I’ve been a huge fan of the Google Chromecast since the first one debuted in 2013. As someone who, at the time, did not own a smart TV, let alone a 4K TV, the original Chromecast made it quicker and easier to consume content without requiring I fire up my PlayStation 3 or Playstation 4. Casting Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go and other services from my phone or tablet to my TV was easy and seamless. While there were quirks with the original Chromecast the 2015 update added 5GHz support and faster internals to make Chromecasts even better. Google is back at it with the Chromecast Ultra and, while it pains me to say this as someone who currently owns 6 Chromecasts, I see little if any reason to purchase this version over its predecessor.
When the original Chromecast came out more than three years ago the install base of smart TVs was significantly smaller. Estimates are that only 22-million households had a smart TV of some type where in 2016 estimates are that number will have nearly doubled to over 40-million households. When you figure that there are roughly 125-million total households in the USA that means almost a third of all households have at least one smart TV which eliminates the need for a separate streaming dongle.
Next is the main features of the Chromecast Ultra, the compatibility with 4K and HDR content, is meaningless to a majority of users. I’m not saying that 4K or HDR aren’t great features, they’re amazing, however the amount of 4K content is not significant enough at this time. Netflix and Amazon Prime offer limited amounts of 4K content and with each you’ll have to pay an additional fee per month. YouTube offers free 4K content but are you really going to spend hours watching cat videos in 4K? Me either. Additionally, one of the biggest demographic for those buying Chromecasts are people who don’t have Smart TVs, right? The odds are pretty high that if you don’t have a Smart TV you’re not going to have a 4K or HDR-compatible set. Similarly to those considering a PS4 Slim versus a PS4 Pro, if you can’t take advantage of the higher resolution output from the PS4 Pro you’re spending money you don’t need to spend when you can get all the same benefits to you out of the PS4 Slim. Those uber-cheap 50” black Friday TVs that you will get for under $200? Not only are they not a smart TV but likely locked maxed out at either a 720P or 1080P resolution. Buying a Chromecast Ultra to televisions such as these adds functionality you won’t see any benefit from.
And for those who happen to have 4K and HDR Smart televisions and are thinking about picking up a Chromecast Ultra I would ask you to become more familiar with your smartphone, tablet and Smart TV. I have a Samsung Note 5, Tab S2 8” and a Samsung 60” Ultra HD 4K HDR television. I can use the cast functionality built into my phone and tablet to cast any content to my television I could have done to a Chromecast. Again, there’s no need to add redundant functionality that’s build into my television.
In the end I can’t see a niche the Chromecast Ultra fills. If you have a 4K TV you more than likely have the apps and functionality already built-in. And with more and more devices being plugged into your TV (I have a PS4, Wii U & DirecTV receiver leaving me with just 1 more open port) there’s no need to take up precious HDMI ports with redundant functionality. If you absolutely want a Chromecast I’d highly recommend the 2015 version, it will do everything you’ll need it to for nearly half the cost of the Chromecast Ultra.