Chromecast vs. Chromecast Ultra: Which one is right for you?

Dreaming of streaming on the bigger screen? Chromecast lets you do just that. With Google Chromecast, you can cast your mobile or tablet screen to your TV so you can watch your favorite movies from your streaming apps, listen to music, or even present a slideshow. All you need to do is connect your Chromecast to your Wi-Fi network and plug it into your TV. 

Using Google Chromecast is simple, but choosing between the two different devices can be difficult. What is the difference between Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra? We’ve rounded up everything you need to know. For more information, check out our Chromecast review

Chromecast at a glance

 ChromecastChromecast Ultra
Price$35$69
4K HDR supportNoYes
Ethernet portNoYes
Streams up to 1080pYesYes
Recommended internet speed5.0 Mbps20 Mbps

Chromecast vs. Chromecast Ultra features

When it comes to Chromecast vs Chromecast Ultra, there are more differences than you might first think. Both devices still look aesthetically the same, with the small, compact circular design we’re familiar with. However, Chromecast Ultra delivers a few new features that Chromecast can’t, including faster speeds and the ability to stream in 4K ultra-high-definition (UHD) quality.

4k streaming

The ability to view in 4K is the main difference between Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra. With the older Chromecast model, you can only stream in 1080p (high definition), but Chromecast Ultra offers 2160p (UHD) streaming.

You can only stream your favorite movies and shows in UHD if you have a TV that supports 4K viewing. You also need to make sure you have the required internet speed, an HDMI port that supports high-bandwidth digital content projection (HDCP) and 60 frames per second (FPS), and a high-speed HDMI cable. If you don’t meet any one of these requirements, you won’t be able to stream in 4K with your Chromecast Ultra.

You can also watch content in 4K high-dynamic-range (HDR) quality with your Chromecast Ultra, as long as you have an HDR-compatible TV. Remember, not all 4K TVs offer HDR streaming, so it’s not guaranteed.

Recommended internet speed

Higher viewing quality means you need increased internet speed. With Chromecast, you only need an internet speed of 5.0 Mbps to start streaming in high definition, so it’s fine for households who have to share their bandwidth or have slower internet speeds.

Chromecast Ultra, however, requires a minimum speed of 20 Mbps to stream in 4K UHD. Bear in mind that some streaming services require an even faster speed. For example, for Netflix, you need at least 25 Mbps to stream any 4K content. You also need to be signed up to the appropriate subscription for these streaming services, even if you meet all other 4K streaming requirements — Netflix has a different subscription price for 4K viewing.

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Google Stadia

You can play Google Stadia with Google Chromecast Ultra. This is the only device it’s compatible with, so you’re unable to game on Google Stadia through the older Chromecast model.

You need to make sure you have a Google Stadia controller to play, which costs $69. You can also purchase a Google Chromecast Ultra and Google Stadia bundle for $99.99 — a savings of $38.01.

A minimum internet speed of 10 Mbps is required to play Google Stadia with your Chromecast Ultra. Make sure you connect your Chromecast Ultra using your ethernet cable, rather than through your Wi-Fi connection, as this will improve speeds and performance while gaming.

Ethernet

Chromecast Ultra comes with ethernet functionality, which means you can plug the device into your router rather than your TV. It also means you don’t need to connect Chromecast Ultra to your Wi-Fi network, although it offers both functionalities. By comparison, Google Chromecast requires you to configure your device with your Wi-Fi, with no other options available.

Using an ethernet cable generally improves speeds and connection reliability, which makes streaming content much easier. Since it can increase speeds and lower latency, it means streaming in 4K is more likely. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu may limit your viewing quality if you connect through Wi-Fi because it typically leads to lower bandwidth.

Apps and services

There are hundreds of apps to choose from, including Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu + Live TV, Netflix, Sling TV, and YouTube TV. You can also listen to music and podcasts through Google Play Music, Pandora, and Spotify. Or play games, start a slideshow, view photos, and stream live sports.

While both Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra support the same apps, there are key differences when it comes to viewing quality, and you have more choice with Chromecast Ultra. Both Netflix and Hulu offer 4K streaming through Chromecast Ultra if you meet their requirements, which include a high-speed internet connection and a compatible TV. Remember, you need the appropriate subscription for Netflix too.

The final cut

Aside from the obvious difference in price tag, Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra have a few other diverse features. With Chromecast Ultra, you have the ability to stream 4K UHD and HDR content, plus ethernet functionality for greater bandwidth and compatibility with Google Stadia. But is it really worth the upgrade? If you plan on purchasing the Google Stadia bundle to start gaming, have a super-fast internet connection, and a 4K compatible TV, then it’s worth your investment. Otherwise, you’ll be left spending a further $34 for the same performance, since you can’t enjoy any of the extra features unless you meet these requirements. Regardless, though, Chromecast is great news for cord cutters, with the ability to stream all of your favorite apps in one place — including on the big screen.