Google Chrome­cast Ul­tra

FOR 4K HDR sup­port; sta­ble stream­ing; plenty of con­tent AGAINST No Ama­zon Video app; price tag has dou­bled

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

When the orig­i­nal Google Chrome­cast was re­leased, it was hailed as the best way to add smart apps to your non-smart TV – a sim­ple and af­ford­able way to up­grade without hav­ing to buy a brand-new set.

The 2015 up­date stream­lined the de­sign, added more apps and gave us faster speeds, mak­ing it great value at £30. How­ever, we’re strug­gling to see the point of the Google Chrome­cast Ul­tra. It’s ev­ery­thing the Chrome­cast (2015) is, with added sup­port for 4K Ul­tra HD and High Dy­namic Range (HDR). But its lim­ited 4K app selection doesn’t jus­tify the £70 price tag.

4K HDR cre­den­tials are the log­i­cal next step for the Ul­tra – but, when it comes to apps that de­liver 4K con­tent, it of­fers only Net­flix and Youtube. There’s no Ama­zon Video, which makes the Ul­tra rather lim­it­ing, es­pe­cially when most big-brand 4K TVS to­day carry Net­flix, Youtube and Ama­zon Video as part of their stan­dard smart TV selection.

If you’re not fussed about 4K HDR, there are plenty of apps through which you can watch Full HD con­tent. From the full selection of the UK’S catch up TV ser­vices to sub­scrip­tion ser­vices such as Now TV, and BT Sport, there’s plenty here. You can stream mu­sic us­ing Spo­tify, BBC Ra­dio and Deezer, and there are apps that sup­port gam­ing too. But you get pretty much all of the main apps on the stan­dard Chrome­cast, at less than half the cost.

Min­i­mal dan­gling

What Chrome­cast does best re­mains its killer fea­ture: cast­ing con­tent seam­lessly from your smart­phone to TV. Sim­ply look out for the Cast icon in an app, tap it, press play, and you’ll be stream­ing to your TV in sec­onds. There’s no ex­tra log-in needed ei­ther, as you’ll be stream­ing from ex­ist­ing apps on your smart­phone – which also means no need for a re­mote. Launch and re­sponse times are speedy, with just a few sec­onds be­fore a 4K stream gets un­der way. It’s worth down­load­ing the Google Home app, as it's a base for Chrome­cast fea­tures (in­clud­ing help with set-up, col­lat­ing Google­cast-com­pat­i­ble apps in one place and rec­om­mend­ing other apps that sup­port cast­ing, too.) There’s no home page when you plug in the Chrome­cast, which sim­pli­fies the ex­pe­ri­ence. Ap­ple own­ers are re­stricted to stream­ing from apps that sup­port Google­cast, but An­droid users can mir­ror nearly any­thing on their phones – a web browser, a game of Angry Birds, or your hol­i­day snaps – to en­joy them on a big­ger TV screen. Google has stuck with the puck-shaped de­sign for the Chrome­cast Ul­tra, with a short length of HDMI ca­ble stick­ing out. The end of the HDMI and the back of the disc are mag­netic, so they can be neatly at­tached to­gether with min­i­mal dan­gling.

Un­like the stan­dard Chrome­cast that runs on USB power, the Ul­tra needs to be con­nected to the mains. When it comes to per­for­mance, we have few com­plaints with the Ul­tra, though you’ll need a ro­bust net­work with band­width that can han­dle the data-heavy 4K streams. The Ul­tra has dual band 2.4GHZ/5GHZ wi-fi built-in, but we'd rec­om­mend us­ing the eth­er­net port, which gives you rock-solid sta­bil­ity.

Whether you’re watch­ing a 1080p or 4K stream, the Ul­tra will au­to­mat­i­cally up­scale ev­ery­thing to 4K. Old episodes of Fire­fly pop from the screen, with rich colours, clean out­lines and a bit more depth than you get with stan­dard def­i­ni­tion. It doesn’t reach the same heights as a phys­i­cal 4K disc, but the pic­ture qual­ity is of a sim­i­lar level of per­for­mance as we’d ex­pect when stream­ing straight from a TV’S app.

Dou­ble trou­ble

The Google Chrome­cast Ul­tra is a puz­zling prod­uct. At £70, it’s dou­ble the price of the stan­dard Chrome­cast, but its 4K fea­tures don’t quite add up to twice the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Given its lack of Ama­zon Video, it’s hard to make a case for the Ul­tra. Its cast­ing abil­i­ties, con­ve­nience and ease of use are still top-notch – but noth­ing that you can’t al­ready get from the stan­dard Chrome­cast.

Those who want to stream their own 4K footage from smart de­vices will find a use for the Ul­tra. But if you’re af­ter only the ex­cel­lent Google­cast fea­ture, we’d stick with the ba­sic Chrome­cast.

The Chrome­cast Ul­tra sup­ports 4K Ul­tra HD and HDR, but doesn’t jus­tify its £70 price tag

The HDMI and the disc use mag­nets so they can be neatly at­tached

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