The small Google Chromecast HDMI dongle is one of the nicest and cheapest ways to bring some smart TV features to your television. After Chromecast and Chromecast Audio , Google is now also bringing a Chromecast Ultra to the market for those who want to stream Ultra HD and HDR. In this review we look at the Google Chromecast Ultra.
Google Chromecast Ultra: What’s new?
We have always seen the Chromecast as a very simple solution to add streaming to your television. You plug the small puck into an HDMI socket of the television, provide power to it via the USB connection and go through the installation on your smartphone or tablet. Ready.
What is so new about the Google Chromecast Ultra? The most important reason for the Ultra is support of Ultra HD video and HDR video (in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision format). But there are also physical changes. Visually he looks almost like a standard Chromecast, but the Ultra apparently has something better hardware, because Google claims faster loading times for all apps. The HDMI connection is a 2.0a version, which is required for HDR support.
An important change is the mandatory use of the power adapter. The standard Chromecast can be connected to a USB port of your television using the micro USB cable. This keeps everything neatly out of sight. This version is not, that means not only that you need an extra socket, but also that an extra cable has to be removed.
In addition, there is now also a wired network connection in addition to the wireless network. It’s on the power adapter. Depending on how your wiring is running, that may be a bit awkward. But a wired connection is an addition that we applaud, especially if you want to stream Ultra HD and your wireless network does not give the best coverage to the television. The price for all those novelties is 79 euros.
Google Chromecast Ultra Installation
The installation of the Chromecast remains very simple. Connect it to an HDMI port, supply it with power and connect a network cable if necessary.
Then you open the Google Home app on your smartphone or tablet. This will then guide you through the installation in a few steps. The whole process takes no longer than a few minutes, even less when you use the wired network connection.
The use of the Chromecast is unchanged. You go into the app you want to stream in search of the Cast icon, click on it and select your Chromecast. Ready. All videos you play within that app are now streamed directly to your Chromecast Ultra, so without your smartphone still in between. You can now use them to do other things. Apps loading on the Chromecast indeed very fast, so in that respect the Ultra really is a step forward.
What can you look at now? A complete list of compatible apps can be found here. Specifically: every app that already worked with the Chromecast also works with the Ultra version. Of course you get this little dongle in the house to stream, so Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies, Dailymotion, Viewster and Crunchyroll are important. For music lovers: Deezer, Spotify, Google Play Music, TuneIn Radio and Musixmatch. It is just a selection from the selection. There are also some games, but that is clearly not the main goal of the Chromecast.
Ultra HD and / or HDR content must of course be offered by the streaming app. The Chromecast Ultra can not magically convert all videos you stream to Ultra HD HDR. For the real reason for this new Chromecast you are (for the time being) limited to Netflix and YouTube. We can be clear about the image quality, which is completely determined by what the source provides.
Install the Chrome browser on your PC and you can also stream tabs from your browser. Click on the three dots for the settings at the top right and select ‘Cast’. The picture quality is fine.
If you want to stream media from your PC to the Chromecast Ultra, you still have to go through some steps. You must install a Chrome extension and / or an app on your smartphone or tablet. The best choices are Plex (very nice interface, but requires that you run a server somewhere and is a paying app), Videostream (very handy if you want to stream media from your PC), Localcast and Allcast. Keep in mind that the Chromecast Ultra itself does not support all codecs (the complete list can be found here), so if your app does not provide conversion, you may encounter error messages.
Google Chromecast Ultra: What is missing?
The Chromecast Ultra, like the Chromecast, relies on the use of a smartphone or tablet. There is no interface on your television, except for a screen saver with nice pictures, and there is no remote control. For convicted smartphone junkies no problem, of course, but not everyone will find that useful.
Amazon Prime Video is absent from the apps. This service has recently become available in Belgium and the Netherlands and delivers Ultra HD and HDR content, but for that you have to rely on your smart TV or other device. If you buy the Chromecast Ultra as a media player for your own files, you have to realize that it requires additional apps. They offer a good solution, depending on your setup, but we’d rather have seen that built into the Google Home App.
If you have an old Ultra HD TV with poor or limited streaming options, then this is an excellent choice. But on the other hand, we know that almost all good Ultra HD TVs, and certainly those who also support HDR, have a decent smart TV system and therefore have these streaming options built-in. The Chromecast Ultra seems more like a solution to a rare problem. As soon as more HDR content becomes more widely available, the Ultra’s usefulness will increase, but by then we may be a year and a new Chromecast version. If you have a Full HD TV, the classic Chromecast is a better solution, especially if you also look at the price tag. The Ultra costs twice as much as the classic Chromecast (79 vs 39 euros).
The Chromecast Ultra is fast, compact and easy to use. We can not fault that very much. The wired network connection can get rid of WiFi problems, and that we have to use a power adapter instead of a USB port on the TV, we like to take for granted.