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Sky Q Review: Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts

The future of television is finally here...

08/06/2016 15:49 | Updated 22 November 2016
Sky

Sky Q is here and if Sky’s promotional material is anything to go on this is the future of television.

Boasting a seamless viewing experience called ‘Fluid Viewing’, Sky Q allows you to pause a program in one room and pick up right where you left off in another, or on your phone or tablet. 

It isn’t just about the bells and whistles though, Sky Q is a fundamental reimagining of the TV experience that millions of people around the UK know and love.

Well we’ve experience Sky Q’s positives, its negatives and just about every other emotion in between and we’re finally ready to give our verdict.

Sky Q Installation

Booking your Sky Q installation is relatively straightforward, however there are a few things to keep in mind. The engineer needs access to your dish as for Sky Q to work they’ll need to do a simple swap over of some components.

It’s not a requirement, but it is also recommended that you have Sky’s broadband service up and running as well. Many of Sky Q’s most useful features stem from its ability to wirelessly send content to each of the Sky boxes around the home.

Sky’s new Q Hub is the root of this, you see it’s the only router that’s compatible with Sky’s networking technologies. So yes, if you want Sky Q to work at its best you’re going to need Sky broadband too.

Sky

Once the engineer arrived it became clear that wireless connectivity between the boxes was paramount. Sky Q works by sending TV content from the main box in the living room out to the smaller boxes throughout the house. To do this it uses a powerful 5Ghz wireless network which is entirely private and solely used for this purpose.

5Ghz is pretty powerful, but it’s not flawless so it’s worth taking a look at the rooms where you’ll want Sky Q and then letting the engineer know if there are any WiFi “notspots” in those areas.

We had one such issue with the far bedroom and after a few weeks it soon became clear that all was not well.

An engineer was called back in and installed a Booster which strengthened the signal and has now completely solved the issue.

Sky Q + Sky Q Mini box:

At the heart of the service is the Sky Q box, a sleek, minimalist reimagining of the classic Sky box. There are two versions.

Sky Q 2TB Box: This is the flagship box and contains a gargantuan 2TB hard-drive, a comically large 12 tuners and also allows you to play 4K content from Sky. This costs £60 if you choose multiscreen or £199 on its own.

Sky Q 1TB Box: For those that want more flexibility in the pricing Sky also offer a Sky Q 1TB box that boasts the same multiroom features but ditches the 4K content and one of the tuners. This smaller box costs just £15 installation.

Sky

All of the content you record, or download from On Demand in any of the rooms is then saved onto this box.

The  box will then wirelessly stream its hard drive to each of the Mini boxes. 

While you might have recorded a bunch of shows on the Q Mini in the kitchen, everything you’re then playing is actually being streamed from the main Sky Q box in the living room.

Sky

This is an important distinction to make because it highlights just how important it is to get that wireless connection right. If for even a moment it starts to lose signal the Mini Box becomes useless and you lose access to Sky.

While this was initially a concern we’ve noticed significant improvements over the wireless signal around the house. Not only from the Sky Q Mini boxes (which double as WiFi hotspots) but also when it comes to download speeds of content. Whether this was thanks to the Booster or some software improvements we’re not sure but the simple fact is that when it’s set up right it works pretty much flawlessly.

Sky Q TV Guide:

Sky has completely revamped the guide, and we really do mean completely.

This is not the Sky look that you recognise, instead it’s a more visual, touch-focused interface that works by sifting through layers of content over the traditional menu.

Sky

If we’re honest we’re still getting used to it and there are some journeys you make through the system that feel disjointed.

Where it shines though is in creating the feeling that there is quite simply a limitless library of content at your disposal.

Whether it’s using the search function, scrolling through the TV Guide itself or browsing the Sky Store they’ve really nailed the idea that there will always be something for you to watch.

Sky

The boxes are pretty clever too, each one learns that room’s viewing habits and so every time you switch on the ‘My Q’ section of the site you’ll be shown the programs that Sky thinks you’ll want to watch.

What’s even more impressive is it’s time-sensitive as well, so if you always sit down for a bit of Made in Chelsea on a Monday evening it’ll make sure that Made in Chelsea is one of the first things you see when you turn the box on.

Sky’s reportedly adding some new customisation features which should only make this experience better.

Soon after Sky Q was launched the company added 4K content to the mix and we’re happy to report that while a film might take up a lot of space, it’s worth it. Films like the Martian look absolutely stunning and playback is incredibly smooth.

Sky will offer both the football and next year’s F1 season in 4K next year while films like the Revenant, Deadpool and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon will all soon join the current roster of UHD films available on demand.

Sky Q Remote

You engage with Sky Q using the all-new Sky Q Touch Remote. For many this will be the end of an era and while we will certainly miss that iconic remote the time has come to move on.

Sky

The directional arrows have been replaced by a large touchpad at the top. To navigate you either swipe or swipe and hold to scroll quicker.

There's also a touch-sensitive "rocker" at the top that allows you to slide back and forth between fast forward and fast rewind.

Finally there's a mic on the side which will soon enable Sky Q users to do some pretty advanced voice searching.

So what's it like to use? Well it's a mixed bag. We love how much nicer it is to hold in the hand. The rocker at the top as well is a stroke of genius.

If we have one complaint it's the central touchpad, it just doesn't feel sensitive enough which means that scrolling feels very different to the ultra-zippy responsiveness we've come to expect from our smartphones.

Sky

Interestingly half of the household uses the standard Sky Q Remote which ditches the fancy touch buttons, while the other half of us have stuck with the flash new remote.

Living with Sky Q:

Has Sky Q’s ‘Fluid Viewing’ concept really shone through as the future of TV? Well sort of, but not in the sense that we’re throwing content around the house like it’s going out of fashion.

Instead we would argue that Sky Q as a complete package is the future, not just one single feature.

It’s knowing that everything you’ve ever recorded is available in every room. It’s knowing that you can download any recorded show onto your iPad. It’s also knowing that every Sky Q box also doubles as a WiFi hotspot.

This is where Sky Q makes sense. This is an all-in-one system, it does literally everything. There’s no switching, no painful tinkering, it all neatly fits together and if there’s one thing us humans like it’s everything working just as it should.

It is in many ways an Apple way of thinking - every single software and hardware feature on Sky Q has been designed side by side from day one, and it really pays off.

In the past 12 months Sky has made some adjustments to pricing and it’s only fair to say that they have made Sky Q as an experience more affordable. It’s also a lot more customisable so you should be able to build a package that more accurately reflects your requirements and your budget. 

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