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For 4K content from the Chromecast Ultra, this is what your home needs

by on October 25, 2016
 

Stephan Jukic – October 25, 2016

Now that Google has finally unveiled a next generation version of the classic Chromecast with full 4K UHD content streaming capacity, the device is definitely worth considering if you want 4K entertainment from a really compact source. Yes, the Chromecast Ultra sells for a slightly steep but not exorbitant price of $69 but it still allows you to get much of the same 4K content options you’d find from something like the much pricier Roku Ultra or Nvidia Shield set-top/gaming boxes but in a far smaller form factor.

The Chromecast Ultra is also future-proof, supports HDR in both the Dolby Vision and HDR10 formats and lets you access a growing selection of online 4K entertainment streams by what is probably the most compact and affordable external method yet seen on the market. It’s a particularly good device for people who aren’t happy with the existing OS of their 4K smart TV or who are using a 4K laptop or PC with HEVC and HDCP 2.2 content support and HDMI 2.0 connectivity. (yes this too is possible as long as you have the right kind of advanced 4K laptop or PC with these connectivity and content compression codecs).

However, before you run out and grab your own Chromecast Ultra, the following are a few basic things the little device will need to deliver its full 4K ultra HD streaming power to your home entertainment system. These conditions –particularly the internet connectivity requirements–  also apply to pretty much any other 4K set-top box and 4K TV on the market today.

First of all, for 4K UHD streaming, your home internet connection will have to offer at least 20 to 25 Mbps of consistent connectivity for a solid stream of some 4K TV show from a service like Netflix. We’re not talking about occasional peak download speeds of 20-25Mbps, no your home internet connection will need to be capable of a baseline 20Mbps level of bandwidth.

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Users who just want to use the Chromecast Ultra for Full HD streaming and simply bought the device so they could have the latest version in their home don’t need to worry about the above 4K requirement. Full HD 1080p content can be effectively streamed at speeds of just 5 consistent Mbps.

Another major factor to keep in mind for the Chromecast Ultra is your router speed, for wireless or Ethernet cable connectivity throughout your home. While the Chromecast Ultra can be hooked into your TV via HDMI cables, the little streaming drive itself requires a solid and powerful level of wireless internet connectivity to throughout your home to work best. Thus, even if your internet speed is solid, but your router is having issues, this could ruin 4K content streaming through your Chromecast Ultra or any other 4K UHD-capable set-top box as well.

What we’d recommend is that you hook up a laptop or PC directly to your router via Ethernet cable and perform an online connectivity speed test. (they can be done quickly and for free from many different websites) to make sure that those same 20 to 25Mbps we mentioned above are also being output by your router.

After this, connect a laptop or PC to your router wirelessly to see how well its wireless network delivers the same high speed connectivity that your internet connection is capable of through Ethernet. If wireless connectivity from your router is consistent with your direct Ethernet connection and both offer 20Mbps or more, you’re good to go for using the Chromecast Ultra for smooth, ultra HD resolution 4K content streaming.

Finally, for the Chromecast to actually deliver 4K content at high speed to your 4K TV itself, the two devices will have to connect via HDMI 2.0-capable HDMI cables. This means buying yourself a short length of high-speed HDMI cable which is rate for broadband connectivity. This cable will have to hook into the HDMI 2.0 ports on your TV, not its HDMI 1.4 ports (all late 2014, 2015 and 2016 4K UHD TVs from every major brand offer at least a couple HDMI 2.0 ports, as does the Chromecast Ultra itself of course. To know which ports are HDMI 2.0-capable in your 4K TV, check your owner’s manual.

On a final note, remember that while the Chromecast Ultra offers access to streaming 4K content apps from sources such as Netflix and others, these apps are their own independent services which charge their own subscription pricing for packages that offer 4K content streaming. Aside from the money you’ve spent on the Chromecast itself, you’ll have to fork over additional cash for a 4K Netflix subscription or the same from one of the app’s competitors.

Story by 4k.com

2 comments
 
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  • Sean Dailey
    October 26, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    Wait, why would you need a separate HDMI cable? Doesn’t the Chromecast Ultra have an HDMI cable built into it?

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  • Mat
    November 1, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    This is great news. The one thing is that I find computers (both Windows nd Mac) have trouble with 4K playback. I think non-new computes will require a codec download to support H.265 too. But my middle of the road to decent computers play 4K either in h.264 or h.265 poorly. Whereas nearly all modern 4K TVs can breeze through h.265 4K playback. So I will be very interested to hear how this will pan out. Could it make the new device rather irrelevant or not really required if you can access most content throgh your SMART TV anyway?

    Plus I believe Google have a large hand in the H.265 alternative VP-9. This is not something I have used and I just wonder whether smoother playback with this alternative could have a massive bearing on things. The likes of Netflix dont want to keep re-encoding their content, they re-did their h.264 last year, now it sounds like they are encoding 4k in h.265.

    We provide H.265 for 4K and find that works approximately 95%-98% of the time on 4K TVs. We just need to provide H.264 on rare occasions, which I assume are older SMART TVs. H.265 doesn’t really work on computers, but it does work when embedded in screensaver software. I wonder if Google Chrome the browser can work in a similar way, offering a more effective media player than Windows Media Player, Quicktime and the likes of VLC.

    Anyway I am rambling now; should probably just wait and see what happens. One thing is for sure though, which is that h.264 is a dead codec as far as 4K UHD is concerned. It is possibly just a slight chance that Google’s VP9 might be more relevant than seemed with the well known licensing issues surrounding h.265.

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