I'm just back from a morning at Sky's extremely swish campus in Osterley, and I've got some exciting news for Sky Glass owners and potential buyers. You see, while most of my visit was dedicated to the Sky Stream Puck – which goes on sale tomorrow and makes the Sky Glass experience available to those who don't want the Sky Glass TV – Sky also snuck in a surprise demo of an update that's coming to existing Sky Glass TVs and that appears to transform picture quality for the better.
In characteristically candid fashion, Fraser Stirling, Sky's Global Chief Product Officer, explained that while the vast majority (80 per cent) of Sky Glass customers love the picture and sound quality provided, the local dimming, in particular, isn't performing as it should. This is something we highlighted in our original Sky Glass review, commenting that the TV "looks a little washed out and lacking in vibrancy", and that it has "limited contrast".
Rather than rest on its laurels, Sky has gone to seemingly great lengths to squeeze more performance out of the existing Glass hardware, and in a side-by-side comparison of pre- and post-update Sky Glass TVs, the results look transformative.
The update is focused on the backlight and the way the TV's local dimming algorithm controls how it is used. Essentially, the backlight is currently guilty at times of artificially (and somewhat aggressively) brightening or darkening the picture, and of struggling to combine bright and dark picture elements. A selection of test patterns involving white rectangles of various sizes and increasing brightness provides a stark demonstration of the current issue, with the un-updated TV aggressively dimming the rectangles, which should be increasing in intensity. The TV with the new software, meanwhile, deftly handles each increase in brightness – and without any obvious loss in the depth of the surrounding black.
Of course, test patterns, while occasionally useful, can only reveal so much, but the updated TV seemed to be just as much of a step forward with the selection of 'real' content that Sky used for the demo, which included clips from Spider-Man: No Way Home, Gangs of London and a Premier League match. The improvements were obvious: Spider-Man looked significantly brighter and more vibrant, the Gangs of London clip contained lots more shadow detail, and the Premier League game had lots more pop to colours. As promised, contrast is the real winner here, with every image having more impact thanks to the better combination of bright and dark picture elements.
While demo sessions such as this must always be taken with a pinch of salt, this update appears to be a huge improvement for Sky Glass, and we're really not used to seeing big picture upgrades being delivered via software.
That said, it must be remembered that Sky Glass is, at heart, a mid-range TV, and therefore only so much performance can be squeezed out of it. It's clear during the demo that even the post-update TV unsurprisingly can't hit the black depths of an OLED or top-notch Samsung QLED. There were also moments when colours looked slightly less rich on the updated TV than they did on the existing one – the red of a football shirt appeared a little less intense, for example.
To say that the demo suggested the upcoming update is more gain than pain would be an understatement, though. Picture performance appears to be vastly improved, and we can't wait to put the update through its paces in our test rooms. While Sky wouldn't put a specific date on the update, the company did say it should be released either before the end of the year or early in 2023.
Check out our Sky Glass TV review
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