Chromecast Ultra Review

Introduction


Sometimes you don't realize how thirsty you were until you've had that first sip, and for plenty of HDTV owners, that world-changing moment came three-and-a-half years ago when Google released its first Chromecast. The tiny dongle wasn't much to look at, but it didn't need to be flashy when it delivered so fiercely in terms of functionality and value.

For little more than the cost of a few movie tickets, you could instantly bring your “dumb” TV into the world of streaming media – and it didn't take long for the accessory to become a global hit.

In the years since, we've seen Google update its hardware with new electronics and a more installation-friendly form factor, as well as introducing a special music-only Chromecast for audiophiles. But maybe the biggest upgrade landed last fall, as Google prepared its streaming solution for the next generation of hi-res screens with the launch of the Chromecast Ultra.

The package contains:
  • Chromecast Ultra 
  • Power / Ethernet adapter
  • Quick start card
  • Warranty card

Design

A familiar-looking Chromecast doesn't do much to change an already successful design

When Google first created the Chromecast, it built a device that was untouched in its simplicity: a compact dongle that simply plugs right into an available HDMI port on the back of a television. Connect the power supply – or better yet, tap into an already-existing USB port on the TV – and your wiring job is complete.

Since then, Google's stepped up to refine the design of the Chromecast family of products, most notably ditching that all-in-one stick look for one that's more of a tethered puck. While that's a bit less graceful at first glance, it does solve the serious problem of the original Chromecast being a bit bulkier than your typical HDMI cable, leading to situations where there just wasn't enough space for it behind cable-crowded TVs. Google attempted to address this design failure by packaging in a short HDMI extension cable, but the new Chromecasts avoid that issue altogether.


The Chromecast Ultra sticks with this same puck-like design introduced in 2015 with the second-gen Chromecast. It's also of comparable size (differing by just a few millimeters here and there), and while exterior markings are a bit toned-down from that last edition, the new Ultra is still unmistakable as a Chromecast.

Little things help reveal the refinement of Google's design. While most of us will plug in the Chromecast Ultra behind our TVs and leave it there for all eternity, should you feel like removing the device and stowing it somewhere, its HDMI “tail” artfully snaps in place to the unit's main body with the help of a strong magnet. It's just a small touch, but an appreciated one all the same.

Functionally, the Ultra picks up support for high-resolution 4K content, as well as high-dynamic-range footage for sets able to display such media. But there's also a small exterior change to the new Chromecast, one that give users a new option for how they get this media system online: while past Chromecasts were primarily Wi-Fi-based devices, and offered hard-wired Ethernet support only with the addition of an optional accessory, the Chromecast Ultra ships with a power supply featuring a built-in Ethernet port.


Of course, that's a functional change as much as it is one to the design of the Chromecast hardware – so let's discuss it alongside all the other aspects of the media player's connectivity.

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13 Comments

1. Metropolis75

Posts: 197; Member since: Aug 28, 2012

How do you post a review this long after the product comes out and aren't able to review it on a 4K TV? Doesn't one of your other editors have a 4K TV? I mean it is the main selling point of the Ultra.

3. LebronJamesFanboy

Posts: 671; Member since: Mar 23, 2013

"Sadly, our Chromecast Ultra review unit didn't arrive with a shiny new 4K HDR-ready television bundled in the box, so we were unable to try out that new support for ourselves." LOL - review fail.

10. sgodsell

Posts: 7451; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

The Chromecast ultra came out last year in North America back in August 2016. What gives with PhoneArena doing a review now? Talk about being late.

7. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Yeah, this kinda seems.......odd? to say the least.

2. QWIKSTRIKE

Posts: 1459; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

My og chromecast keeps disconnecting while streaming at times

5. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

unplug it and let it restart. fixes it most of the time. or it might be time to upgrade.

4. Skimshaddy

Posts: 126; Member since: Feb 23, 2016

Amazon FireTV works better.

6. rshanberg unregistered

Next, we need a comparison review with a Fire TV stick.

12. Metropolis75

Posts: 197; Member since: Aug 28, 2012

Only if it's done by Gary Busey.

8. airstream25

Posts: 33; Member since: Jun 18, 2011

Many Samsung smart TVs only support UHD and HDR on HDMI-1 but not on the other HDMI ports. Seems like this would defeat the value of ChromeCast Ultra for anyone that has a service provider set top box plugged into HDMI-1.

9. scarface21173

Posts: 700; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

Chromecast brilliant piece of tech.

11. cwilli319

Posts: 10; Member since: Dec 12, 2016

Major fail for not testing it on a 4k tv..... really? You couldn't find one? A quick fb post probably would've produced a volunteer.

13. schinnak

Posts: 116; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

4K Tvs these days have great UIs, smart TV features and all the apps you need to stream 4K HDR contents. Why would anyone buy this today for their 4K sets?

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