The world is ready for the 4K Chromecast Ultra.
Don't get us wrong. We still love Google's Chromecast, the minimalistic puck that plugs into the back of your TV and allows you to stream content from your phone or tablet.
There's just one problem: it only supports a 1080p resolution.
But that's all about to change.
At a press event held on October 4, Google unveiled the Chromecast Ultra to the world. The device will support 4K HDR streaming as well as Dolby Vision. The device will support 4K Netflix and YouTube at the start, and then Google Play Movies and TV when 4K content rolls out to the service later in the month.
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Chromecast Ultra's product manager Mario Queiroz says that the new unit will be 1.8 times faster than the second-gen Chromecast released in 2015, thanks to a faster processor and improved Wi-Fi antenna. The other catch, he says, is that this will be the first Chromecast to build an ethernet port right into the power adapter – allowing you to hardwire your Chromecast to your router.
The device launches in November and will cost less than almost any other 4K streaming device in the world at $69 (about $69 or AU$90).
So what do we expect from a 4K-equipped Chromecast? Read on to find out.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? A cheap, 4K HDR streaming device
- When is it out? Sometime in November 2016
- What will it cost? $69 (about £69/AU$90)
Chromecast Ultra release date
Google unveiled the Chromecast Ultra on October 4, alongside a new lineup of Pixel phones.
Now, this wasn't the first time we've heard rumblings about Google embracing UHD, but the recent well-spring of affordable 4K TV sets was apparently too compelling of an argument for the company not to pull the trigger.
SVP of Products Mario Queiroz told the audience to expect Chromecast Ultra to release in November.
Chromecast Ultra design
If you want to release a product without anyone knowing about it beforehand, you're in the wrong industry. Google recently experienced a leak and VentureBeat's Evan Blass was there to scoop up some images.
What you see below is the first image of the Chromecast Ultra.
The big difference from the 2015 Chromecast is the latest model cycles out the Chrome logo for a simple 'G' – perhaps a move to merge the company's brands together, as seen in reports that Google's own Android may phase out Chrome OS.
The unit will still draw power via a microUSB cable that attaches to the out edge of the disc, and a small reset button adorns the edge closest to the HDMI cable.
The other interesting addition is the ethernet port that will allow you to hardwire the Chromecast to your router for faster, more consistent video playback.
Chromecast Ultra price
Google has always prided itself on the low cost of its Chromecast devices, which currently retail for $30 / £30 / AU$59 for the video version and $35 / £20 / AU$59 for the audio version.
And it turns out Chromecast Ultra isn't any different. According to Queiroz, the unit will sell for $69, or about £69/AU$90.
Why's it so cheap? Here's our reasoning: video streaming boxes are so expensive because they handle all the processing on-board – they render the graphics, they take in the information from the online content and they have to output the result to your TV. It's a labor-intensive process. Plus they need an OS just hanging out in the background, waiting for you to press the home button so it can pop up like a waiter at a fine dining restaurant.
Chromecast has always beaten its competition by limiting the number of components inside the box. It's not ever really responsible for rendering graphics – it's just taking a signal from your smart device and passing it on to your TV. It doesn't use an OS, so there's no need for a massive storage cache. What that means is that Google doesn't need to load up Chromecast 4K with tons of hardware – just a really good Wi-Fi antenna capable of passing more than 15mbps and the right codecs for 4K video.
Chromecast Ultra is Ultra HD streaming on the cheap
Given Google's competitors have been moving in the direction of 4K for around a year now, it makes sense for the search giant to follow suit.
The only problem we see is that enabling 4K functionality would likely require each Chromecast-enabled app developer to update their software to support the new resolution, which will inevitably take some time.
As long as Google and Apple can convince app makers to support 4K resolution, there's no problem. But waiting on app makers, historically, has been somewhat of a problem.
That said, having two of the largest providers already on board with Netflix and YouTube is a fantastic start – and is enough for us to warrant a purchase of the Chromecast Ultra once it comes out next month.
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