Hands on: Chromecast Ultra
14 December 2016 | 0
The Chromecast Ultra is the latest edition of the handy device that allows you to cast content from mobile devices onto your TV.
Connecting via the HDMI slot, and powered by either its own discrete power supply (supplied) or via the USB slot on your TV, the Chromecast works with compatible apps on your Android, Windows or iOS, and now Mac, devices.
For example, for motorsport fans, the MotoGP app Videopass allows users to watch grand prix races in 720 at full frame rates.
However, the Ultra now caters for 4K Ultra HD and HDR, should your screen be capable. According to Google, the Ultra “automatically optimises your content for the best picture quality possible”.
The Ultra gets enhanced processing power to facilitate these additional capabilities, with improved networking capabilities too. There is an optional Ethernet adapter for where Wi-Fi is not available or will not cut it.
Indeed, this was the only criticism of the device. It appears to suffer the same foible as its predecessor. If you are suing a Wi-Fi repeater/extender set-up, the Chromecast has trouble being found by the control device. For example, in the test set-up, the Chromecast Ultra was plugged into the TV within centimetres of a Wi-Fi repeater for the home network. When the device is plugged in for the first time, it requires a set-up with the control device, in this case, a Nexus 9 tablet running Android 7.0.
The tablet, using the Google Home app was completely unable to locate the Chromecast on the network, despite the Chromecast Ultra display showing the home Wi-Fi network as available.
When the repeater was disconnected and the Chromecast Ultra then picked-up the signal from the Wi-Fi/broadband router directly, the Nexus 9 found it straight away. After the set-up, which involved re-naming it and having it as a listed device in the Home app, the Wi-Fi extender was connected again, and the Chromecast Ultra connected via the extender but critically, remained visible to the Nexus 9. This is a distinct improvement on the previous version which even under these steps, often was still invisible to the Nexus 9.
For those who may not have an internet-enabled TV, or who would rather have a touch interface to control such things as YouTube, or the like, the Chromecast Ultra is a very handy device. Whether it is watching the latest movie trailers direct on your TV, or easily casting videos and photos shot on a mobile device to the TV, there are many more uses for it than at first occur. For those with a full smart TV, and even a 4K one, the Chromecast Ultra still provides a huge boost in capability, with a much nicer control interface via a smart connected device.