Google Unveils 4K Chromecast Ultra With HDR-10, Dolby Vision
Google used its hardware press conference in San Francisco Tuesday to unveil the latest iteration in its family of Chromecast digital media adapters.
The new Chromecast Ultra, which is billed as offering the most premium Chromecast streaming video experience to date, is designed to seamlessly link (along with other Chromecast units) to the newly announced – and Amazon Echo-like – Google Home omni-directional wireless speaker with built-in Google Assist.
Google Home will interact with users and respond to spoken commands to control program watching by searching for and selecting movies and programs which it will then play, stop, pause, rewind and fast forward upon voice command.
Content, including 4K Ultra HD videos with HDR-10 and Dolby Vision support for the first time, can be accessed and viewed from a wide range of over-the-top streaming content services.
Read more on the new Google Chromecast after the jump:
Chromecast Ultra is available for pre-order now at a $69 retail price with expected November availability. It improves upon previous Chromecast adapters by supporting 4K Ultra HD videos with HDR – both HDR-10 and Dolby Vision. At launch the Chromecast Ultra will stream 4K content from YouTube, Netflix, and Vudu. Content from Google Play Movies will also add 4K support with Dolby Vision later in November.
Simultanous with the Chromecast announcement, VUDU revealed that it is now exclusively offering the movie Star Trek Beyond in 4K Ultra HD and Dolby Vision HDR, together with Dolby Atmos object-based surround sound. Star Trek Beyond is available for sale and download directly from vudu.com and smart TV apps on supporting devices, like the Chromecast Ultra.
VUDU said Paramount is the fourth major studio to bring UHD content to VUDU with Dolby Vision HDR. Additional Paramount UHD titles will be coming to the service soon.
Meanwhile, Chromecast Ultra will be the fastest in Google’s streaming media adapter family, with video loading times said to be 1.8 times faster than standard Chromecast models. Improved Wi-Fi connectivity contributes to the speedier performance.
The company is also including an Ethernet port on the power adapter for Wi-Fi networks that aren’t able to smoothly handle the fatter 4K streams.
The Ultra looks very similar to other Chromecast adapters, or more accurately HDMI dongles, giving it the ability to be hidden from view, unlike competitive set-top boxes from Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV and others.
The puck-shaped unit now features a “G” logo, and hangs out of sight behind the TV screen.
As with previous Chromecast devices, content can be mirrored from an Android phone or laptop. Chromecast Ultra supports casting from the same apps and sources as existing Chromecast models. These devices include: Android, iOS devices and Chrome on the desktop. As with other Chromecast devices, services are controlled through an app on supporting smart mobile device which is wirelessly connected to the Chromecast dongle. Movies and TV programs are then streamed from the cloud.
The slickest attribute of the new device is its ability to be controlled by the also just announced Google Home speaker/voice assistant, which is tied to the extensive Google Browser to access information, as well as content selections.
Its release is timed to go up against the newly revamped family of Roku set-top adapters, and the just-announced new Fire TV stick, among others.
Meanwhile, the just announced Google Home multi-room omni-directional wireless speaker is controlled througth the Alexa-like voice-interacting Google Assist. In addition to controlling Chromecast adapters, it will perform a wide range of tasks including controlling automated devices and appliances. It is available for pre-order at $129 and will ship November 4th, Google said. It will come with six free months of YouTube Red service.
Xiaomi Unveils Mi Box Streamer
The Chromecast Ultra unveiling also followed an announcement from China-based consumer electronics manufacturer Xiaomi, which introduced its Mi Box Android TV-based set-top 4K Ultra HD-capable media streaming box with HDR support.
Xiaomi is also selling the Mi Box at at a $69 retail price through Mi.com. The device will soon be coming to Walmart stores and Walmart.com as well, the company said.
The Mi Box will stream 4K video at up to 60 frames per second and will support HDR 10 HDR. It will be controllable via Google voice search and Google Cast. The Android TV platform gives the Mi Box access to a wide range of OTT streaming services, including: Netflix, HBO, Showtime, VUDU and others. It will also support the Sling TV skinny TV service for cord cutters.
As a promotional incentive, Xiaomi will be offering a $50 credit toward a Sling TV subscription, a three-month free trial to Pandora, and a $5 credit toward a rental or purchase via VUDU.
The Mi Box includes a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and Mali 450 GPU, 2GB DDR3 RAM and 8GB eMMC flash. A USB port is included for add-on storage.
By Greg Tarr
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