Sky Now TV Box
A great iPlayer upgrade for a ‘dumb’ TV or an easy way to access Spotify and pay-as-you-go Sky Movies and Sky SportsWrite your own review
- Low price
- iPlayer and catch-up apps for free
- Spotify and PPV Sky Movies and Sky Sports
- Easy to use
- Decent performance
- No remote app
- No Sky HD content
The Now TV Box is a £10 device that converts any TV with an HDMI input into a smart TV. It gives you BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, Spotify and other on-demand streaming services – and, crucially, it lets you access Sky Sports and Sky Movies on a pay-as-you-go basis, via Now TV. For a tenner, that sounds like a bit of a steal…
Now TV box: design
The small, lightweight Now TV Box is a “white labelled” Roku LT, customised with a Now TV interface, which brings with it the extra Sky content. Strictly speaking a separate company, “Now TV, powered by Sky” is a way to access Sky content without a Sky box, dish or TV contract.
The box we have here sports an HDMI output and a phono AV out for analogue audio and video. There’s no ethernet port, though: it’s wi-fi only (which is a shame, as we prefer a wired connection for network stability reasons).
Sky describes it as “smaller than a pub beer mat”, no doubt with a hefty wink at its target audience. It’s nothing to write home about in design terms, but at just over 8cm square, it’s at least easy to accommodate. And, as we’ll find ourselves saying throughout our time with the device... it is only a tenner.
The Now TV box comes with a simple, slim remote control. There’s no remote control app, though, nor does it work with the official Roku remote apps, but the interface is at least pretty simple to navigate without one.
A small LED power light is the only interruption to the design on the front, while "Now TV, powered by Sky" is embossed on the top.
Now TV box: features
So, what do you get? The main draw is access to the Sky content – though you do have to pay for this. Pay-as-you-go Sky Sports is available in 24-hour bundles for £9.99, while Sky Movies content is on a pay monthly basis, at £14.99 per month (there's a deal to get three months at £8.99/month at the moment).
However, Sky has now announced some Now TV Box bundle deals which give you the box plus a discounted Sky Sports or Sky Movies pass.
Elsewhere you get access to typical smart TV apps – more on those later – and the nice bonus of Spotify (you’ll need a Spotify Premium account to use it).
The Sky Sports package gives you access to all six Sky Sports TV channels, streaming live. Start your 24-hour pass at any time and get access to all the content. Simple. The £10 price might seem expensive but it’s no surprise to see Sky protecting its main asset: Sky Sports TV subscribers.
But if you aren’t buying more than one or two passes a month, or you share the cost of a ‘Super Sunday’ or F1 GP between mates, it’s not too costly. It’s certainly cheaper and easier than having a Sky dish and a monthly subscription.
Sky Movies is much more competitive. Up against the likes of Netflix and LoveFilm, Now TV is bullish about the films it has on offer, with Sky boasting a fair few films ‘at least 12 months’ before they appear elsewhere. There’s an impressively broad library of 700+ films and nice bonuses such as the complete Bond back catalogue. The live Sky movie channels are joined by an on-demand library, too; the Now TV Box prompts you if you start a movie halfway through that’s available on-demand.
As mentioned, it’s streaming only – so no downloads – and there’s currently no HD offering from Now TV’s Sky content. The Now TV Box outputs at a maximum resolution of 720p via HDMI and also delivers 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound where available.
It’s also worth pointing out that you can get Now TV on LG Smart TVs, Roku boxes, Xbox 360, PS3, Android devices, iPad, iPhone and YouView, though content offerings differ. (If you want iPlayer, Spotify and PPV Sky, though, this is the only way.)
Now TV box: set-up and interface
As we might expect from a Sky-related box, it’s a doddle to set-up and use, with a clean interface ensuring it’s easy to find all the available content.
To access the Now TV section you have to create an account on the Now TV website (your Sky or Sky Go account won’t work). This requires a login and password and entering card details – but for now you can just opt for the free Sky Movies pass so it needn’t cost you anything extra. (Yet.)
You can register up to four devices on your Now TV account, watch on two at the same time and make one change per calendar month to your registered devices.
The interface is a simple row of scrollable app tiles. The Settings tile is the place to check you’re getting 720p and “surround sound”. Next is the Roku Channel Store, in which you’ll find the apps.
Just click to install them and they’re pinned to the home screen. Within the Roku Channel Store, My Channels shows the apps you already have, followed by a New and a Most Popular row, before the apps are broken down by types of content: Film & TV, Music, Internet TV and so on.
The selection is pretty thorough, with BBC iPlayer, BBC News, Sky News, Demand 5, Spotify, Tunein, Vimeo, Facebook, TED, Flixster and IGN some of the highlights. A little preview box gives you a brief description should you not be sure if ‘Shalom Television Channel’ is for you.
Now TV is the next tile on the home screen after the Roku Store, and is where you find the juicy premium stuff: Sky Movies and Sky Sports. This is premium content, though it's worth pointing out the Now TV T&Cs say you can cancel these subscriptions at any time.
Now TV box: performance
The easy-to-use interface delivers pictures and sound that are more than adequate and compare favourably with streaming performance from similar devices. This does depend on your network speed, of course: Sky recommends at least 2.5Mbps. We generally prefer a wired connection for stability reasons, so check your wi-fi is up to the job.
Spotify works nicely, and has a clear, fully functional interface. You can access your saved playlists, see album artwork, search for tracks and everything else. Again, music performance is fine, largely dependent on the quality offered by Spotify – make sure you choose the highest quality option.
But as we use Spotify we realise why similar devices have smartphone remote control apps. The Now TV Box’s remote control is fine for most tasks, but entering text is cumbersome, as it always is on smart TVs.
A Now TV remote control app would be welcome, not least as Sky has delivered some neat apps for its TV and Sky Go services. Roku does offer an app remote control, but it isn’t compatible with this box.
Now TV box: verdict
The Now TV Box showed no sign of flakiness and has a smart custom interface that’s slick and intuitive. The remote and box do look and feel like an ‘affordable’ piece of kit, but then that’s what we’re dealing with here. £10 is real impulse purchase territory.
And the selection of content is great: getting iPlayer, Demand 5 and internet radio apps is a bit of a bargain on its own; pay for premium content such as Spotify and of course Sky’s Sports and Movies, and it offers a heck of a lot. For a £10 initial outlay, we think this is a no-brainer.
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