Happy Black Friday! November 25th is singlehandedly the largest and craziest shopping day of the whole year- and especially for consumer electronics.
If you went out and bought a new 4K Ultra HD TV, you may want to consider pairing it with a new Roku or Google Chromecast streaming device. Both companies have released products that can play stunning 4K high dynamic range (HDR) videos from popular streaming services. With Roku, you have actually got several new devices to choose from, topping off with the impressive $130 Roku Ultra. Google has widened the Chromecast lineup with the introduction of their first model to support 4K content: the $70 Chromecast Ultra.
The Roku Ultra is a smaller, fanless version of the Roku 4 from last year, which launched the company’s transition into 4K. At the top is a remote finder button, which you can press to make the Roku remote emit a sound for easier recovery from the couch cushions or wherever it is hiding. This simple convenience is exclusive to the top-tier streaming box this year, which seems a little silly. Where the Roku “Ultra” truly earns its name is in ports: it has Ethernet, optical audio, microSD, USB, and power inputs. The USB and optical audio ports are exclusive to the Ultra and both are fairly useful. The step-down Roku Premiere+ lets you insert in a microSD card for enjoyment of your own movies, music, and images with third-party apps.
The Chromecast Ultra has followed a less traditional pathway and is a slightly larger and thicker update to last year’s redesign. A glossy black puck containing the device’s processor and other guts hangs down from the HDMI connector; the two attach magnetically when unplugged for easy storage. This take on the HDMI dongle is far more convenient to plug into your TV than the original plastic stick design.
Now, while the new feature functionality is great, what is not so great is the enormous power supply. It is a big and mandatory component if you want to stream 4K content. Previous Chromecasts could be powered entirely with a cable plugged into a USB port on the TV. But the new Ultra limits you to 1080p unless the power supply is connected. For the power supply, you will need to find another free outlet your the TV which may be problematic depending on the setup of your room.
The user interfaces have remained largely unchanged over the years only expressing occasional updates with new applications. The Roku’s remain keeps the simplistic approach going with an easy-to-operate remote and a headphone jack for private listening.
With prices increasing, both the Roku and Chromecast will be a hard sell this year. For holiday shoppers, it is important to consider whether or not the TV is compatible with the Roku or Chromecast in question. If there is only one HDMI port on the television, users will find themselves frustrated when they realize using 4K quality is impossible. Regardless, some TV interfaces are poorly set up and with them, attaching a Roku or Chromecast for the interface can be a game changer.
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