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Google Chromecast vs. Chromecast Ultra: Is The Upgrade Worth It?

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Google recently unveiled the Chromecast Ultra, the latest version of its media streaming dongle after the Chromecast 2. Some of the new features include 4K streaming, an ethernet port and support for high-dynamic range (HDR) video.

For the uninitiated, the Chromecast is a digital media player that can connect at the back of a TV enabling the user to "cast" content from an Android device or Google Chrome to the TV. This makes it easier for non-smart TV owners to stream content and display it on their TV. For example, YouTube videos and Netflix movies or shows can be cast to a TV with Google Chromecast connected to it.

Obviously, the most significant feature of the new Chromecast Ultra is support for 4K content, something that was absent in previous iterations of the Chromecast. With the dongle now able to support 4K, Google has bumped the price point to $69 a pop, twice the amount compared with Chromecast 2's $35 price tag. 4K is certainly Chromecast Ultra's main selling point, but is it enough to justify the ballooned price?

Before anything else, let's look at the main differences of both devices. In the design department, Chromecast Ultra mirrors Chromecast 2's rounded form factor. Both devices are cosmetically similar, save for Chromecast Ultra's simplistic "G" logo, doing away with the old Chrome logo embedded on the Chromecast 2's surface. Beyond that, there isn't much to discuss in terms of looks.

In terms of connectivity, Chromecast Ultra is a clear step up because of its dedicated ethernet port that will allow for much faster speeds, avoiding the occasional streaming snags and buffers. That's not to say, however, that a wireless connection is much less reliable. A Wi-Fi router will pretty much do the job decently, but keep in mind that Chromecast Ultra boasts 4K video streaming, a much heavier stream than Full HD. Assuming that you have a fast internet connection in the first place, an ethernet port ensures that there won't be any hiccups when you stream.

Google claims that Chromecast Ultra's performance is 1.8 times faster than its predecessor. Obviously, it packs a much-faster CPU that can support 4K playback, but specific details regarding the exact processor Google loaded in the Chromecast Ultra is unavailable for now, but expect it to be more powerful than what was used in Chromecast 2.

Beyond these differences, they're practically the same, but with the newest version supporting 4K. So the question is, should you upgrade? It depends.

If you own a 4K TV and you're looking to buy a digital media player that lets you watch 4K, the Chromecast Ultra is definitely worth the purchase. If you already have a Chromecast 2 but you want to watch 4K content on your 4K TV, then it's a rational upgrade if you're willing to shell out $69. However, while 4K is certainly tempting, it's useless if you don't have a 4K TV to support it. If you have a 1080p or 720p TV, then you're better off with Chromecast 2. Or maybe even the Roku Express, which costs the same as Chromecast 2. Or the Amazon Fire TV Stick, which may cost a bit more, but makes up for it with an astounding 7,000 HD channels, apps, games and more available.

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