Sky’s Now TV box had fallen slightly behind its rivals. It wasn’t so much that we weren’t able to stream from competing services such as Netflix or Amazon Instant Video – you wouldn’t expect to buy Sainsbury’s products at Tesco, after all.
What concerned us was that Now TV couldn’t match its competitors’ 1080p Full HD video output, and that was enough to drop its fifth star.
But if you read our news report in March, you’ll know that has now been remedied. The box – essentially a rebranded version of the much-heralded Roku 2 – also has 7.1 and 5.1 surround sound pass through.
MORE: Now TV Smart Box review
Ease of use
We sign up for our free 30-day trial of the Movies package, which is dead easy (though, spending 15 minutes typing in our username and password with a remote control makes us wish we'd chosen shorter ones).
The new Ethernet input now bypasses any issues you might have with temperamental wireless broadband, then there’s nothing much for you to do once signed in except visit settings and change video output from 720p to 1080p (it would be nice to have an ‘automatic’ setting here, to see the content in its native format).
Now TV claims the new box is five times faster than its predecessor and we’re inclined to believe them. Navigation is simple, tidy and ever so quick.
Not once do we have to wait for the box to catch up, which is more than many, far more expensive Smart TVs can say for themselves. We find and select everything we’d like to see – whether it’s from Sky Movies’ catalogue, the live channel stream or other catch-up service (BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 – formerly 4OD – and Demand 5 are all here) – and it plays almost immediately.
We can have no complaints about the box itself, or its apps; most of what you’ll need is already there and there’s a microSD slot to expand storage for more (you can access a range, from Spotify to Facebook and Flickr). Sure, they have ostracised competitors, but – and especially for the asking price – the plethora of content is quite incredible.
Having paid £14.99 for the box – the price of three or four pints in most places – monthly passes for Movies and Entertainment are only £9.99 and £6.99 respectively.
Sports channels are a tad steeper, beginning at £6.99 for a day pass, but if you were adamant on watching every mid-table Eredivisie clash you’d probably have a full subscription anyway. (For £24.99, starter packages are also available for the box and two months of Movies, three months of Entertainment or two days of Sports.)
If Sky isn't your particular cup of tea and you're looking for a 4K fix, there's always the excellent Amazon Fire TV (2015) box.
But, for Smart TV and Sky content on a budget, this can’t really be bettered. If the available content suits your needs, we struggle to see how this could be achieved more simply or at more reasonable cost.
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