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Sky Ultra HD has been on the cards since the arrival of company's next-generation Sky Q platform.

Finally it's here - or at least it will be when Sky's live and on-demand 4K content launches on Saturday 13th August. 

MORE: Sky Ultra HD service launches on the 13th August

4K content

Rather than a Sky 4K channel, all of the Sky Ultra HD movies, dramas, and natural history programmes will be on-demand. Live Sky 4K broadcasts are reserved for Premier League football. Lots of Premier League Football. Sky will broadcast a total of 124 Premier League matches in 4K throughout the 2016/2017 season, starting with Leicester versus Hull on 13th August at 12:30pm.

There are also 4K films. Forty-two Sky 4K movie titles will hit Sky Cinema at launch, including the premiere of The Martian on Sky in Ultra HD.

Other Ultra HD movies will be a mix of rentals through the Sky Store (available to all Sky Q Silver subscribers) or free downloads from Sky's extensive catalogue. The list includes The Revenant, the entire Ghostbusters and Men In Black box sets, Minority ReportThe GodfatherJerry Maguire and the Spider-Man trilogy.

You can take your pick from five different Sky 4K TV series, including The Blacklist.

MORE: Sky confirms 4K Formula 1 from 2017


Before we get stuck into how the Sky 4K content looks, a couple of things need to be brought to the attention of any potential or current Sky Q Silver subscribers.

Sky Ultra HD comes with no additional charge, but you still need to subscribe to the relevant entertainment and/or sports packages to take advantage of 4K programmes. You can, however, rent 4K movies through the Sky Store even if you don't subscribe to these packages. New releases cost £6.99 while older library titles cost £5.99 to rent.

In advance of Sky Ultra HD going live, Sky Q Silver boxes require a firmware update that will enable them to output 2160p resolution. The standard Sky Q box isn't UHD-compatible, nor is the multi-room Mini box. Sky rolled out the Ultra HD update to all Sky Q Silver boxes at the end of July 2016.

Not sure if you've had the update? If your Silver box picture settings have the option to output 2160p resolution, then you're good to go. 

MORE: Best 4K TVs 2016

More after the break

So how do you set your Sky Q Silver box to 2160p? There are a couple of ways: you can either do it manually through the box's picture settings, or you're prompted to change the resolution the first time you attempt to watch 4K video.

It's worth noting that, once you've swapped the resolution to 2160p, this will be the default resolution of your Sky Q Silver box even when you're not watching Sky UHD content. All standard-definition and high-def programmes will now be upscaled by the box instead of your 4K TV.

Sky has done this, it says, to keep the user experience as consistent as possible and to prevent any loss of picture when your TV recognises a change in resolution.

In addition to enabling 2160p resolution, your Sky Q Silver box will also be able to determine whether your 4K TV supports 8-bit or 10-bit colour and will adjust its output settings accordingly.

MORE: 4K Ultra HD TV: everything you need to know


Where available, Ultra HD content is one of the options you see in the sub-menus for each relevant category. This option is hard to miss and easy to select using the touchpad remote.

We stumbled across a couple of programmes available in 4K in the menu system, which were flagged up as 4K thanks to a small UHD logo in the preview panel at the top right corner of the screen.

If you punch in the number for the Sky Sports channel showing Premier League Football, you are then prompted to select the UHD broadcast via an on-screen pop-up.

MORE: 5 things we learned watching BT Sport Ultra HD


First we saw a few examples of Sky's Ultra HD movies, dramas and natural history programmes. First up was The Revenant, starring Leonardo Di Caprio.

Sky used an LG 4K OLED television as the display, so it was tricky to tell how much of the image was down to the source and how much was the display, but the final result is certainly impressive. As the camera makes its way through the opening forest scene, all the ripples and reflections on the water appeared realistic with plenty of detail into the bargain. The sense of depth was also impressive as the camera peered through the trees into the distance.

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With a switch to Big Cat Diaries, there didn't seem to be any let-up in detail during the kitty close-ups, with fine detail on tap and fur looking realistic.

Finally, we treated ourselves to a quick blast of the opening scene from The Blacklist and the picture was awash with crisply drawn lines and, again, impressive levels of detail.

We'll be interested to see how older movies will look in 4K and whether any can match the Ultra HD Blu-ray equivalent.

MORE: 4K streaming vs 4K Blu-ray vs Blu-ray - which is best?

We were also shown a few clips from Celtic's recent International Champions Cup game against Leicester, which Sky used for one of its 4K trials.

And it's fair to say the picture really impressed, especially with the amount of detail on display. From the club crests on player shirts to the blades on the bottom of their boots, you could pick out all manner of subtle nuance.

It was all helped by a notable lack of on-screen noise, and even when viewing the footage up close there was still an excellent level of clarity.

We also had the chance to compare the 4K recording to an HD stream of another match at the same tournament. And the differences were night and day. The HD picture didn't appear to have the same depth of field and seemed to be hindered by the presence of digital noise and artefacts.

The UHD picture appeared a lot clearer and more immersive, with sharper lines and a greater depth of field, although the TV's upscaling comes into the equation, primarily its ability to upscale HD content to Ultra HD.

The focus of images in the foreground and background wasn't wholly consistent with 4K, though. Watching the 4K picture from the most-used, side-on angle, the clarity and detail didn't always seem uniform when moving your attention from the bottom to the top of the shot.

Occasionally, you could see players at the top of the screen away from the action snapping into focus a little later than the players in possession of the ball.

But with all that being said, we couldn't help but be encouraged by what we saw. Sky said it's experimenting with cameras and lenses to iron out any potential kinks and still has a couple of broadcast trials to carry out before the big day.


Initial verdict

The initial signs for Sky Ultra HD are very promising. The fear that Sky would charge extra for its UHD content has been unfounded, and Sky is now able to give the likes of Amazon Video and Netflix a run for their money when it comes to the quantity of 4K content on offer.

With Formula 1 scheduled to arrive in UHD on Sky from the 2017 season onwards, eyes will also turn to BT and its next move on the 4K sports front.

Sky Ultra HD is one of the biggest AV developments of 2016, and we can't wait to take it for a proper spin.

Get Sky UltraHD here