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What Chromecast Should I Buy? – Chromecast vs Ultra

If you read our last article surrounding making your old TV ‘smart’, then you’ll know we talked about the potential of the Google Chromecast. With the beginner-friendly plug-and-play application and the ability to transform an ordinary television set into a smart one, it’s no wonder Google’s Chromecast is very appealing to many consumers. 

Just locate the TV’s HDMI port, plug it in there (you need a stable internet connection, don’t forget!), and BOOM! Instant smart TV. You can cast AKA mirror anything that’s on your phone, laptop, or computer right on your telly, all while not having to deal with pesky spaghetti wires running from the TV to the living room sofa. 

The question now is which should you buy, Chromecast Ultra vs. Chromecast? 

Stop scratching your head. 

From the Chromecast Ultra difference to the correct answer to your question “what Chromecast should I buy?” we’re going to shed much-needed light on this frequently asked question and give you an honest, clear-cut answer once and for all! 

But first, let’s take a short crash course about Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra – just in case you haven’t done your research yet. It’s not going to be super in-depth and long—Pinky promise.  

What is Chromecast

Consumers got the first taste of this nifty device way back in 2013. Now on its third generation, Chromecast’s purpose in households remains – to give you the chance to stream online content right on your television.

Think of it as a bridge connecting your smartphone and television, but without any visible cables to ruin the experience. You just plug right into the TV’s HDMI, and your TV will also display what’s on your smartphone, laptop, and computer, all wirelessly.

Most importantly, you can access apps like Netflix, Google Play, YouTube, and more, magically turning your regular TV into more than just watching cable programs. 

So, how do you control it? Your remote control is the device you’ve used to connect your TV with. Alternatively, you can set up Google Assistant for 100% hands-free control. 

What is Chromecast Ultra? 

Many Chromecast shoppers have a misconception that the Ultra is the newer version. But that’s not the case. If you didn’t know, Chromecast Ultra was actually released way back in 2016, while the third-gen of Chromecast was in 2018).  

Albeit two years older than the regular Chromecast, the Chromecast Ultra carries the same principle as the third-gen – make online streaming conveniently possible for non-smart TV owners. 

Yes, you can enjoy the same streaming and mirroring ability using your phone, laptop, and PC to the TV same as the regular 2018 Chromecast model. The difference (which we will discuss below) can make or break your buying decision. 

That two-year introduction gap might surprise you, though, because there are features on the Chromecast Ultra that you won’t find on the third-gen.  

Chromecast Ultra vs. Chromecast: The Differences 

Now you know the history of both Chromecast models, it’s now time to break down their features and pit them in a battle against each other. For more straightforward navigation of their differences, we broke them down into easy-to-understand sections: 

Design 

The difference between the two Chromecast is not overly dramatic – it’s minuscule, to say the least. 

Both the Chromecast and the Chromecast Ultra sports the familiar round shape with an extended HMDI cable design. You’re going to rely on their colour to tell them apart – the Ultra version has a glossy black colour while the third-gen Chromecast sports a matte black. 

Verdict: Choosing one over the other will be based on personal preference. But the glossy finish of the Ultra can be off-putting because it’s a fingerprint magnet. So, unless you intend to use the Chromecast Ultra solely at home or leave it connected to the TV all the time, its glossy finish shouldn’t be a concern. 

Streaming Quality 

As we’ve teased earlier, the Chromecast Ultra has some features that you won’t get in the third-gen Chromecast. And this is it. The significant difference between the Ultra and the third-gen Chromecast is the streaming quality.

Let’s talk about third-gen Chromecast first. 

This Google streaming device only supports a 1080P resolution output. Yup, only 1080P. So, if you only have an old 1080P television set, this Chromecast is sufficient enough to satisfy your streaming needs. 

Now, let’s move over to the Ultra. 

The Ultra blows the regular Chromecast in terms of streaming quality — Google won’t add the word “Ultra” in its name if it’s just like the standard Chromecast model, right? 

So, instead of the 1080P resolution output, what you’ll have is four times the resolution! Yes, the Chromecast Ultra has 4K resolution support. If that wasn’t enough, you get a High Dynamic Range (HDR) too. 

Take the 4K and HDR together, and you’ll just gaze in awe at how amazing it looks. Not every TV owner will have the chance to experience the Chromecast Ultra difference, though. If your current TV can only output 1080P, you’re only going to get 1080P even when you have the Chromecast Ultra plugged. 

Plus, if whatever you’re watching is only at 1080P resolution, you won’t be able to maximize the Ultra’s 4K support. 

Verdict: Specs-wise, the Chromecast Ultra is definitely the winner here. But, if your TV only has 1080P resolution, the Chromecast Ultra’s 4K resolution support will not benefit you. In fact, it’s not going to matter at all. So, unless you already have a 4K TV at home, pick up the Ultra. If not, the regular Chromecast works fine. 

Connectivity 

Another difference between the two Chromecast models is the connectivity.

The third-gen Chromecast uses Wi-Fi for streaming, while the Ultra has an optional ethernet adapter at your disposal. You can directly hook a router or modem to the Ultra and get better speed and reliability, especially when you’re consuming 4K HDR content. 

Verdict: If you are 100% confident that your Wi-Fi is stable, the third-gen Chromecast is suitable for you. However, if you value uninterrupted viewing either in 1080P or 4K, the Chromecast Ultra is better. 

The Final Verdict: What Chromecast Should I Buy? 

No more beating around the bush. Here are our answers to your question, “what Chromecast should I buy.”

Buy the Chromecast Ultra if you already have a 4K TV and typically experience Wi-Fi connection drops. 

Get the regular third-gen Chromecast if you have a 1080P TV and stable Wi-Fi.