- Jared Newman, PCWorld
The Chromecast Ultra is still elegant on some level. But without the bells and whistles of comparably-priced streamers, it doesn’t seem as essential.
- Marshall Honorof, Tom's Guide
The Chromecast Ultra fits the bill if you want beautiful visuals at a low price, but nagging design and interface issues hold it back.
The Chromecast 2nd Gen is still a favorite among reviewers for its simplicity and solid performance. With the Chromecast Ultra, Google’s added a few more tricks to its streamer for those with top-end TVs.
Reviews are in, so we’re bringing you everything you need to know about this new media streamer.
Apart from a slight boost in size, the Chromecast Ultra sticks to the puck format of the earlier version. The design features a small disc with a microSD power port on one end and an HDMI cable on the other. The HDMI cable and disc both include magnets to keep the streamer tucked away out of side behind your TV.
However, to take full advantage of the Chromecast Ultra you must connect it to the supplied power adapter. Some reviewers mentioned that the 5.5-ft cable had trouble reaching the inputs on their TVs. If your television is far from an outlet, you might need to consider alternative arrangements.
The power adapter also includes an ethernet port. When connected to your router, this allows your Chromecast to stream as wired network speeds for the best video quality possible. Apart from appearance, you’ll find no indicators of what quality you are streaming at. Pocket Lint notes, “There's no consistent way of getting the information of what you're actually watching, unlike native TV apps, which are normally supported by an info button on your TV's remote.”
This is because the Chromecast uses your phone, tablet or PC as a remote. You tap the cast icon with the app or website and choose the Chromecast. In a few seconds, the video information passed to the streamer and your television displays it.
That brings us to the second concern mentioned by reviewers.
If you own a 4K TV, it’s likely also a “smart” TV. This eliminates the need for the Chromecast Ultra. For 1080p TVs, you'll find no difference in performance or features from the older Chromecast 2nd Gen. Also, at the time of writing, 4K UHD and HDR content is limited—only existing on Netflix, YouTube, Google Play and Amazon Video. The last of which doesn’t support the Chromecast.
Unless you don’t like the apps on your TV or can’t connect an ethernet cable to your TV, you’ll find little benefit over the features included with your television set.
There were also complaints of inconsistency. This isn’t so much a fault of Google’s as a reflection of the fact you control playback using the apps on your phone. Controls are at the mercy of app developers. Whereas if you have a dedicated remote, you always know where to find common functions.
This lead many reviewers to question both if they'd recommend the Chromecast Ultra and why it exists. Unless you’re running a rare “non-smart” 4K TV model or need ethernet connectivity your TV lacks, you won’t see much benefit. Pocket Lint summed up opinions well, saying, “Unlike the previous two Chromecast devices that plugged a gap in your TV's skills, the Chromecast Ultra is likely to step on the toes of features that your TV already offers. And that, for many, will render it unnecessary.”
No questions for the moment.