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 according to a new report by Android Police, that's all about to change. Google has a major press event on October 4, and reports have begun to leak out about the ol' Mountain View team bringing Chromecast into the world of 3,840 x 2,160 Ultra HD resolution.
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They're calling the device Chromecast Ultra, and insiders say that the device will indeed be capable of 4K and will launch at a price of $69, or about £50 or AU$90.
So when can you expect a 4K-equipped Chromecast on your shelf at home and what else can you expect it to do differently? Read on to find out.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? A cheap, 4K UHD streaming device
- When is it out? Google hasn't officially announced that yet
- What will it cost? It's expected to cost $69 (about £50/AU$90)
Chromecast Ultra release date
We haven't had a firm announcement from Google that the company is even working on a 4K Chromecast, but the fact that the entire industry (including Google's streaming competitors) is moving towards the new resolution means that Google would be crazy to rest on its laurels.
Now, this isn't the first time we've heard rumblings about Google embracing UHD, but the recent well-spring of affordable 4K TV sets could be the compelling argument the company's been waiting for to pull the trigger.
If that turns out to be the case, we'd expect to see it announced at the firm's upcoming October press event with potentially same-week availability. The last time Google announced a refresh of the Chromecast hardware, it was less than a week before we had one in our own home.
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 – reportedly – 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.
Overall, if this truly is the Chromecast Ultra's final design, it's a believable – if not all that inventive – of a design.
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.
We wouldn't expect the new Chromecast to much exceed these existing prices, but with no official announcement from Google you should take our prediction with a pinch of salt.
But 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.
Does that mean it will cost a bit more than the original Chromecast? Probably. But does that also mean it should cast significantly less than the Amazon Fire TV and Roku 4? Absolutely.
Conclusion: Is a 4K Chromecast just around the corner?
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, and we wouldn't be surprised if we saw new Chromecast hardware in the first half of next year, if not sooner.
The only problem 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.
But regardless of whether the new hardware gets announced on October 4 or not, we're certain a 4K Chromecast is going to make an appearance at some point.
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