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Google Chromecast vs Chromecast Ultra: what’s the difference?

Everything you need to know about two of Google's best streaming devices.

Chromecast vs Chromecast Ultra

With one of Google’s Chromecast devices, you can stream your favourite Disney+ or Netflix shows straight from your phone to your TV, but which one should you choose?

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There are currently three streaming players available from the internet giant – the classic Google Chromecast (now in its third generation), the new Chromecast with Google TV and the older Chromecast Ultra.

At a glance, they can all look pretty similar, in both design and features, so we’ve put together this guide to show the key differences between Google’s Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra.

We will be comparing price, design, streaming quality and the apps on offer to help you decide whether you should stick with your old Chromecast Ultra or if the cheaper Google Chromecast is better value for money.

And now there’s a new Google streaming stick on the block, we will also be considering how spending your cash on the new Chromecast with Google TV may be a better choice.

Here is our Chromecast vs Chromecast Ultra guide as we put Google’s best streaming devices head-to-head.

Want to see how Chromecast compares to other smart TV sticks? Read our Amazon Fire TV Stick review and Roku Premiere review.

What is the difference between Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra?

Both Google Chromecast devices allow you to stream your favourite shows from your phone to a larger screen such as a projector or TV. The streaming players plug into the HDMI port on your TV so are hidden out of sight, and stream via Wi-Fi. For a more detailed breakdown, read our guide on how to set up Chromecast.

While set-up is largely the same, there are some features that vary depending on whether you splash out for the more expensive players or stick with the cheaper Google Chromecast.

Here are the key differences between the Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra to help you choose the right device for you.

Price

Chromecast (3rd Generation)

One of the first differences you’ll notice about the Chromecast and the older Chromecast Ultra is that the latter is more expensive. Released in 2016 with an RRP of £69, the Chromecast Ultra can now be found on sale for anywhere between £64 and £49. This is still more expensive than the Chromecast (3rd Generation) that is available for £30 at John Lewis.

However, in late 2020, Google released a new streaming device called the Chromecast with Google TV to act as a replacement for the Chromecast Ultra. This means that while the device is still available at selected retailers such as Argos stock is limited.

Design

Chromecast Ultra

The design of the Chromecast compared to the Chromecast Ultra is very similar. Both are round black discs that slot into the HDMI port in the back of your TV. The Chromecast has a black matte finish while the Chromecast Ultra is glossy.

The new Chromecast with Google TV has a slightly more oval shape but still slot into the HDMI port like the other devices. It is, however, available in three colours white, pink and blue rather than the traditional black. It also comes with a voice remote, similar to that of an Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku media player.

Streaming quality

One of the biggest reason for the difference in price is due to streaming quality. The Chromecast Ultra allows you to watch content in up to 4K Ultra HD while the original Google Chromecast only supports 1080p resolution.

The new Chromecast with Google TV is also a little more expensive at £59.99 but comes with 4K resolution and voice control via the newly-added remote.

If you intend to use a Chromecast device to upgrade an old TV, you may want to check if it is 4K. You will only be able to take advantage of the better streaming quality of the Chromecast with Google TV or Chromecast Ultra if your TV is also 4K. Otherwise, we suggest saving your money and purchasing the standard Google Chromecast.

Apps 

Both the Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra allow you to cast a broad range of streaming and on-demand services including Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Disney+. You can cast with a range of devices such as an iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac, Windows device or Chromebook.

The interface on the new Chromecast with Google TV has been updated. This new upgrade is now what’s called ‘Google TV’. This allows you to access the apps above without having to cast from your phone or tablet.

Which one should you buy?

Google Chromecast
Argos

Choosing a Google Chromecast device largely depends on your budget, the streaming quality you’re after and whether you already have a Chromecast.

For those who don’t yet have a Chromecast or any smart TV stick, we would recommend both the Chromecast and Chromecast with Google TV. Simply put, the original Chromecast is a brilliant option for anyone looking for a cheap device to allow them to watch streaming services on a bigger screen.

If you want a little more than that, the Chromecast with Google TV is a good choice. It allows you to access a broader range of streaming services and apps because it does not rely on casting and has additional features such as voice search built into the new remote.

If you already have the older Chromecast Ultra, you may want to consider purchasing the newer Chromecast with Google TV.

On the other hand, if you have a Chromecast, we would only recommend upgrading to Chromecast with Google TV if you can take advantage of 4K streaming. If your TV does not have 4K resolution, the streaming quality is unlikely to be any better than with the standard Chromecast.

Chromecast

Chromecast Ultra

Chromecast with Google TV

Chromecast alternatives 

While Google Chromecast is a great way to upgrade an old TV, it is not the only streaming player available. Other popular products include the Amazon Fire TV Stick, a NOW TV Stick and Roku Premiere. All three smart TV sticks are on sale for less than £40.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 

The Amazon Fire TV Stick was upgraded last year to be more powerful and comes with a new remote. Like a Google Chromecast, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is also hidden behind the TV but it also offers voice search and support for Dolby Atmos audio. To find out more about Amazon Fire TV devices, read our Amazon Fire TV Stick review and Amazon Fire TV Cube review.

Roku Premiere 

Roku makes some of the most affordable smart TV sticks available. The Roku Premiere offers HD and 4K streaming of all the usual streaming services, has voice search and you can cast photos, videos or music. We recently tested out two of Roku’s streaming players, take a look at our Roku Express review and Roku Premiere review.

NOW TV Stick

If you are particularly eager to watch Sky Sports or Sky Atlantic shows like Gangs of London, a NOW TV Stick might be for you. A NOW TV Smart Stick comes with monthly passes that can be personalised depending on the content you want to watch. There are five passes on offer; Sky Cinema, Entertainment, Sky Sports, Kids and Hayu. All the usual apps are also available including Netflix, ITV Hub and BT Sport.

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