Google & Roku Plan 4K Media Players with HDR

The library of 4K HDR streaming moves and TV is growing. Prices on UHD TVs have dropped to that of HDTVs. It just makes sense that the next generation of streaming players will be 4K/Ultra HD (UHD) with high dynamic range (HDR). Google (Chromecast) and Roku will be releasing their next generation streaming media players within the month. Both are named “Ultra.” Here's what we know.

Google’s third generation Chromecast Ultra streams in up to 4K resolution with HDR and supports both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats. While it looks like its predecessor, the new device is packed with power and performance. Users will be able to stream in UHD from Android phones and tablets, iPhones and iPads, and from the Chrome browser on computers. Because Chromecast streams directly from the video source instead of from other devices, the burden of 4K streaming is not on the mobile app.

At release, the Chromecast Ultra player will be able to stream 4K HDR content from Netflix, Vudu, and YouTube. Google also announced that 4K movies are coming to Google Play in November. The player has a built-in Ethernet connection so users whose Wi-Fi network can’t handle 4K can make a wired connection to their router. The connection is located on the USB power adapter that plugs into the wall so you don’t have to run more wires to the TV.

The Chromecast Ultra will sell for $69, almost twice that of the previous model, which cost $35. Then again the processor speed has also almost doubled, which makes it possible to load videos 1.8 times faster than earlier models, according to Google.

Google also announced Google Home, an interactive speaker that will compete with Amazon’s Echo. The speaker is compatible with Chromecast Ultra, enabling users to use verbal commands to play content. For example, you could ask Google Home to start a Spotify playlist on the Ultra or “play Jungle Book on my TV.”

Google hasn’t announced the release date of Google Home but it is expected to ship in November.

Roku has also announced a new line up of three 4K players including two that can stream in HDR. The Roku Premiere ($80) and Roku Premiere+ can stream 4K UHD video at 60 fps (frames per second). Both have a fast quad-core processor and 802.11ac MIMO dual-band Wi-Fi for streaming 4K. The Roku Premiere+ adds HDR support and has a MicroSD card slot for expanded storage. The Premiere+ also has an Ethernet connection.

The top-of-the-line Roku Ultra ($130) is fully loaded with 4K streaming up to 60 fps with HDR as well as the Micro SD slot and Ethernet port. The Ultra adds Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital plus sound and an optical digital audio output. It also has a USB connection for local media playback. Like the Roku 4, it has a lost-remote finder feature (great news because Roku remotes are so small) and a headphone jack in the remote.

To get the most from these new models, you’ll need a late model UHD TV with HDR and HDCP 2.2 digital rights management capabilities.