In spite of all the hype and money behind it, the rollout of Stadia hasn't been the smoothest process ever. Teething pain is a natural part of new technology rollouts, but many of Stadia's most obvious issues, including missing features and lower-than-promised visual quality, seem very avoidable, especially for a company with the resources of Google.
Just prior to the weekend, a new complaint appeared on the Stadia subreddit: A user reported that in the midst of a Destiny 2 session, their Chromecast Ultra suddenly shut down, apparently as the result of overheating. Other users reported similar problems. One said a warning message on his television indicated that the HDMI port their Chromecast was connected to was running hot, while another said they'd switched from their Chromecast Ultra to a laptop "because of the heat issue." Several others said that they hadn't had problems with shutdowns, but that their Chromecast Ultras were running uncomfortably hot.
It's normal for devices to generate heat when they're running—those fans in your PC case aren't there for looks—and can throw off warmth even when they're sitting idle. According to a Google rep, that's what's going on here, too.
"We know any sort of heat on a device can be worrisome, but we can confirm there is no thermal overheating issue with Chromecast Ultra. During normal usage (like watching cat videos on YouTube), the surface of the device may get warm to the touch, but this is working as designed," community manager GraceFromGoogle wrote in the thread. "The team has done extensive testing on the hardware, services and games—this includes tests of long Stadia play and video sessions—and have not seen thermal shutdown problems."
The response is unequivocal but not everyone is convinced. Responses to the post and in other threads insist that no matter what Google's in-the-lab testing has found, their in-the-home usage is causing too much heat. The difficulty of diagnosing overheating problems, or of simply determining how hot is "too hot," means that situation isn't likely to change soon.
Complicating matters further is that Chromecast Ultras are known for running hot. According to 9to5Google, they've always heated up "dramatically" when streaming 4K video; the concern now is that hours of constant 4K streaming for games is pushing the hardware in ways that conventional video doesn't, and that they're not able to consistently handle. It's a bit like tires, if that theory holds: Most of them will exceed their maximum speed rating without any issue, but some won't, and when they don't you end up on your roof in a real hurry.
(I don't know why I'm making a car analogy on a videogame site, but I think it fits.)
GraceFromGoogle said in her post that Chromecast Ultra users who want to "chat" about their units should get in touch via the Stadia help page. I've reached out to Google for more information and will update if I receive a reply.