Sky Q is probably the biggest service release for not only Sky themselves but also the broadcasting industry as a whole.
Built from scratch, Sky Q reimagines what we should be using television for, and how we should be consuming it, no longer barricading television to our living rooms, Sky Q combines a house-filling TV experience with online content and features to force TV into the 21st century.
This builds upon what Sky has done in the past with its multi-room package, the Sky Go app and the introduction of the Now TV service.
But not only does Sky Q come packed with a number of features, it also comes with a re-imagining of how your set-top box should work and look.
The whole system has been designed to speak to each other, and this is reflected in the design of not only the main Sky Q box, but also the Sky Q Mini box and the router, all of which not only talk to each other to allow you to record shows on any box or pick-up content from where you left off in any room, whilst extending your home network as you expand the amount of boxes you have.
And with the iPad app, this even goes further than the Sky boxes themselves, allowing you to access the same content you can from your main Sky box, but without needing anything other than your iPad, not even an extra subscription.
There are two options to choose from when you do choose your subscription, both of which offer similar experiences, with the same 232 x 155 x 34mm footprint, but the Silver package will provide you with more flexibility.
The standard box will provide you with 1TB of storage, the ability to record three shows and to watch a fourth simultaneously, and the ability to stream to one tablet.
Sky Q Silver ups this with 2TB of storage, the ability to record four shows and watch a fourth, and allowing you to stream to two tablets.
Both of these boxes will also work as WiFi hotspots, connected to the new Sky Hub which offers dual-band wireless 5G technology, and meshes all of your Sky Q equipment under one WiFi connection, extending upon this with each box you add to your Sky Q setup.
In the future, we also expect Sky to expand this system with Ultra HD content (the boxes are already compatible for this), and the ability to share the network over powerline technology (something which the boxes are also compatible with).
For my personal Sky Q setup, we have a main Sky Q Silver box, a Sky Q Mini box and a Sky Hub, all of which was installed by a Sky engineer.
The process of installing the Sky Q system is definitely a long one, our installation took around 2 hours, due to the engineer not only changing our main Sky dish but also fully setting up the boxes, router, and talking us through the new features.
Probably the most fiddly part was getting the boxes talking to each other, being a technology fanatic, I did have to wonder the house looking for anything that might be looking for a connection, and individually turning them off, but eventually we did get there.
One other thing you should note before your installation is that Sky has no way of replicating the programs you have stored on your current HD box, so you need to make sure you have taken note of that before the install, or just be ready for a fresh start.
We also had a small problem with Freesat, as the new LNB (Low Noise Block Downconverter) doesn’t really allow for other satellite connections (given that Sky Q hasn’t been designed for this), connecting multiple Freesat boxes might be a problem for you if that’s something you currently do. Thankfully our Sky engineer was able to install a hybrid LNB to get these to work, but we can’t say that would be the case for everyone (in fact we aren’t really sure if he was supposed to so let’s keep it quiet).
Probably one of the first changes you might notice with Sky Q is the controller, or rather controllers.
Sky provides two controllers just in case you don’t like their brand new idea of a touch controller, offering you the ability to use a simplier controller if the touch controller is a little finicky for you.
The touch controller definitely does take some getting us to, however, once you are the touch pad at the top of the controller is definitely intuitive and works well with the design of Sky’s new UI for the Sky Q system.
And because it uses Bluetooth technology, the remote no longer needs to be pointed towards to box or an ugly IR sensor, in fact, you could use it from a completely separate room and be fine to go, which is nice.
Just in case you lose one behind the sofa, Sky have added the ability to press the Q on the front of your box for a few seconds and the remote will begin to whistle, once found just hit a button and it will stop.
Speaking of getting used to things, you may also have to get used to the new EPG for Sky Q, which has had a massive overhaul in this version.
That’s not to say this is a bad thing, quite the opposite, the new UI is clean, seamless and stitched together with awesome animations that join the whole thing together.
This also comes with a new vertical layout that changes how you interact with the UI.
You are also able to sort through recordings better, with new visual thumbnails and nested recordings for multiple episodes within the same series.
To navigate it, you just slide or click your way to the episode you want, and you no longer need to press multiple buttons to get to one thing, with sections for movies, sports, kids, music and the Sky Store.
There’s also a new live picture box that has been moved to the middle of the left panel instead of the left panel, leaving a lot of room for menus and content, but keeping the live picture big enough to view. And with all of this you will also find new on-demand content and box sets mixed in with live programming.
Interestingly, Sky have also added an app sidebar to the UI, allowing you to bring up a number of apps that you can view alongside the content that you are viewing, at the moment this only includes things like the weather, Sky Sports and general news, however, we presume that this will be updated further in the future, possibly even bringing integration with live services like Twitter.
Sky have also added Airplay functionality to the box, allowing you to play music through the box over Wi-Fi via an Apple device. And if you don’t have an Apple device you can do the same by connecting via Bluetooth and doing the same.
All-in-all the UI is a breath of fresh air from Sky, after what was quite a poor UI for some time, however, it will definitely take some getting used to if you are acquainted with the old way of doing things.
This all links with the Sky Q app for the iPad and Android tablets, which shares a similar UI and allows you to easily watch the same live content, on-demand content or recordings, set you own recordings and even pick up from where you left off.
To top this off, the My Q feature also allows users to download recordings on their tablet and watch content when they aren’t connected to their Wi-Fi, extending Sky Q not only around your home but also away from it.
Unfortunately, the full live programming viewing only works when you are connected to your home network.
Pricing of Sky Q is extremely complicated, however, it is expensive and has been designed for those who want the best TV experience around, if that’s not you then Sky Q probably isn’t the service for you just yet.
Currently, the standard Sky Q box has a £99 up-front fee and the Sky Q Silver box (that comes with a Sky Q Mini) has been priced at £149, but these are only for those that are already subscribed the Sky Sports, Sky Movies or Sky Broadband.
If you are not that the standard box goes up to £249 and the Sky Q Silver box goes up to £299 for the one-off fee.
At the most basic package, Sky Q costs £42 a month, which is about £6 more than the Sky HD family bundle. This will, however, get you access to all of Sky’s content aside from Movies or Sports.
Sky Q Silver is a bit more, at £54 a month for the basic bundle.
You can then add on movies for £17.50 and sports for £25.50 extra a month.
In my opinion, the Sky Q Silver bundle is probably the best buy, it includes not only the Sky Q Silver box, but also the Sky Q Mini box, and it has both a 2TB hard drive and the ability to stream to two tablets at the same time (the standard box only has a 1TB hard drive and can only stream to one tablet at a time). If you are going to be using Sky Q for some time, then the Silver bundle will definitely be your best bet.
Once you have chosen a bundle you can then add more Sky Q Mini boxes for an additional one-off payment of £99 per box.
Sky Q is most definitely the future of television, and home networking combined, from the moment you see and use the system you can see Sky’s investment into it, with a brand new UI across the system that is clean, sleek, and a joy to use, and a brand new box design that finally provides Sky’s service with one simple uniform.
To put it simply, what Sky have done with Q is not matched by anyone, anywhere. How these boxes connect to each other and provide WiFi hotspots is probably the biggest reason to love Sky Q, it creates one seamless home solution that not only brings television to your living room but also to your tablets and across your house, without the need for extra cables or services.
That said, we can’t help but think that this system could do with more.
It would definitely be nice to have other services like Netflix or Amazon Prime integrated into the system, and we would like to see further app connections like Twitter.
You will also notice that there is no power line or 4K at launch, but these are features that are said be included later, and will definitely enhance the system further. The UI could also use some slight adjustments to make it easier to just pick up and use.
So Sky definitely has some things to do to enhance Sky Q, and that could be seen as a bad thing, however, I see it as exciting, it shows just how much potential Sky Q actually has.