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Chromecast’s massive 4K movie streaming fix

Google's streaming stick has new internals and Ethernet connectivity are here to save your Netflix binging

You likely fell in love with the Chromecast when you first set eyes on it three years ago but if you have a 4K television, then your relationship with this tiny puck-like device may well have hit the rocks. Well, rekindle that affection because Google has unveiled the brand-new Chromecast Ultra which not only supports 4K viewing, but HDR and Dolby Vision too.

There’s not much difference between the HD and UHD versions in terms of design: it’s glossier and it only comes in black, but the Ultra has the same circular shape and it continues to makes its home in a spare HDMI socket. Inside, though, the tech has been greatly enhanced. Ultra loads videos 1.8 times faster than previous devices and there’s a necessary boost to Wi-Fi which will allow it to handle full-HD and 4K streams without getting all stroppy.

Your experience will only be as good as your connection, though, and that’s why Google has chucked Ethernet support into the frame too. This wired connection will make light work of the YouTube and Netflix streams you’ll chuck its way via a phone, tablet or laptop which means you only need to worry about finding the content you want to watch on one of your apps, tapping the cast button and sitting back to enjoy.





Opting for a wired Ethernet connection may feel like a backward step in a wireless world but there are good reasons why the Chromecast Ultra gives you the option to use one. The most important is that it offers a faster connection and when you’re dealing with 4K streams made up of large amounts of data this is vitally important.

For as much as you will find Wi-Fi convenient, the fact they are radio waves makes them prone to interference. Signals may have to pass through walls and compete with compete with nearby routers using the same channel as yours. Household appliances such as microwaves or cordless phones cause interference by operating in the same frequency range. But that’s not all. Wireless networks divvy up their bandwidth between your devices and the further a wireless router is from a device, the greater the distance the signal has to travel, causing delays, or latency, which is measured in milliseconds. This can be particularly annoying when playing games online: a button press may be acted upon a fraction of a second too late.

Ethernet data, on the other hand, is wrapped in a cable and so its better protected. While you still get degradation of the signal, the speeds don’t worsen when you’re connecting multiple devices to a network, making it the perfect choice for fast, low-latency performance.



How to get the best-quality connection for streaming


1.Locate your router

By placing your router in the most central position possible within your home, the signal has a better chance of reaching each room, helping to eliminate most dead spots.


2.Place it up high

With the antenna pointing upwards, place the router about five feet high. Putting it on the floor will force some of the signals to shoot straight into the ground.


3.Avoid certain appliances

Having a router too close to anything metal or anything which produces heat will slash the signal as will placing it near microwaves, baby monitors and cordless phones.


4.Get a Booster

You can increase the range of a Wi-Fi signal using a repeater. By taking the signal and amplifying and transmitting it, it should reach much further, making for faster connections.


5.Get a WiFi AC router

You’ve likely seen reference to 802.11 in discussions about Wi-Fi but have you paid attention to the letters which tend to appear after it? Two are typically talked abut today: ‘n’ and ‘ac’, with the later offering much faster speeds than the former. While n works in the 2.4Ghz band, AC works in 5GHz and it is able to operate in eight spatial streams known as MIMO (n operates in four). It means ac has much more spectral bandwidth to play around with which allows it to deliver larger data streams, perfect for the latest technologies, such as 4K.


This article first appeared in Gadget Magazine. For the latest tech news and reviews, buy the latest issue of Gadget here or download the digital edition.