Ready or not, 4K is here.
And even if you're not quite ready to get a 4K TV, there are already a whole host of 4K-capable streaming devices that will set you up for years down the line. While the latest Apple TV still isn't 4K-ready, you can already get ahead of the game with new devices from Roku, Amazon, and now Google, which just announced the Chromecast Ultra.
Here's how they all stack up:
The Chromecast Ultra was just announced, but it will be available soon for $69. It supports 4K and HDR video, as well as all the major streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Vudu. As with previous Chromecasts, it doesn't feature its own remote, but instead you pull apps up on your phone and simply hit the "Cast" icon to tell the Chromecast to get that content and display it on your screen.
The new Chromecast will connect to an HDMI port on the back of your TV so it will generally stay out of the way, though this is the first Chromecast to support wired internet for better quality streaming. If you also have the new Google Home, you can control the Chromecast Ultra with your voice as well. Finally, the Chromecast Ultra is one of the first streaming devices to offer Dolby Vision support.
Roku Premiere, Premiere+, and Ultra
Roku just announced three 4K-capable streamers, the Roku Premiere ($79 at Amazon.com), Roku Premiere+ ($99 at Amazon.com), and Roku Ultra ($129 at Amazon.com). As with past Rokus these new devices are compatible with all the major streaming services, as well as thousands of other "channels."
All the new Rokus come with the popular Roku remote and on-screen interface, featuring dedicated buttons to quickly access services like Netflix and Sling TV. The remote on the Premiere+ and Ultra Rokus support voice search as well as wireless listening thanks to the standard headphone jack on the remote. They both support wired internet, like the Chromecast Ultra. The Premiere doesn't have ethernet, and it only supports voice search and wireless listening through the Roku app on a smartphone.
The three devices aren't otherwise that different. The Premiere supports 4K, the Premiere+ adds 4K/60p and HDR support as well for $20 more. The Ultra supports 4K and HDR, and it also has a button on the box that you can hold down, which will force the remote to make a sound so you can find it in the couch cushions.
Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
Amazon offers two 4K-ready streaming options right now, the Amazon Fire TV ($99 at Amazon.com) and the Amazon Fire TV Stick ($39.99 at Amazon.com). Both devices support 4K streaming and voice search using Alexa and the included remote, but do not support HDR standards like Dolby Vision and HDR10. It's not clear if that support could be added later, but for now that's how it stands.
The Fire TV stick is the smaller of the two, and like the Chromecast it's a dongle that attaches directly to an HDMI port on your TV. It does not support wired internet. The full-size Fire TV does support wired internet. Both devices can leverage their voice search capabilities to interact with Alexa-compatible devices, just like the full-size Amazon Echo ($179 at Amazon.com) does.