Sky Q review: Everything you need to know
Update: Sky has just announced that popular streaming service Spotify has now been added to its Sky Q TV system, allowing customers to stream music via Spotify’s free and paid-for streaming packages. Sky Q already supports Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay streaming, but the addition of Spotify streaming adds a welcome extra dimension.
Sky originally announced Spotify a month ago, along with a raft of other improvements, including the integration of Netflix, the addition of UI enhancements and HDR support and a new kids mode.
You can read our full Sky Q review below:
The Sky Q TV system has been around for some time now and despite some quirks, it’s still the best system on the market for fans of traditional TV, Premier League football and soon, Netflix.
The broadcaster has done a deal with the streaming behemoth to bring all of Netflix’s shows and films to the platform, making it easy to switch between live Sky TV, catch-up services and Netflix all in one place. It will also make it easier to find Netflix shows to watch thanks to Sky’s Voice search, and the app will launch on Now TV boxes and the new Now TV Stick soon.
We love Sky Q because it’s flexible, speedy and easy to use and has more 4K content than its rivals. It isn’t the cheapest way to get 4K TV, especially if you’re not a sports fan, but it is a great all-rounder; even Virgin Media’s much-improved V6 box can’t compete with Sky Q’s blend of multiroom convenience, mesh networking, the ability to record multiple channels simultaneously and 4K content.
I’ve been using the system for nearly two years now, so it’s fair to say I know the ins and outs of the system, and one of the most impressive things about it is that, while far from perfect, Sky Q remains as responsive and easy to operative as ever. The other thing I love about it is the way it’s constantly evolving, adding new features and improving as time goes by. That’s why this review isn’t quite like others you’ll find on the website.
Below you’ll find a summary of the latest new features, followed by a list of the key features. However, if you’d like to jump straight into the deep and detailed Sky Q review, you can do so over on Page 2.
Sky Q review
Sky Q is continuing the development of its impressive premium TV platform by adding even more features in early 2018.
The latest additions see Spotify and Netflix added to the service, either via apps or inclusion as part of Sky’s TV packages. Spotify’s integration has already gone live, with Netflis and other improvements to follow.
The platform itself is becoming more personalised, too. You’ll soon get more tailored content, based on your household’s viewing habits and Sky Q’s Voice search will get an upgrade to support this, meaning you’ll be able to ask for recommendations such as “show movies for me”.
This builds on the voice control features added in October last year which made it possible to navigate directly to channels – by saying “BBC One” or “Sky Atlantic” for instance – play back recorded content and even control playback by holding down the microphone button and saying “play”, “pause” or “skip ten minutes”.
Elsewhere, Sky is adding a new, wide-screen, user interface and is doubling the amount of Ultra HD content to bring the service up 1,000 hours of UHD content on Sky. Plus, a new Kids mode will help parents control what their children watch, and a Sky Q app will launch for Smart TVs and third-party devices.
The latest updates should reach all Sky Q users by the end of Q2.
Sky Q review: Voice search
These new features come on the back of the introduction of voice search, which appeared earlier this year. By pressing and holding down the microphone button on the right-hand edge of the touch remote control, users are able to search both broadcast and on-demand content by simply speaking a search term – a big improvement on typing words out character by character with the fiddly remote touchpad.
By pressing and holding down the microphone button on the right-hand edge of the touch remote control, users can search both broadcast and on-demand content by simply speaking a search term – a big improvement on typing words out character by character with the fiddly remote touchpad.
Voice search isn’t available on Sky Q mini boxes because they don’t support the Bluetooth touch remote and you have to have an active internet connection for it to work, but it’s surprisingly effective. I’ve taken to using it in preference even to skipping through the TV guide because it works so well, but I’ve typically kept my searches to basic programme and film titles.
It’s a real boon to be able to say a movie title because it quickly lets you know if that film is available on Sky and if you need to move your search on to Netflix or Amazon. It’s also a handy tool for quickly searching through your recorded programmes.
Simple title searches, however, only scratch the surface of Sky Q’s voice search capabilities, since the tool can also search using more advanced phrases, such as “all movies starring Colin Farrell” or “movies directed by M. Night Shyamalan”. It will also search famous movie quotes, although I can’t think of many films I know quotes from that I can’t remember the name of. Either way, voice search is an incredibly useful tool.
Sky Q vs Virgin Media TV V6 box
Virgin Media is one of Sky’s biggest competitors in the premium TV space and it has recently updated its hardware offering after having been left in the dust last year by Sky Q. Is the new Virgin Media TV V6 box any good, though?
We haven’t yet had the chance to experience the TV V6 on a day to day basis, but we have had a lengthy play with the new system and can report that it’s a big improvement on the outgoing TiVO box.
It’s much faster than the TiVO, which has become gradually slower and slower over the years to the point that it’s now painfully slow. However, the headline feature is its ability to record up to six channels simultaneously while you watch a seventh live, where Sky Q can “only” record up four channels while you watch a fifth.
The TV V6 won’t hold this advantage for very long, though, with an upcoming upgrade for Sky Q promising to level things up between the two systems at some point in 2017. And the TV V6 box can’t compete on multiroom or Wi-Fi features – if you want to add an extra room, you have to have it cabled in by an engineer; with Sky Q you can simply buy an extra mini box and put it wherever you can get a decent Wi-Fi signal.
You can find out more about the Virgin Media TV V6 box in my hands-on review.
Sky Q review: At a glance
1. What is Sky Q?
If you get the full Sky Q package, including Sky Broadband, you get pretty much everything you’d ever need to watch TV – except a TV and laptop. Sky Q’s top-end package comes with a Sky Q 2TB box and two Sky Q Mini boxes and you can watch live TV simultaneously on all three. Because they talk to each other over Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to stop watching something on one device and continue watching it on another.
2. Sky Q lets you watch recorded programmes offline
Sky Q’s tablet app lets you transfer content – whether that be recorded or downloaded catch-up TV, movies or box sets – to the tablet for viewing offline, on the train, for instance, or when you go on holiday. Pretty awesome.
3. There’s a Sky Q app for watching on your tablet AND your smartphone
The Sky Q app lets you watch live TV on up to two tablets or smartphones simultaneously, pausing, recording and rewinding, just like you can on the main TV and Mini boxes. You can also transfer downloaded or recorded programmes to your tablets so you can watch them offline. Later this year, a Sky Q app is launching for the Smart TVs and third-party devices.
4. Sky Q will improve your Wi-Fi coverage
Sky Q’s network of TV boxes also act as wireless repeaters spreading the signal around your house, and the result is Wi-Fi that’s much stronger. The picture below shows the signal strength in the kitchen before and after Sky Q (blue is weak, green is good).
5. Sky Q has an awesome user interface
Sky Q’s menus have been redesigned and they’re very intuitive to use. Take Sky Q’s Recordings menu example: it’s now much simpler to navigate, while there’s also a new “My Q” section. Here, series and movies you’ve been watching are recently grouped together, so you easily pick up and carry on where you left off. And the UI on the Sky Q app is pretty much the same too.
6. How much does Sky Q cost?
Sky Q was incredibly expensive when it first launched, but it’s now a much more affordable proposition. For new customers, Sky Q costs £20 per month plus a £15 setup fee for the 1TB box or £60 for the 2TB box. Multiroom is £12 per month extra on top of that and you get a free Sky Q Mini box included as well. For a multiroom setup as good as Sky Q, those prices are very tempting indeed, although remember that if you want to watch sports or Sky’s movie channels that will cost up to £36 extra per month.
7. Sky Q now supports 4K and a variety of new features
As of 21 July, Sky Q was updated to bring in a selection of new features designed to make the service easier to use. Now it automatically downloads the next episode in a series so it’s ready to watch instantly, along with auto-playing episodes once a previous one has finished – à la Netflix.
Other features focus on content curation and presentation, with the service’s Top Picks improved with more on-demand suggestions. There’s a new Sports homepage, too, plus improvements to Series Record making it easier to set up from the Mini Guide at the bottom of the screen. There’s also added PIN protection for 18-rated YouTube video clips.
Perhaps the most useful change, however, is a small user-interface improvement that makes it much easier to skip forward to a certain part of the programme you’re watching. Previously, you could only fast-forward; now, Sky Q allows you to press pause and then swipe-and-hold on the touchpad to move to a specific time in the recording.
Ultra HD 4K programming has also arrived on Sky Q too, bringing with it 124 Premier League games and more than 70 films to 4K. That means you can watch Spectre, The Revenant and The Martian in glorious 4K and see actors faces unlike ever before.
Go to the next page for the full review