Technology

Review: Sky Q 2020 telly box still king of the premium pay TV jungle

When it comes to premium pay TV services, the king of the jungle remains Sky Q. This slick telly box changed the pay TV landscape, by seamlessly combining satellite delivery with broadband on-demand and catch-up services, and with increasing integration of streaming TV services, including Disney+, it’s keeping ahead of the content curve.

Available in 1TB and 2TB versions, this compact TV box also acts as a hub for Sky Q Minis, smaller wireless players that deliver TV shows and recordings over Wi-Fi (or Ethernet or powerline, if you prefer) from the main box. You can put a Sky Mini in the bedroom, the kids room, wherever there’s a TV and a network connection. 

The Sky Q Mini replicates the look of the main set top box, and allows you to access recordings and live TV directly.  Up to three can be linked to the main Q box.

The Sky Q TV box offers 4k and Dolby Atmos cinema sound

The main Sky Q recorder is able to record six shows at once, while you watch a seventh, so you’ll never miss a show because of a recording clash of course, if you do there’s also comprehensive catch-up.

The platform offers access to over 3,500 hours of UHD content, including new 4k Ultra HD movies, some of which are day and date with their cinema release, not to mention a huge variety of sports including Premier League soccer, darts, rugby and Formula 1. 

Sky says it has a vault of 5,000 TV series, 8,000 movies and broadcasts 300 live channels. There’s probably even more by the time you read this.

The 1TB hard drive version can store up to 500 hours of recordings, which we’re told is more than enough room for all 86 episodes of The Sopranos. You can double that for the 2TB version.

Auto download when you binge

Usability is great. The Sky Q user interface is intuitive and graphical, with thumbnails and images galore. It’s actually been significantly refined since its launch, but Sky has managed to avoid over complication, despite these updates.

Naturally all the familiar TV recorder functionality is on board, including automatically recording shows that have been series linked, and downloading subsequent episodes as you catch-up.

Navigation is good. There are dedicated areas for special interests, be it sports, cinema, news and so on.

The Sky Q platform also has deep integration with Netflix, with programmes showcased on the Sky Q homepage, alongside Sky content…

Sky Q isn’t just about TV. The box is Apple AirPlay compatible, as well as Bluetooth enabled, so you can stream music from your smartphone to the TV from the likes of Apple Music and TuneIn radio. The set top box has its own Spotify app, it’s just one of a number of third party content providers built-in. There’s also YouTube, Vevo, Red Bull, and most recently Disney Plus.

Impressively, the Sky Q platform has deep integration with Netflix. Users of both services can consolidate payments for each through Sky via a single bill. Netflix programmes are showcased on the Sky Q homepage (pictured below), alongside Sky content, with the latest Netflix shows knitted into the main home page recommendations. It’s surprisingly complimentary.

Netflix is fully integrated

The Sky Q platform supports 4k UHD and Dolby Atmos immersive audio, particularly with live sports and movies. Great for home cinema fans.

Sky offers the widest selection of 4k content amongst all the UK’s pay TV services, with Sky Cinema boasting a comprehensive selection. New releases can be purchased digitally day and date with their Blu-ray window, if you can’t wait for them to move onto the subscription platform, from the Sky Store. 

Picture and sound quality is excellent. As yet, the service does not offer HDR (high dynamic range), but it has long been promised. So watch this space.

Search is generally good too, either through A-Z text entry or voice, via the mic in the remote. You can also use voice control to fast forward or back through recording, although this is a little more hit and miss.

Game of Thrones – one of Sky Atlantic’s flagship shows

If the service does have a more obvious shortcoming, it’s that it doesn’t offer profile based log-in, like that found on Netflix. Consequently, it’s not possible to build up personal Watchlists, a shame given the huge amount of content that’s available (it’s so easy to forget what’s just arrived on Sky Cinema).

But that’s a small niggle. We reckon Sky Q remains the ultimate premium pay TV service, and offers a consistently superior viewing experience to main rivals Virgin Media and BT TV. Sound and vision quality is top notch, and we’ve been particularly impressed with the way Sky continues to update and improve its feature roster.

In short, no one does contract TV better.

Various Sky TV subscription packs are available, with additional fees to cover Ultra HD and Sky Go Extra. Sky with Netflix subscriptions start at £25 per month. Head over to sky.com to check out current offers.

About Steve May

Creator of Home Cinema Choice magazine, Steve muses and reviews for Trusted Reviews, T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice, Ideal Home, The Luxe Review, Channel News and the i newspaper. He’s also the editor of professional home cinema website Inside CI, and contributor to industry trade magazine ERT. He's on Twitter and Instagram as @SteveMay_UK

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