Update: You can now talk to your Sky Q box, using the touch remote. Read on for our thoughts on Sky’s first voice controlled interface – one that works surprisingly well.
Sky Q is quite unlike anything Sky has offered previously. Instead of a system built around set-top boxes, Sky Q is all about streaming TV throughout your home.
What this means is that whether you’re in your living room watching your main television, or in your bedroom with a smartphone or iPad, you can still get the same Sky experience.
This isn’t the first time Sky has tried the multi-room approach. Previously its multi-room package spread Sky channels throughout the house with a network of installed set-top boxes. More recently, its Sky Go app appeared on Xbox and PlayStation, meaning that you could have multi-room, through the web, without having to get a Sky engineer in.
Then there was the introduction of its contract-free streaming option Now TV. All of these are good services in their own right but they are silos – they don’t connect with each other.
Sky Q is the connective tissue for its television service and it is something that has been sorely needed. Since the launch of Sky HD a decade ago, the broadcast game has significantly changed.
It is now fighting against a number of content providers, namely BT, Netflix, Amazon and Virgin. Business models at Sky are being re-evaluated because of this. It’s tougher than ever to sell content ‘packages’ – consumers are looking toward all-you-can-eat non-contract offerings.
Sky Q is a premium offering, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s successfully offering something quite unique. No one else has the same 4K library as Sky, and by the end of the year we’re expecting this to be joined by support for the high-end Dolby Atmos sound format.
But what is Sky Q like to use? We’ve tested the system inside and out, read on for our full impressions.
Design and setup
Sky has always been a step ahead with technology, however. Sky Q is packed with cutting-edge ideas. It feels like a package that is one step ahead of what the customer wants, and Sky will want it to be that way for years to come.
Sky Q is completely connected – each box you add to the system speaks to each other so if you have recorded something on the main box downstairs, then you will be able to access it upstairs. If you are mid-watching something then the idea is you can pause (as long as it has been recorded or is being recorded), then pick up from where you left off anywhere in your home, thanks to the inclusion of an iPad app.
There are two options with Sky Q. The version we reviewed was the more premium Sky Q 2TB option but there is a 1TB box that can still take advantage of the Fluid Viewing experience, but isn’t quite advanced.
The standard Sky Q box offers 1TB of storage, the ability to record three things at once and watch a fourth, and you can also stream to one tablet. Both boxes also act as a Wi-Fi hotspot. The Sky Q premium 2TB box ups the storage, can record four things and also watch a fifth and you can stream to two tablets.
There’s no difference in size when it comes to the main boxes. They both measure 232 x 155 x 34mm, which is a severe reduction in footprint when compared to the current HD box – which varies in size depending on the makers of the box but the biggest measures a chunky 398 x 283 x 81mm.
These main boxes are part of a bigger mesh network. The network is powered by a new Sky Hub that offers dual-band wireless 5G technology.
Creating its own mesh network means that there’s no additional pressure on your normal Wi-Fi connection. In fact, it will help Wi-Fi flow better through your home as each box you add to your Sky Q setup also acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot.
The technology behind this mesh network is being provided by AirTies. According to this company, the service allows 10 premium video streams simultaneously from multiple sources including live broadcast, recorded on PVR, OTT from the internet or from a local NAS server.