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Sky Q review

What Hi-Fi? Awards 2021 winner. The future of TV with a hefty price tag to match

Sky Q review

Our Verdict

The future of TV with an impressive price tag to match

For

  • Great content, with plenty of 4K
  • Impressive picture and sound
  • Multi-room TV really works

Against

  • Expensive
  • Touchpad remote can be fiddly

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The future of TV with an impressive price tag to match

Pros

  • + Great content, with plenty of 4K
  • + Impressive picture and sound
  • + Multi-room TV really works

Cons

  • - Expensive
  • - Touchpad remote can be fiddly

Sky Q is the biggest overhaul Sky has given to its package since it introduced Sky+, aiming to do for television what Sonos did to music – and make it truly multi-room.

The package is built around the Sky Q 1TB box, which essentially works as a hub, delivering content to up to two separate Sky Q Mini boxes and two tablets simultaneously around your home. In total, the box allows you to record six channels and watch a seventh simultaneously - if you can find enough screens.

Currently, in territories where Sky is available, you need to be connected to a satellite dish, although Sky has been promising for years now that a new box is on the way that will allow you to access Sky Q TV over broadband and remove the need for a dish. With any luck this will actually materialise one day.

What Sky Q boxes are available?

What Sky Q boxes are available?

Sky Q 2TB box

There are four Sky Q boxes, and the broadband hub. The main box is the Sky Q 1TB, which is the default box given to anyone taking out a new Sky Q subscription. There is also a Sky Q 2TB box, but this is now only available by special request and will set you back an extra £99. Both of these boxes handle 4K Ultra HD content.

A non-4K Sky Q 1TB box is also available for those who are happy watching in 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 1TB box

  • Ultra HD ready
  • 1TB storage
  • 12 tuners (three are dormant for now); can record six live shows while watching a seventh
  • HDMI, 2 x USB 2.0, digital optical out, ethernet, wireless
  • Wireless, Bluetooth
  • Dolby Digital and Dolby Atmos over HDMI. Dolby Digital over optical.
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on two tablets
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on up to two Q boxes 
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on up to two Q Mini 

Sky Q 2TB box (special order, formerly Sky Q Silver box)

  • Ultra HD ready
  • 2TB storage (1.7TB for customer use)
  • 12 tuners (three are dormant for now); can record six live shows while watching a seventh
  • HDMI, 2 x USB 2.0, digital optical out, ethernet, wireless
  • Wireless, Bluetooth
  • Dolby Digital and Dolby Atmos over HDMI. Dolby Digital over optical.
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on two tablets
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on up to two Q Mini boxes
  • Matt black finish

Sky Q mini box

  • Only available with Sky Q
  • HD
  • 1 x HDMI, 1 x USB, digital optical out,  Ethernet
  • Wireless, Bluetooth
  • Dolby Digital over HDMI or optical
  • Matt black finish

Build and design

Sky Q build and design

The Q boxes are easily the most attractive Sky has ever produced. The 2TB box befits the premium price you’re paying and the Minis look a bit like high-end wi-fi routers.  

But if you find them a bit plain, they’re small enough to tuck away behind the TV, and because the remotes work using Bluetooth, they don’t need line of sight to the box.

Sky Q build and design

The Mini boxes are plug ’n’ play, too. All they need is a power cable and a connection to the telly, so they can easily be moved around if required.

That doesn’t mean they’re less capable than the main 1TB box though; there’s still an optical out for audio, or they’ll output Dolby Digital over HDMI if it’s selected.

Sky Q build and design

The main Sky Q unit is clearly the best-connected Sky box yet. There’s built in wi-fi for connecting to the internet, but it’s the network it creates with the Mini boxes that makes Sky Q really stand out.

It’s a Sonos-style mesh network, meaning the speed of your broadband doesn’t matter – the wi-fi network itself determines how well the system streams content around your home. If you have Sky Broadband, each box also works as a wi-fi hotspot.

Using the Mini boxes is almost identical to using the main one. The UI is the same, it gives you access to anything on the main machine's hard drive (and you can delete stuff or download more) or watch live TV.

Fluid viewing

Sky Q fluid viewing

It’s part of Sky’s ‘Fluid Viewing’ concept, which also allows you to stream to a tablet. Again, quality is good and the signal solid. Our original iPad Mini lagged a little when scrolling through the EPG, but more recent iPads have no such problems.

Sky is keen to point out that it also allows you to stop watching a show on one TV and pick up on another screen elsewhere. You can, and it works seamlessly, but it’s not something that most people will make use of very frequently.

Fluid Viewing extends outside of the home, but only as far as caching downloaded or recorded Sky content on your tablet, so you can catch up with Game of Thrones on your commute, or fill up on movies for a long haul flight.

It’s reasonably fast too, so you don’t have to set it all to download the night before you leave in the morning. Allow about 60 seconds for every 10 minutes of TV you want to store.

Picture

Sky Q picture

When it comes to regular HD, which is what most users will watch most of the time, there are more hi-def channels on offer than ever.

Delve down to the more leftfield ones at the bottom of the EPG and things get fuzzy around the edges but, on the mainstream channels you’ll watch 99 per cent of the time, quality is excellent, particularly on Sky’s own channels. The Sky Cinema channels even use a new format that claims to improve picture quality.

In general the picture is crisp, packed with detail and with a pleasantly rich colour balance. Contrast levels are good, with good insight into dark scenes and plenty of punch in brights. Motion handling is smooth and mostly stable.

Importantly, quality on the extra boxes and tablets dotted around the home is excellent too.

On-demand content is downloaded rather than streamed, so the picture isn’t susceptible to breaking up or pixelating if someone elsewhere in the house starts streaming on Amazon Video and puts extra strain on the connection.

Ultra HD and HDR

Sky Q Ultra HD

4K Ultra HD content on Sky comes in the form of movies, TV shows and sports coverage, as well as titles from the Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ apps.

After a long wait, HDR finally debuted on Sky Q in May 2020 and the amount of HDR content has grown fairly rapidly since: there are now over 100 movies and 15 TV shows provided by Sky in HDR, plus the huge HDR libraries of the aforementioned embedded streaming services. Live Premier League football is now available in HDR, and more sport will be getting the high dynamic range treatment soon. Just note that not all Sky Q box models are compatible.

But even without HDR, sport in 4K looks great. From the club crests on player shirts to the native 4K animations, you can pick out all manner of detail in the Premier League coverage. Switch between HD and UHD broadcasts and there's a subtle lift in the nuanced details displayed on your telly.

Sky's 4K Formula 1 content easily matches the football for quality. Details on the race helmets and the logos on the cars are clearly visible, and the shots of cars cornering are wonderfully stable and composed. From the night racing in Bahrain to the sun-drenched Monaco circuit, the consistency of the image is superb.

4K movie content on Sky Q comes in two varieties. If you see the word 'Remastered' or 'Enhanced' at the top of the programme preview page, this indicates the title has a master in a higher resolution than HD and has been upconverted in post-production and remastered to 4K resolution.

Anything that doesn't say 'Remastered' or 'Enhanced' has either been recorded in Ultra HD or the studios (or Sky) have gone back to the original material and processed it with an Ultra HD workflow in post-production.

Tenet is one such 4K title and it looks sensational, with oodles of detail, crisp definition and enticing three-dimensionality. The HDR ensures there's plenty of pop and vibrancy, too.

The 'Enhanced' titles show surprising levels of clarity and detail - you'd be forgiven for thinking older movies would struggle against newer, fresher content. Happy Gilmore is 25 years old yet Sky's 4K version is by no means disgraced. The same goes for the It's a Wonderful Life.

Sound

Sky Q sound

The quality of the sound you’ll get from Sky Q depends largely on what you plug it into, but it supports Dolby Digital and Dolby Atmos, and can output to a 5.1 surround sound system or soundbar over HDMI or optical cable.

Not every channel supports these codecs, but it kicks in automatically when the relevant signal is detected. Who needs surround sound for University Challenge anyway?

Across the range of programme types sound quality is good. Voices are well articulated, whether it’s a drama or commentary during a cricket match, while music and effects are punchy without going over the top.

Sky Q sound

Volume seems to be well standardised across the channels, so you don’t have to keep reaching for the remote whenever you switch over.

Without help it will never replace a proper stereo system or even a decent Bluetooth speaker, but you can just about get away with using it to play music from a phone over AirPlay or Bluetooth, and Sky now has native apps for Spotify and BBC Sounds.

Features

Sky Q features

The Sky Q touch remote is a fraction of the size of its hefty predecessor. The part you’ll use most is the touch sensitive panel that naturally rests under your thumb. Swipe left, right, up and down to navigate Q’s redesigned menu, and push it in to select a channel, download a show or confirm a setting.

That UI is a revelation – it makes the old Sky+ EPG look positively antique. A number of tweaks since launch have seen it become slicker and better tailored to your watching habits, offering up programmes and films based on your viewing habits, while giving you easy access to your recordings. 

Frequent updates have made it even easier to navigate, too: 'expanded view' has replaced the static side-bar menu with a collapsible one that can be hidden to give more screen real-estate to what you're actually browsing.

Each popular Sky TV show now has a ‘show centre’, too, a hub from which users can access all seasons, episodes, broadcast schedules and on-demand links, and these show centres even exist for certain Disney+ shows such as WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.

What's more, if you can't be bothered to type a show's name into your remote, you can simply say it instead the set's voice recognition will take you right to it. If you're not sure what to watch, simply ask your remote "what should I watch?" and your box will offer you a raft of personalised suggestions from Sky, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and the BBC, depending on your subscriptions.

You can also search by more niche parameters, such as actors, directors or for film recommendations. Saying “thrillers with Nicole Kidman”, for example, will bring up relevant suggestions. And a simple utterance of "football" will take you to the football sport centre. Quite simply, it's one of the best voice assistants we've used.

Sky has also added a ‘smart’ button similar to Netflix’s ‘continue watching’, 'play from the start' and ‘play next episode’ one. Similarly, ‘sport centres’ for football, F1, cricket, golf, boxing, tennis (and more sports) are where sports fans can see the latest matches, news, fixtures, podcasts and tables.

Using the panel to swipe around the Sky Q interface soon becomes second nature, with the crescent-shaped area above it used to fast-forward and rewind. Tap and slide your thumb on the main pad and you can skip forwards and backwards even quicker.

Sky Q features

Sometimes it can be a little too sensitive, and it’s easy to accidentally pause or rewind what you’re watching by brushing against the wrong part of the remote. You can turn off the touch control if you prefer.

There’s an alternative remote that’s identical except for a set of standard directional buttons where the touch panel is. It’s this style of remote you get with the Minis.

Netflix’s original content grabs the headlines these days, but you can’t argue with the sheer quantity of what Sky offers. With over 350 live channels alone, not to mention all the on-demand movies and TV shows, the choice is second to none – and that’s before you factor in the live sport.

BT Sport might have eaten into Sky’s football offering, but Sky still shows the lion’s share of Premier League games, plus a wealth of world football.

BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and Channel 5 catch-up services are here too, with programmes downloaded to the box rather than streamed. Other apps on board include Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, Vevo and Disney+.

Price

Sky Q price

With Q, Sky really has never been better, but it has also never been more expensive. If that’s the elephant in the room, it’s a pretty sizeable one. All the possible package permutations are dizzying but if you want to watch 4K content in multiple rooms, then you're going to be paying out a pretty penny. 

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 service has evolved. The Sky Q box has become the standard Sky machine, so when it comes to buying a Sky bundle you are in fact buying a Sky Q bundle.

Pricing fluctuates regularly but, at the time of writing, the current entry-level Sky Q package is 'Signature', which will set you back £25 per month and a one-off payment of £20. This gets you the Sky Q 1TB box and the basic Sky TV channels, plus Netflix.

If you want to watch content in higher quality than ugly standard-def, you're going to want to plump for the HD pack (£7 extra per month) or the Ultra HD + HD pack (£11 extra per month), and going for Multiscreen will cost you an extra £15 per month.

You can then add Multiscreen (£15 extra per month), Sky Cinema (£11 extra per month), Sky Sports (£20 extra per month), BT Sport (£27 extra per month), Kids (£5 extra per month) and/or Disney+ (£7.99 per month, so no cheaper than subscribing directly).

Sky offers incentives for combining add-ons, so adding Multiscreen and Ultra HD together will cost you £22 per month (a saving of £4 per month), and subscribing to both Sky Sports and BT Sport will net you a saving of a tenner a month (£27 per month rather than £37).

As mentioned, pricing and bundles change regularly, so keep an eye on our best Sky Q deals page for the latest and lowest prices.

Verdict

As an overall package, Sky Q feels utterly contemporary, combining almost every way of watching TV and allowing you to access them all over your home (and, to an extent, outside). 

Make no mistake, this is as good as TV gets – if you can bear the not inconsiderable cost.

MORE: 

Sky Q tips, tricks and features

Sky will broadcast live HDR sport in 2021

The best TV box sets and films on Sky and Now TV

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


Read more about how we test

  • Friesiansam
    Sadly, no matter how good the box is, most of the available programmes are either rubbish, repeats or repeated rubbish, such is 21st century TV.
    Reply
  • Paul_L
    SkyQ is great in theory but in practice the sound over HDMI constantly drops out (worst on downloads, recordings and streaming). Sky engineer's are completely incapable of rectifying this issue and seem to have an attitude that it doesn't exist (read all the various online forums, including Sky's own, and you'll see how severe the issue is!).
    Sky helpdesk can only suggest connecting via optical not HDMI - fine for good old 5.1 sound but OPTICAL DOES NOT SUPPORT DOLBY ATMOS!!
    When I tried explaining that I'd upgraded to a 4k TV, and spent £2k on an Atmos sound system and that's why I'd upgraded to SkyQ, they simply could not understand the difference between Atmos and DolbyD.
    Customer service over this has been shocking - 3 months in to my upgrade and mot enjoyed a single movie yet without repeated sound dropout (anything from a split second upto 2-3 seconds at a time). This is not a broadcast / download issue as can rewind and replay and sound is there for that moment, so clearly an issue with HDMI circuitry or software.

    Very poor show from Sky!
    Reply
  • Sliced Bread
    We dropped Sky years ago and honestly haven’t missed it. There is so much out there that it’s just not necessary to have a box broadcasting repeats and the occcssional good show.

    Instead we use Netflix, Prime abs Freeview which has LOADS of high quality programs and it still undercuts Sky on price enormously.
    Reply
  • SparkyOnTv
    Five stars?!? Really?! As good as television gets?!? Bullsh*t. You clearly didn't live with the box for any length of time or compare it to other services in terms of picture and sound quality. The box in its current form is not fit for purpose. Sound drop-outs, unusable apps due to buffering, awful picture quality, the list goes on. You're a mug if you think Sky's service is worth paying for.
    Reply
  • DELBOY14
    Paul_L said:
    SkyQ is great in theory but in practice the sound over HDMI constantly drops out (worst on downloads, recordings and streaming). Sky engineer's are completely incapable of rectifying this issue and seem to have an attitude that it doesn't exist (read all the various online forums, including Sky's own, and you'll see how severe the issue is!).
    Sky helpdesk can only suggest connecting via optical not HDMI - fine for good old 5.1 sound but OPTICAL DOES NOT SUPPORT DOLBY ATMOS!!
    When I tried explaining that I'd upgraded to a 4k TV, and spent £2k on an Atmos sound system and that's why I'd upgraded to SkyQ, they simply could not understand the difference between Atmos and DolbyD.
    Customer service over this has been shocking - 3 months in to my upgrade and mot enjoyed a single movie yet without repeated sound dropout (anything from a split second upto 2-3 seconds at a time). This is not a broadcast / download issue as can rewind and replay and sound is there for that moment, so clearly an issue with HDMI circuitry or software.

    Very poor show from Sky!
    Never had a problem, SkyQ 2TB, AV amp Pioneer SC-LX59, 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos speaker set up, Musical Fidelity M3si driving front speakers through the AV amp.
    Make sure your HDMI cable is good for 18Gbs and from a quality manufacture like like Chord. If your steaming you need to look at your Ethernet cables, and the download data and load it under test as here is more likely the fault. borrow a 4K player and film and see if it happen with those connected, narrow down the components one at a time including cables.
    If Sky had these problems everyone would have it, most have no problem.
    Reply
  • North2South
    The extremely favourable review of Sky Q suggests to me an almost ideal setup. Individuals who have purchased Sky Q clearly report a less favourable situation and several other forums have negative reports about the reliability of the system.
    The Review states that "the wi-fi network itself determines how well the system streams content around your home " and my experience, along with many others, is that the reception by the mini-box is particularly sensitive to interference, resulting in pixilation, or complete drop-out of the stream, including the sound. This interference (source unknown) became so bad we would loose the Sky stream every day for several minutes at a time throughout the day, but at random times. Sky's solution was to hardwire the system, which defeats the idea behind Sky Q, but my own solution was to swap the location of the main box and the mini-box, in relation to the router, and this has helped. However, be wary as the Sky Engineer wouldn't reinstall the terrestrial TV connections they had undone and we had to pay an external engineer to do this (Sky have recently settled a complaint about this by paying the engineer's cost).
    So, if you plan to install Sky Q, check the quality of your current WiFi signal around the room you want the mini-box to be installed in and be wary of the presence of white goods, concrete floors and external 5GHz sources (e.g. other Sky installations).
    Reply
  • Rodney _trotter
    SparkyOnTv said:
    Five stars?!? Really?! As good as television gets?!? Bullsh*t. You clearly didn't live with the box for any length of time or compare it to other services in terms of picture and sound quality. The box in its current form is not fit for purpose. Sound drop-outs, unusable apps due to buffering, awful picture quality, the list goes on. You're a mug if you think Sky's service is worth paying for.

    I just checked out Sky Q review on Trust Pilot. OMG!!! Over1700 reviews of which 86% are 1 star. There are numerous complaints of reliability and other issues. How can What Hifi give this 5 stars yet the British paying public overwhelmingly give this one star? How can the what hifi review be so wrong and out of touch?
    Reply
  • erbasically
    Rodney _trotter said:
    I just checked out Sky Q review on Trust Pilot. OMG!!! Over1700 reviews of which 86% are 1 star. There are numerous complaints of reliability and other issues. How can What Hifi give this 5 stars yet the British paying public overwhelmingly give this one star? How can the what hifi review be so wrong and out of touch?
    To be fair very few reviews on Trustpilot are of the actual Sky Q box. I particularly liked the one-star review for the "cheap homemade style loosely described movies". The Sky Q system does have some irritating design quirks and many people have had issues with sound dropouts so maybe the review should have mentioned those aspects in the interest of balance.
    Reply
  • Rodney _trotter
    erbasically said:
    To be fair very few reviews on Trustpilot are of the actual Sky Q box. I particularly liked the one-star review for the "cheap homemade style loosely described movies". The Sky Q system does have some irritating design quirks and many people have had issues with sound dropouts so maybe the review should have mentioned those aspects in the interest of balance.

    Hello erbasically,

    This was the link I was directed to from a Google search on “trust pilot sky q”.

    https://www.trustpilot.com/review/www.sky.it?b=MTYxNzQ3MzQzMzAwMHw2MDY4YWY5OWY4NWQ3NTA4NzA0NjlkMzc
    this link appears to just be for Sky Q hardware (with approx 1700 reviews rather than the 7000+ if you just Google “trust pilot sky”).

    It amazing how many of the reviews on that link critique the design of sky q vs the old sky hd. Many begging for sky hd back. Some really unhappy reviews / experiences.

    Mentioning as there seem to be two threads on Trust Pilot, one for sky in general and the one I have tioned specifically for sky Q.
    Reply
  • erbasically
    Rodney _trotter said:
    Hello erbasically,

    This was the link I was directed to from a Google search on “trust pilot sky q”.

    https://www.trustpilot.com/review/www.sky.it?b=MTYxNzQ3MzQzMzAwMHw2MDY4YWY5OWY4NWQ3NTA4NzA0NjlkMzc
    this link appears to just be for Sky Q hardware (with approx 1700 reviews rather than the 7000+ if you just Google “trust pilot sky”).

    It amazing how many of the reviews on that link critique the design of sky q vs the old sky hd. Many begging for sky hd back. Some really unhappy reviews / experiences.

    Mentioning as there seem to be two threads on Trust Pilot, one for sky in general and the one I have tioned specifically for sky Q.
    Hello Rodney _trotter,

    That thread is pretty damning. I didn't find it before because it's associated with Sky Italia (sky.it) even though it's about the UK broadcaster, possibly because people wanted to create a new thread just for Sky Q. I do agree that the issues with Sky Q should have been ironed out by now and some of the design niggles are just silly. Why have three buttons that take you from standby to the home screen but none that go straight to live TV, for example? Issues like that and the sound drop-outs should be mentioned in reviews.
    Reply