Sky Q: everything you need to know

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Sky Q is Sky’s next-generation TV platform, bringing Sky TV to multiple rooms, screens and devices for a “fluid viewing” experience – complete with 4K Ultra HD content. Here’s everything you need to know.

Sky Q aims to “reimagine TV”, merging live TV with catch-up and on-demand content, streaming video apps, wireless music and more. And it’s all accessible across a range of devices, wherever you want to access it.

So what exactly does Sky’s TV service offer? From the Sky Q boxes to all the features, the 4K content to the cost, and the interface to the Sky Q app – here’s everything you need to know about Sky Q.

What is Sky Q?

Sky Q is Sky’s next-generation TV service, which promises “a whole new way of watching TV”. Sky has created a new ecosystem of Sky products that can all communicate wirelessly, giving you access to all of Sky’s content, whenever and wherever you may want it.

That means both in the home, thanks to the Sky Q boxes (and a Sky Q Hub broadband router), and out and about, connecting to tablets and phones using the Sky Q app.

Not only does this give you access to live and on-demand Sky content across all your devices, it also means you can watch programmes recorded on your Sky box in other rooms and, for the first time, on the move.

Sky Q comes with a brand new interface and TV guide, a new touchpad remote and new features, including Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth and apps such as YouTube.

It doesn’t work with existing Sky products, so you can’t connect it to your existing Sky+ boxes. In fact, the Sky Q box is now the standard Sky box, signalling the end of the road for the Sky+HD box (at least for new customers).

Sky stated in January 2017 that Sky Q is in around 600,000 homes in the UK, while also revealing there will be a new box in 2018 that will allow access to Sky Q TV over broadband and without the need for a satellite dish – a first for Sky.

Sky Q comes with a brand new interface and TV guide, a new touchpad remote and new features.

What is Fluid Viewing?

If you’ve seen the Sky Q advert, then you’ll be aware of ‘Fluid Viewing’. But what does it actually mean? Essentially, it’s being able to watch whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want.

Sky Q frees up Sky’s content offering, doing away with the idea that it’s all about the Sky TV box. Sure, the Sky Q box is the engine of your home entertainment system, but you can now watch any Sky content on any other screen in the house, or on a tablet or phone. And not just on-demand programmes, but your Sky recordings too – stored on the main box, they’re accessible on any other Sky Q device.

You can start watching a programme on one TV, then pause the action, move to another room, and continue where you left off on a different TV. All using your wireless network. Mmm, fluid.

This feature also applies to mobile devices. Using the Sky Q app you can download Sky content for offline viewing on your phone or tablet – so fluid viewing extends outside of the home, too.

All of this is done over your home wi-fi network, with Sky referring to Sky Q as a “wireless home entertainment system”.

Using the Sky Q app you can download Sky content for offline viewing on your tablet.

Sky Q release date

Sky Q app on an iPad

Sky Q is available now in the UK and Ireland, having officially gone on sale on 9th February 2016. Installations started at the end of that month, with Sky broadband customers the first to get in on the action. Ultra HD on Sky Q launched on 13th August 2016.

If you do want to get on board then it’s worth noting Sky Q installations require a small upgrade to your Sky dish. This shouldn’t be an issue if you have your own dish, but if you use a communal dish, it could take a little extra time.

The new service sits alongside existing Sky TV products, including Sky+ and Now TV, but won’t work with Sky+ hardware.

The new Sky Q platform may completely replace Sky+ in time but we’d hazard that won’t be any time soon. 

What are the key Sky Q features?

AirPlay on Sky Q

  • Sky Q aims to give you access to your content everywhere. Live, on-demand and, crucially, recorded content, can all be accessed via all of the Sky Q boxes, and on Android and Apple tablets and smartphones using the Sky Q app.
  • You can pause a programme on one screen and pick up where you left off on another. From living-room to bedroom to your tablet, for example.
  • You can watch up to five programmes on up to five screens at the same time: your main Sky Q box, up to two Sky Q Mini boxes and up to two tablets/smartphones.
  • Sky Q allows you to record up to four programmes simultaneously – two more than Sky+ currently allows. And you can do this while watching a fifth channel, thanks to the 12 tuners in the 2TB Sky Q box. Sky will soon let customers record up to six programmes at once while watching a seventh – this feature will land this year, though Sky hasn’t said exactly when.
  • You can stream music from an AirPlay or Bluetooth device to your Sky Q system.
  • It comes preloaded with apps including video sites YouTube and Vevo, and editorial offerings from GQ and Wired. Sky’s own Sky Sports News HQ app allows you to catch up on key sporting highlights by using a picture-in-picture approach to show content on the same TV screen.
  • All Sky Q boxes have integrated Powerline AV1.1, which is only compatible with other Sky Q devices.
  • You can boost your wireless network with every additional Sky Q box. All the Sky Q boxes are wi-fi hotspots, boosting the signal in each room. This only works with the Sky Q Hub (and therefore a Sky broadband connection), though.
  • You can watch Ultra HD content, with sport, movies and entertainment on demand.
  • It also comes with a touchpad remote which includes a mic for voice search. The new remote replaces the directional push buttons with a touch-sensitive pad, although a traditional push-button remote is also in the box.

Catch-up apps from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five are already on Sky but there’s no sign of either Netflix or Spotify – though you can stream Spotify, or any other music app, from your phone to a Q box using AirPlay or Bluetooth.

Sky is adamant it wants to deliver the best, most complete content offering, so isn’t ruling out adding Netflix one day, though naturally it would rather you invested in its own library of on-demand films. Sky Store looks set to become the number one digital film retailer by the end of 2017.

New features are already scheduled for launch later in 2017, including better personalisation, and Dolby Atmos-encoded audio for UHD movies.

What Sky Q boxes are available?

Sky Q 2TB box

There are three Sky Q boxes, and the broadband hub. The two main boxes are the premium Sky Q 2TB (formerly Sky Q Silver) and Sky Q 1TB. The key difference is you need the 2TB box for 4K Ultra HD.

The Sky Q Mini is for bedrooms and second rooms, and piggy-backs off your main Q box. All the boxes follow the same slimline design – the Mini and Hub look nigh-on identical. So, what are the differences?

Sky Q 2TB box (formerly Sky Q Silver box)

  • Ultra HD ready
  • 2TB storage (1.7TB for customer use)
  • 12 tuners (three are dormant for now); can record four live shows while watching a fifth
  • 2 x HDMI 1.4b out (to be updated for Ultra HD), 2 x USB 2.0, optical audio, ethernet, wireless
  • Wireless, Bluetooth
  • Dolby Digital over HDMI or optical
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on two tablets
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on up to two Q Mini boxes
  • Powerline (only compatible with Sky products)
  • Matt black and mirror silver finishes

Sky Q 1TB box

  • HD
  • 1TB storage (over 700GB for customer use)
  • 8 tuners; can record three live shows while watching a fourth
  • 2 x HDMI 1.4b out, 2 x USB 2.0, optical audio, Ethernet
  • Wireless, Bluetooth
  • Dolby Digital over HDMI or optical
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on one tablet
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on one Q Mini box
  • Powerline (only compatible with Sky products)
  • Matt black and high-gloss black

Sky Q Mini box

  • HD
  • 1 x HDMI 1.4b out, 1 x USB, optical audio, Ethernet
  • Wireless, Bluetooth
  • Dolby Digital over HDMI or optical
  • Powerline (only compatible with Sky products)
  • Matt black and high-gloss black

Sky Q Hub

  • 2 x Ethernet, 1 x DSL
  • Dual band 2.4GHz and 5GHz
  • Powerline (only compatible with Sky products)
  • Matt black and high-gloss black

Sky Q price and bundles

Sky Q Mini

The big one: Sky Q price. At launch, If you were an existing Sky customer who already paid a fair amount, ie. you got, say, Sky Movies or Sky Sports in HD, then Sky Q wasn’t actually a lot more money. For new customers, however, or those on more affordable Sky TV bundles, it did seem more expensive.

But things have changed, as the Sky Q box has become the standard Sky machine. So all Sky bundles are Sky Q bundles. There are also some Sky Q deals to tempt you into splashing the cash, notably a free Samsung 32in TV or £100/$150 for your troubles.

The entry-level Sky Q bundle – ‘Original’ – is £22/$33 per month. This gets you the cheaper Sky Q 1TB box and the basic Sky TV channels. The cheaper box means you don’t get access to Sky 4K content. There are also Variety and Box Sets bundles, for £32/$48 per month and £38/$57 per month respectively.

You can then add Sky Multiscreen (£12/$18 extra per month), Sky Cinema (£18/$27 extra per month) or Sky Sports (£27.50/$42 extra per month).

You’ll need to add the Sky Q 2TB box to your package to get access to Sky 4K content. So how much will that cost?

Existing Multiscreen customers (i.e. those with Sky+) taking a Sky Q Multiscreen subscription will pay up to £49/$73 for a Sky Q 1TB box, or up to £99/$148 for a Sky Q 2TB box. Those existing customers who don’t have Multiscreen but who want to upgrade to it will pay up to £199/$298 for a Sky Q 1TB or 2TB box. Sky says the prices will be discounted to £70/$105 for the Sky Q 1TB box or £60 for the Sky Q 2TB box for existing customers without a current Multiscreen subscription. Yes, you read that right – the 2TB box is actually cheaper.

Want to upgrade to Sky Q without Multiscreen? The standard £199/$298 set-up fee applies whether you take the 1TB or 2TB box.

The good news is that Sky Ultra HD won’t cost you extra.

What about Sky Q 4K Ultra HD?

Sky Ultra HD launched on 13th August 2016. You will need the top Sky Q 2TB box to watch it.

Sky was adamant 4K was fairly low down most consumers’ wishlists, so was happy to wait in order to give them 4K. It now touts its service as “the UK’s most comprehensive Ultra High Definition service”, and we’re loathe to disagree.

Sky’s 4K programming features live sport, including Premier League football and Formula 1 (cricket will arrive in July 2017), plus 4K films, TV shows and documentaries. Ultra HD programming is available live and also on-demand and to rent via the Sky Store.

Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, Sky 1, Sky Atlantic and Sky Living all feature 4K content, with shows including The Blacklist, Ross Kemp Extreme World, Hammond in the Jungle, Fortitude and Jamestown

Sky showed 124 Premier League matches in Ultra HD throughout the 2016/17 football season. At launch, there were some 42 films available in Ultra HD on Sky Cinema (formerly known as Sky Movies). Sky is also showing all the 2017 Formula One season races in Ultra HD.

The first 4K BBC iPlayer demo was also made available on Sky Q, suggesting we can expect any full launch of 4K BBC content to make its way on to Sky via the service.

When it comes to other 4K broadcasters, BT’s rival Ultra HD YouView box has offered 4K since July 2015, with an average of one live sports event in UHD per week.

Virgin announced its V6 4K TV box in December 2016, offering access to 4K content from Netflix and YouTube.

Sky Q interface

The new Sky Q interface

The platform has a different interface to Sky+, and it appears on all the Sky Q products. The layout has the simple aim of making it easier for users to find the programmes they’re looking for – a key improvement requested by existing Sky customers.

Some features launched on the Sky Q interface have also now been rolled-out to HD customers.

The Q interface aims to blur the boundaries between live and on-demand content, serving up any and every available showing of each programme thanks to a redesigned search. The interface is a picture-led, tile layout, rather than the more text-heavy original Sky+ EPG.

There’s greater emphasis on recommended content, too, with My Q and Top Picks menus serving up programmes you might like based on your viewing habits. Interestingly this changes according to the time of day, second-guessing what you might want to watch at a given time.

Content types, such as Sports, Kids and Music, are broken down into sections, and combine Sky programmes with app content, such as YouTube.

You can slide around the EPG with the new touchpad remote, which also has some new one-touch buttons to key content areas, such as your recordings. There isn’t however a ‘backwards EPG’, which would allow you to scroll back through the TV guide – a notable feature of Virgin’s TiVo box and its more recent V6 box.

Since launch the Sky Q interface has also added Top Picks and Auto Play features, plus voice search.

New features are scheduled for launch later in 2017, including extra recording functionality, better personalisation and Dolby Atmos audio.

My Q and Top Picks promise programmes you might like based on your existing viewing habits.

Sky Q app

The Sky Q app is available for Android and Apple phones and tablets, giving the same look and feel as the interface on your TV.

You can access your Sky box’s recordings on the app, allowing you to stream recorded, as well as live, content anywhere else in the house on your mobile device. And that’s not all: for the first time, Sky Q brings the ability to download programmes for offline viewing.

Sky doesn’t have the rights for you to download everything – BBC content is absent, for example, as the Beeb would no doubt rather you use iPlayer – but for everything else you can save it to your device and take it with you to watch on the move, without streaming charges or even the need for a network signal.

(whathifi.com, https://goo.gl/4bTDLh)

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