Sky Q full review
Sky Q is the latest type of set-top box from Sky that offers technical improvements on the existing Sky+ boxes, plus streaming and other home and offline benefits. In fact, with its new user interface, built-in apps and accessories it’s really a whole new premium TV platform rather than just a new shiny box. Here's our Sky Q review including the Sky Q 1TB and 2TB models, Sky Q Mini and more. Order direct from Sky.
Sky recognises that people now want to watch not just multi-room TV but to share recordings round the house too. It allows you to pause a programme (live, recording or downloaded box set) in one room, and continue watching it in another – bedroom-based TVs look the big winner here. Sky calls this “fluid viewing”.
This term also encompasses synching recordings to your iPad or Android tablet – but not smartphones yet – so you can watch your favourite shows wherever you go via the Sky Q app (even offline).
With Sky Q you're not stuck watching the same programme as the rest of your family or house dwellers. Up to two can go off elsewhere and watch via the Sky Q Mini boxes (you need to buy the £12/month Sky Multiscreen subscription, where you'll get one Mini box – and each additional box costs an extra £99), or you can sync downloaded content to a tablet (or two tablets with the 2TB Sky Q). So much for keeping the family together.
And Sky Broadband customers can use the three types of Sky Q box (1TB, 2TB and Mini) to create fresh new Wi-Fi hotspots around the home.
If you haven't got Sky Q yet, then it's now available from just £22 per month.That's less than half the previous price.
The new Sky Q mobile app lets you watch recordings on your phone, stream live content and do tasks such as send recordings to the box from wherever you are.
Sky Q: Price
Like most things from Sky, Sky Q is not cheap. But canny Sky users know when to call Sky for discounts and offers when the bills reach too deep into their pockets. Of course you are stuck on the initial costs for the duration of your first subscription.
Sky often introduces special offers so check there isn’t one available that could save you money before you sign up for Sky Q.
At the time of writing, existing Sky customers pay a one-off cost of £99 to upgrade to Sky Q. Log in to your Sky account to upgrade.
New customers to Sky don’t pay that one-off cost but will be charged £10 for a standard installation. Current offers including a free 32in TV or £100. You can choose from monthly payments starting at £44 for Sky Q and £56 for Sky Q Silver. Both have 18-month minimum subscriptions. Subscription prices rise if you add things like Sky Sports or Sky Cinema (used to be Sky Movies). Click here to build your Sky Q bundle.
Multiscreen customers can add extra Sky Q Mini boxes for £99 each; one comes free with the 2TB Sky Q anyway.
Sky Q: The boxes
There are two models of main Sky Q box, plus a Mini version for another rooms in your house: the entry-level 1TB Sky Q and the high-end 2TB Sky Q (previously known as Sky Q Silver).
Both black boxes are the same size (330x210x43mm) and are much slimmer than the chunky Sky+ box. As you’d expect from the name the Sky Q Mini is even smaller, at 232x155x35mm. See also: Best Blu-ray players 2016
Sky Q 1TB specs: The Sky Q 1TB box can record up to three shows at the same time while watching a fourth. The older Sky+ box could record just two at a time and didn’t allow you to watch another live programme while two recordings were taking place, forcing you to the Planner for pre-recorded shows only. It features 1TB of storage space, enough to store 150 hours of HD TV according to Sky. It can stream onto one TV or tablet.
Sky Q 2TB specs: The top-end Sky Q 2TB box can record up to four shows at the same time while watching a fifth. It features 2TB of storage space, enough to store 350 hours of HD TV. It can stream onto two TVs or tablets.
The Sky Q Mini works with Sky Multiscreen to give you further access via your home network – no need for trailing satellite cables. All you need is an Ethernet cable or wireless connection, and a TV with an HDMI port. It mirrors the experience from the main box so you can view shows and recordings as if you were in the main living room. It’s easy to add Ethernet connections to multiple room by using plug-and-play Powerline adapters; see our Best Powerline feature.
All three Sky Q boxes can also act as a new Wi-Fi hotspot for Sky Broadband customers only when used with the Sky Q Hub router. See also: Best media streamers 2015.
Sky Q remote contollers
Excitingly Sky Q comes with not one but two types of remote control. One is fairly standard and more compact than the old Sky+ remote. This takes some getting used to (just like the new interface, see below) but is reasonably standard in its push-button operation.
The more innovative Bluetooth Sky Q Touch remote is meant to help you navigate “naturally” via touch controls you swipe and tap, rather than buttons you push. Even our experienced Sky engineer described this as "tricky", and it certainly requires a lot of practice. We suspect that many will lie gathering dust under the TV or in a drawer rather than becoming the first-choice remote. At home we have a similar second remote with our Samsung Smart TV and we never use it.
That said the Touch remote has some neat tricks. For instance if you’re one of those people who often lose the remote (and who isn’t one of those?) you can press the Q button on the front of the box and the remote will start beeping.
Even better, the Sky Q Touch remote now offers Voice Search so you can find programmes by speaking into your Sky Q touch remote. You'll need a Sky Q box with an active broadband connection and a paired Sky Q touch remote to use Voice Search. Find out more on how to use Sky Q voice search.
Sky Q Hub
Sky Broadband customers also get a new Sky Q Hub router, which enables your Sky Q boxes (including the Mini) to act as new Wi-Fi hotspots – therefore improving the wireless network around your home.This is a feature coming later this year.
At present Sky Q doesn't work with a powerline network but this has been promised at a later date. Sky Q would then pick either wired or wireless, whichever is faster at the time.
Sky Q user interface
Sky Q comes with a new EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) and user interface. Prepare to be confused and bewildered at first.
This will take some getting used to. Existing Sky customers have their browsing habits ingrained, and will need to learn the new interface through trial and error. This means trying to forget old ways of doing things.
The Sky engineer who installed our Sky Q talked us through the new interface, but we immediately had questions after he’d left. I actually ran down the road while his van was pulling away to ask him how to jump to different days on the TV guide! He kindly gave us his phone number so we could call him with queries. He also told us that one elderly customer asked him to fit back her old Sky+ box after just one day of moaning about the new Sky Q experience! We hope most have more patience than that.
Bear with the changes and you will (mostly) be rewarded. You can search for your recordings alphabetically, for instance, rather than slogging through chronologically – one reason why you have so many old unwatched shows on your Sky box. You can also view recordings via visual thumbnails as opposed to the old list format.
Programme information is displayed at the top of the grid, and the live picture of the currently playing channel has moved to the middle of the left panel.
A new feature called My Q helps you find the last show you watched and start where you left it. Here you can click on Continue, New Series or For You. Continue highlights stuff that you've started but not finished. New Series suggests new shows or series based on what you've previously enjoyed. For You suggests programmes you might like to watch based on what you've watched before and even what time of day it is. Sky Q's algorithm will need some time to get to know your viewing habits, and of course these will be mixed up with your fellow house residents - so expect a mash up of Breaking Bad and Peppa Pig, separated only by the time distinction.
Talking of which, when you push the Home button on the remote you don’t go straight to the Programme Guide like you’re used to (it's at the top of the menu a number of clicks away). Instead the first page you see is Top Picks, which feels a bit pushy after having more control previously. Here you’ll see Sky Box Office shows and other pay-per-view options. We’d prefer the ability to hide or at least move Top Picks and choose our own first-click destination – probably either the TV guide or Recordings.
There's not even a Guide button on the remote which also seems odd. Sky's response is that Sky Q "was designed as a completely new way to watch TV" and is focussed more on recordings and on-demand content. We still found using the TV Guide a staple, though.
This is probably the first moan you'll have at Sky Q – if there was a national referendum about it the masses would vote to restore the one-click TV Guide, and relegate Top Picks to a much lower option.
There's a new Sky Mini Guide (confusingly nothing to do with Sky Q Mini!) that appears at the bottom of the screen when you click the touchpad on the Sky Q touch remote. This shows you details of what is playing now – like the old "i" information button on Sky+. And you can swipe to the right to see what's on later. Swipe down for programme information and even a live preview of other channels. While watching recordings you can use the Mini Guide to download other episodes or similar movies.
When using pause, forward or rewind you can see where in the programme you are, which is useful, and a definite improvement on the previous interface.
It's worth noting that you can't simply stream on-demand content, instead it must be downloaded to the box first (you don't have to wait for the download to finish before watching though. This seems a little odd as although you can then keep the content (even if it gets removed from the library), it takes up space on the box. Sky said that the box will automatically delete things if the hard drive is full based on things that have been watched and the oldest content. You can mark items to 'keep' to make sure things you love don't suddenly disappear.
Another thing we found slightly annoying is that you can't download an entire series in one click. For example, Boardwalk Empire was about to be removed from Sky Box Sets but we had to go and download each individual episode one at a time. Sky is introducing Auto Download Next Episode - when you start watching an episode from a show, provided the next episode is available. There's also Auto Play - which will prompt you to download the next episode when you reach the end, it will start playing after 30 seconds. These don't exactly solve the problem though.
An update has added Sports Split Screen that lets you watch two streams or video highlights side-by-side at the same time. It's only available with certain events though, such as the F1 Grand Prix and ATP Shanghai.
Sky Q Apps
Sky Q brings smart TV features straight to the box, including a bunch of apps such as Sky Sports News HQ, Sky News, Music, My Photos, Weather and Help.
My Photos app lets you share your favourite photos on your big-screen TV. Music uses video-streaming site Vevo to bring your favourite artists and new music videos and live performances to your TV. You can also play your tunes through Sky Q via Apple AirPlay or Bluetooth.
You can tell Sky Q the name of your favourite football team, and it will keep you up to date with latest scores and signings, for example. There’s also a goal-alert function if you want it.
These are the apps built into the Sky Q interface. You'll need the Sky Q app itself to download your recordings onto a tablet for offline viewing. The Sky Q app works well although it's not flawless. For example you can't send set recordings from it, even when you're at home, like you can with YouView so you'll need the Sky+ app for this.
You also get a strange list of results when searching for content where you'll get three results for each episode of a TV show instead of one with a menu for the available options. We also found the audio for downloaded content rather poor - Sky told us it's working on improving this.
Sky Q: Ultra HD, 4K
Sky supports 4K (also known as Ultra HD or UHD) services on Sky Q 2TB (not the basic 1TB Sky Q or the Sky Q Mini). This comes at no extra cost to Sky Q 2TB users.
Of course you’ll need a 4K-ready TV that supports 2160p at 50 frames per second and HDCP 2.2.
Sky Q 4K content will include 124 live Premier League games, every Formula 1 race from 2017, 70 movies including Spectre and The Revenant, 30 hours of natural history and new dramas such as The Blacklist. Customers will be able to browse the 4K content via dedicated 'Ultra HD' sections.
Sky Q: what it lacks
It’s not surprising really that Sky Q doesn’t support Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, as these are competing services (it does have sections for BBC iPlayer and the like). Sky would like to think its Cinema, Catch Up TV, and Box Sets offerings cover at least as much content as the two subscription services.See also:Amazon Prime Instant Video vs Netflix.
We’d also have liked to create Wi-Fi hotspots using broadband ISPs other than Sky’s own, but again you can see why it made such a decision, even if it does stink a bit of a monopoly.
Also, what happened to Reminders?
Sky Q: Installation
Our Sky Q engineer was excellent. He replaced our older dish on our roof – they might just need to swap the LNB (Low Noise Block Downconverter) of your current dish.
He did all the setup with us in our front room, and the second room for the Sky Q Mini – including pairing the two remote controls with the TV. This used to be a hassle but Sky Q is so clever it seems to know everything about your TV set up.
The installer then talks you through the new hardware and interface. As mentioned earlier you’ll still be cursing the changes for a few weeks afterwards as old habits die hard. Some of the new stuff makes sense. Other parts seem ridiculous to change. For example, why so many clicks to the TV Guide? What happened to Favourite channels?
Warning: you will lose all your saved recordings when you switch to Sky Q as it’s a physically new box. One piece of advice we’d give is to make a note of your scheduled recordings. In other ways, losing all those hours of recordings is quite cathartic as you just know you would have never got round to watching them anyway.
Sky Q: Specs
- HDMI Out (HDMI 1.4b output with HDCP 1.2)
- 1x USB, (1A port, non-charging) – for future use
- Optical S/PIDF (Digital Audio)
- 1x 10/100Mb/s Ethernet RJ45 port
- Composite Video/L/R 4-pole 3.5mm Jack (L/R/Video/GND)
- Wireless works dual band on 2.4GHz and 5GHz concurrently
- 2.4GHz 801.11n is 2x2 MIMO – Back compatible with 802.11 b/g
- 5GHz 801.11ac is 3x3 MIMO – Back compatible with 802.11n
- Supports Powerline AV1.1 – only compatible with other Sky devices. Not available at launch
- Bluetooth 4.0 LE support
- 4:3, 16:9 aspect ratio support
- Video resolution supported: 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 576p