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Sky Q review

What Hi-Fi? Awards 2019 winner. The future of TV with an impressive price tag to match

5 Star Rating
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

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 2TB box (formerly known as Sky Q Silver), 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 Sky Q 2TB 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 promised a new box is on the way which will allow you to access Sky Q TV over broadband and remove the need for a dish. We're waiting for further details on that.

What Sky Q boxes are available?

What Sky Q boxes are available?

Sky Q 2TB box

There are three Sky Q boxes, and the broadband hub. The two main boxes are the premium Sky Q 2TB (formerly Sky Q Silver) and Sky Q 1TB. 

The key difference is you need the 2TB box for 4K Ultra HD content.

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 2TB box (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
  • Powerline (only compatible with Sky products)
  • Matt black finish

Sky Q 1TB box

  • HD
  • 1TB storage (over 700GB for customer use)
  • 8 tuners; can record three live shows while watching a fourth
  • HDMI, 2 x USB 2.0, digital optical out, Ethernet
  • Wireless, Bluetooth
  • Dolby Digital over HDMI or optical
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on one tablet
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on one Q Mini box
  • Powerline (only compatible with Sky products)
  • 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
  • Powerline (only compatible with Sky products)
  • 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, you don’t need to point them directly at 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 2TB 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

There’s no doubt this is 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 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 our iPad Pro (9.7in) had no such problems.

Sky is keen to point out that it also allows you stop watching a show on one TV and pick up on another screen elsewhere. You can, and it works seamlessly, but it’s not really something we’ve ever had any cause to use.

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 ones. 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

Sky Q Ultra HD

4K Ultra HD content on Sky comes in the form of movies, TV shows and, most recently, Netflix. One thing missing, is HDR video. HDR support should arrive at some point in 2019.

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' 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' 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.

The Revenant is one such 4K title and it looks sensational. In the opening forest scene, ripples and reflections on the water appear realistic with plenty of detail. The sense of depth is also impressive as the camera peers through the trees into the distance.

Deadpool is another blockbuster that looks stunning on a compatible 4K TV. During the opening chase scene, the level of detail in his costume is superb, with even the finest of stitches visible.

Sky Q Ultra HD

The 'Remastered' titles show surprising levels of clarity and detail - you'd be forgiven for thinking older movies would struggle against newer fresher content. Robocop is 30 years old yet Sky's 4K version is by no means disgraced. The same goes for the original Ghostbusters movie.

Some of the models and special effects look a little raw, and the scenery gives the staging away, but by the same token, it makes the movies appear more authentic in an age where CGI can dominate and detract.

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 now 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.

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 can sometimes take one too many steps to get somewhere but it makes the old Sky+ EPG look positively antique. A few 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.

Using the panel to swipe around its menus 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.

Look closely at the side of the remote and you'll see a small button with a microphone logo. Hold this to activate voice search - and we'd suggest you do because it's impressively good at understanding commands and noticeably faster than text search. 

You can simply ask for a channel or programme, but you can also search by actor, director or for film recommendations. It's one of the best voice assistants we've used.

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 Spotify, YouTube and Vevo.

Netflix has finally arrived too, offering more 4K (but not HDR) content on-demand which you can access and search through using the standard Sky Q menus.

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.

For new customers, the entry-level Sky Q 'Entertainment' bundle is £22 per month which includes a one-off payment of £20. This gets you the cheaper Sky Q 1TB box and the basic Sky TV channels. The cheaper box means you don't get access to Sky 4K content. There are also Box Set and Kids bundles, which are another £5 per month extra each.

You can then add Sky Multiscreen (£12 extra per month), Sky Cinema (£11 extra per month) or Sky Sports (£23 extra per month). 

If you want Netflix bundled in with your Sky bills, then the Ultimate On Demand package, which combines Netflix with Sky Box Sets, costs an extra £12 per month.

Those of you who already subscribe to Netflix can access your account and watch 4K content through Sky Q without taking up the Ultimate On Demand package, but you will sacrifice HDR and Dolby Atmos.

You'll need to add the Sky Q 2TB box to your package to get access to Sky 4K content. So how much will that cost?

Currently, there's a £95 one-off cost to install a Sky Q 1TB box, which rises to £199 if you want to upgrade to Ultra HD and the Sky Q 2TB box. If you add Sky Q Multiscreen to the equation, this one-off fee drops to £65. Extra one-off costs are involved if you want to add multi-room via a Sky Q Mini box. 

Just opting for the service increases your monthly subscription by £13. Adding one Sky Q Mini box adds an extra £20 to your one-off fee, two ups the figure by £119, three sees it rise by £218 and if you can accommodate four boxes you'll need to add £317.

Needless to say you'll need plenty of screens and enough sets of eyes to point at them to justify an all-singing Sky Q set-up. It isn’t a system that you’ll get the most out of in a one-bedroom flat.

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). This is as good as TV gets – if you can bear the not inconsiderable cost.

MORE: 

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Specifications

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Technical Information

Frequency Range290 MHz to 2340 MHz
FeaturesBluetooth
Maximum Recording Time350 Hour

Interfaces-Ports

HDMIYes
Number of HDMI Outputs1
Number of HDMI Inputs1
HDCP SupportedYes
USBYes
Network RJ-45Yes

General Information

Product LineQ
Product NameQ 2TB Box
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.sky.com
Brand NameSky
Product TypeSatellite Receiver
ManufacturerBSkyB
Manufacturer Part NumberSkyQ2TB

Network and Communication

EthernetYes
Wireless LANYes

Video

Digital TunerDVB-S2, DVB-S
Aspect Ratio Supported16:9
Video Signal Standard4K UHDTV
Scan Format2160p

Power Description

Operating Power Consumption45 W
Input Voltage230 V AC

Audio

Sampling Rate32 kHz, 44.10 kHz, 48 kHz
Sound SystemDolby Digital

Physical Characteristics

Weight Approximate1.70 kg
Width33 cm
Depth21 cm
Height4.3 cm
ColourMatt Black, Silver
Dimensions4.3 cm (H): 33 cm (W): 21 cm (D)

Storage

Hard Drive Capacity2 TB