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Google Adds 4K and HDR to Chromecast Ultra, Competes With Roku

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At a press event today, Google introduced a higher-end Chromecast video streaming device, adding 4K and HDR support to the offering. The Chromecast Ultra will be available in November, although interested shoppers can join the wait list now. At $69 it's twice the price of the original Chromecast, but it's the cheapest 4K option around, as the newly introduced Roku Premiere sells for $79.99.

The Chromecast Ultra comes in the same compact share as the original Chromecast, and requires a smartphone to work since it doesn't include a remote. The design is slightly different—now with a G logo—and the Ultra includes an Ethernet port on its power adapter to help viewers create a stronger connection for 4K video than they might get with their Wi-Fi. Speaking of, Google says it loads video 1.8 times faster than the previous model thanks to its 802.11ac 1x2 SIMI Wi-Fi connectivity. It supports both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats.

Amazon recently debuted an updated Fire TV Stick with Alexa voice assistance, and there are rumors that Apple will introduce a new Apple TV soon. With a holiday shopping war looming, the question is how much of the market can Google get?

"The new Chromecast Ultra is curiously positioned in terms of price and functionality. I do not see it making a significant impact in terms of growing the overall market for streaming devices, although it may get some amount of traction from those truly loyal to the Google Cast concept," says Paul Erickson, a senior analyst for IHS Markit.

"Much of the original Chromecast’s charm and resulting success with consumers was low-cost enablement—not only was it the cheapest way to enjoy over-the-top video, it was also priced squarely in impulse buy territory. The accepted tradeoff for such a low price was the lack of fully standalone operation. Chromecast Ultra is an upmarket non-standalone proposition surrounded by fully standalone choices," Erickson says. "For mainstream consumers evaluating choices in the same price range, the appeal of 4K at this time is not expected to trump the appeal of standalone operation."

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