixels and HDR gives each pixel a wider and more granular range of colour and light options. Chromecast Ultra supports HDR and therefore can show content at its very best if your TV is up to it.
Dolby Vision is also supported by the Chromecast Ultra and, like HDR and 4K, it requires your television to support the feature should you wish to benefit from it.
Will it buffer all the time?
If you have a good WiFi connection that is strong and an internet speed that is fast enough, 4K through wireless is perfectly fine (we have been watching Stranger Things in 4K this way without any hassle). But in case you want supreme reliability or struggle as it is, Chromecast Ultra has an ethernet port you can plug directly into your router. The standard Chromecast does not.
How much does Chromecast Ultra cost?
£69 and that is a one-time payment. The content you stream may be subject to a monthly subscription, but the device itself and the ability to cast what you see on your mobile device onto a television is part of the package. The standard Chromecast device costs £30.
Is it worth the upgrade?
Depends on you. Lacking a 4K television? It is 100 per cent pointless. Got a 4K television but no HDR support? The jump in detail to 4K if you are currently unable to stream it will be easily noticeable. Got the standard Chromecast? It depends on how badly you want 4K streaming.
For those who have a smart TV, but want more options on streaming content or browsing the web, Chromecast will do the job fine. Having 4K support as 4K content and 4K televisions become more common could prove useful in the long run, but you will pay a premium for it.
For some who simply want to directly plug into the ethernet and enjoy a stable, speedy connection and do away with wireless woes, the £39 extra may be worth it. But then there are other ways to improve connection stability in a home.
When does it go on sale?
Expect it to go on sale in November from various retailers in the UK. We will provide an exact release date as soon as we know more.