Google Chromecast’s compact devices are handy for streaming content from phones and computers to the big screen. Just plug it into your TV, and you’re good to go. But in a world that’s gearing up for 4K viewing, does Chromecast fit the bill? Well, only one Google device — the Chromecast Ultra — can stream shows, movies, and more in this high resolution. Want to know more about Chromecast’s 4K content and streaming abilities? Below, you’ll find everything you need to know. And don’t forget to head here for our full Chromecast review.
What does 4K mean and why would I need it?
The highest resolution available for modern TVs, 4K provides a picture quality that’s up to four times more enhanced than regular high definition (HD). Also known as Ultra High Definition (UHD), 4K features a greater number of pixels for a sharper picture and more lifelike details. Many 4K TVs and devices also feature High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology. This boosts your viewing experience even further through greater color depth, brightness, and contrast. You may also notice a Dolby Atmos feature, which gives a 4K-like feel to audio quality.
Essentially, 4K is the resolution to choose if you want to feel like you’re in a movie theater or present at a live sports game. The clearer picture will immerse you in whatever content you’re watching, allowing you to feel like you’re really there with the characters or players.
What 4K content is there on Google Chromecast?
Although Google Chromecast doesn’t have its own content, you can watch a huge variety of 4K programming through its many, many apps. Some, like YouTube, are free. Others, like Netflix, will require a monthly subscription. And then there are the likes of Google Play and Vudu, which require one-off rentals or full purchases of shows and movies.
Hundreds of streaming services are Chromecast-enabled, so you have a lot to choose from. Plus, the names with the most impressive lists of 4K content are all compatible with Chromecast devices. Head to YouTube for breathtaking travel content in ultra-clear 4K and to Google Play or Vudu for the ability to rent or own the latest releases like Jumanji: The Next Level, Frozen II, and Joker. Entire film franchises such as The Avengers and Harry Potter are also available.
For on-demand 4K viewing, try Amazon Prime Video or Netflix. Most of their original content is 4K-ready, meaning you can catch series like Stranger Things and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel along with movies like Black Panther, James Bond, and The Irishman. Prime Video won’t charge you any more than the usual $8.99/mo. (or $12.99/mo. for full Prime access) to view titles in 4K. But Netflix’s 4K abilities are only available to Premium subscribers who pay $11.99/mo.
For 4K family favorites from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars, opt for Disney+. Costing $6.99/mo., it also shows exclusive originals in 4K. Don’t forget to check out Star Wars spin-off, The Mandalorian. Sports fans aren’t left wanting with Chromecast either. Sports-focused streaming service fuboTV is currently one of the only platforms to broadcast certain games and events live in 4K. Previous 4K programming has featured the Super Bowl and March Madness. Prices start at $64.99/mo.
Which devices support 4K streaming on Google Chromecast?
To make 4K streaming a reality, you’ll need a 4K-capable Chromecast device. The $69 Chromecast Ultra is currently the only Chromecast device that comes with this high-resolution ability. Although it can stream content to a standard HD TV, you’ll need a 4K-compatible display to watch 4K movies, series, and sports.
Unfortunately, that does mean spending a little more — 4K TVs don’t tend to come cheap. You may be able to pick up a model for under $500, but many 4K TVs cost a minimum of $1,000. Thankfully, you have plenty of brands to choose from, including LG, Samsung, and TCL.
Whichever TV you pick, ensure it supports HDCP 2.2 in order to stream 4K content from a Chromecast device. TVs that are no older than five years tend to come with this feature as standard.
What internet speed do I need for 4K streaming on Google Chromecast?
When you’re streaming, internet speed is one of the most important factors to get right. If yours is too slow, you won’t have a smooth stream. Instead, you’ll notice lengthy buffering and fuzzy displays. But if your internet speed is spot on, you’ll be able to enjoy your content problem-free.
Internet speed is particularly crucial for 4K streaming. As it’s the highest resolution available, it requires a swifter speed than regular standard definition (SD) or even HD streams. Google recommends a speed of at least 20 megabits per second (Mbps) to satisfy Chromecast Ultra’s 4K requirements. But other services like Netflix recommend 25 Mbps minimum.
You need to take into account any other devices that are using up bandwidth at the same time as you’re trying to stream. Computers, phones, game consoles, and other TVs can also slow down your internet. If your Chromecast device can’t stream in 4K Ultra HD, it’ll revert to normal HD.
The final cut
It’s true that most 4K TVs come with several of the streaming apps that Chromecast offers. But Chromecast devices are the easiest way to broadcast 4K content for people who prefer scrolling on their phone. Plus, phones tend to update apps more frequently than TVs, giving you the ultimate 4K viewing experience. Of course, Chromecast is also ideal for those who don’t have a smart 4K TV. And with the sheer variety of 4K content on offer, you’re guaranteed never to be bored.