Our Verdict 
A good spread of 4K content and excellent picture quality - Sky's Ultra HD service delivers
For 
Impressive picture quality
Good selection of 4K content
Against 
Subscribing to all the necessary packages is pricey
Reviewed on

If content is king, this puts Sky in quite a powerful position. The company's Ultra HD service offers one of the widest selections of 4K content you can experience. But how does the service shape up, is the picture quality up to scratch and how convincing a proposition is it for those who don't currently subscribe to Sky's ecosystem?

4K content

If you own a Sky Q 2TB box (formerly Sky Q Silver), you can access live and on-demand 4K content through Sky's Ultra HD service.

Rather than a dedicated Sky 4K channel, all of the Sky Ultra HD movies, dramas, and natural history programmes are on-demand. Live Sky 4K broadcasts are mainly reserved for Premier League football and Formula 1 racing, although Sky will extend its 4K sports coverage to cricket in 2017, starting with the England versus South Africa test series in July. Sky also broadcast the 2017 Isle of Wight Festival in 4K.

There are also 4K films. Forty-two Sky 4K movie titles hit Sky Cinema at launch back in August 2016, and that number has been gradually increasing ever since.

Other Ultra HD movies are a mix of rentals through the Sky Store (available to all Sky Q 2TB 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 a number of different Sky 4K TV series, including The Blacklist, The Young Pope, Riviera and Jamestown. These are available to download in 4K after they've been broadcast in HD.

MORE: Sky confirms 4K Formula 1 from 2017

Features

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 subscribers with a Sky Q 2TB box.

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.

Sky Q 2TB boxes running Sky's latest software will all be able to output 2160p resolution. Just to clarify, the standard Sky Q 1TB box isn't UHD-compatible, nor is the multi-room Mini box. You can only access 4K content through the 2TB Sky Q box.

MORE: Best 4K TVs 2017

More after the break

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

It's worth noting that, once you've swapped the resolution to 2160p, this is now the default resolution of your Sky Q 2TB box even when you're not watching Sky UHD content. All standard-definition and high-def programmes will 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 can 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

Interface

Where available, Ultra HD content is one of the options you see in the sub-menus for relevant categories such as Sky Cinema, Sky Box Sets and Sports. This option is hard to miss and easy to select using the touchpad remote.

Programmes are also flagged up as 4K via a small UHD logo in their 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'll see a prompt to select the UHD broadcast.

MORE: 5 things we learned watching BT Sport Ultra HD

Performance

4K content on Sky Q is available in two flavours. If you see the word 'Remastered' in the programme preview at the top of the page this indicates the title has a master in a resolution higher 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 full-fat 4K title and it looks sensational. As the camera makes its way through the opening forest scene, all the 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 of his costume is superb, with different textures and even the finest of stitches all visible.

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.

Sure, some of the models and special effects look a little raw and rustic 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 actually detract.

Sport in 4K looks inviting too. From the club crests on player shirts to the blades on the bottom of their boots to the native 4K animations, you can pick out all manner of detail in the Premier League broadcasts. Switch between the HD and UHD broadcasts and although the differences aren't what we'd class as night and day, there's a subtle lift in the nuanced details displayed on your telly.

There's a notable lack of on-screen noise, so there's great depth to the image too. This is very apparent on Sky's 4K Formula 1 content which easily matches the quality of the football.

Logos and names on cars are clearly visible, details on race helmets shots of cars cornering, the image is wonderfully stable and composed. From the night racing in Bahrain to the sun-drenched Monaco circuit, the consistency of image is superb.

 

Verdict

If you're already own a 4K TV, a Sky Q 2TB box and subscribe to the relevant packages, it's hard not to be impressed by Sky's Ultra HD service and the picture on your 4K TV will have never looked better.

It's given the market a much-need injection of 4K content and that amount is only going to grow over time. Admittedly, subscribing to all the relevant packages isn't the cheapest way to experience 4K, but in a market driven by content, Sky's holding a lot of the cards.

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

Get Sky UltraHD here

 

The Competition 

Virgin TV V6

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BT TV G5

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