Sky has made its most significant announcement in years with the simultaneous launch of both a new service, Sky Q, and new Ultra HD 4K capable hardware.
We were teased the announcement back at the end of October with the promise the new offering would, ‘Set Your TV Free,’ which left us speculating as to what that would actually entail but now it’s clear that Sky is fighting new battles on two fronts.
Sky were always going to counter BT, who stole a march on them by being the first out of the gates with an Ultra HD capable Set Top Box, but they are now, more than ever, going to toe-to-toe with the likes of Netflix with both their live and streamed content presented in a much more 21st Century fashion, with features like tailored content recommendations present. Of course, what Sky has that Netflix et al can’t match is a wealth of live TV content which they will blend in to their user experience.
We have to say that Sky has really pushed the boat out on the feature set of the Sky Q with the ability to watch on 3 TVs and 2 tablets at once and also record 4 programmes simultaneously, thanks to 12 built-in tuners and 2TB of storage. The new box is half the size of the previous Sky box and includes the new Q remote. This redesigned controller incorporates a swipe capability and will add voice control in 2016.
The Sky Q App will add Sky TV to any mobile device, allowing you to access all channels and online content, as well as watch content recorded on the box on your tablet or smartphone. If you pause a show in one room, you can pick it up where you left off in another, which is probably a good time to mention the Sky Q Mini which is a networked device, for multiroom, with virtually all the capabilities of the larger box, only it doesn’t have any tuners; both the Sky Q and Q Mini also include both AirPlay and Bluetooth connectivity.
Along with the new Sky Q Box and Sky Q Mini, there is also the Sky Q Hub which includes the latest WiFi technology and the ability to use your home's electrical circuit to distribute Ethernet around the house - handy if there's an issue with the WiFi reception or any dead zones. Although that shouldn't be a problem because the Sky Q Hub also turns every Sky Q Mini into a WiFi hot spot.
What we were really hoping to learn were Sky’s plans for 4K content and, sure enough, the Sky Q is Ultra HD capable but the content won’t be there until later in 2016, with both UHD movies, original programming and sports promised.
"Sky Q is a brilliant new way for customers to experience TV on their terms. It reimagines TV so that it's flexible and seamless across different screens, "said Jeremy Darroch, Sky Group Chief Executive.
We’ve only had glimpses of the new user interface, so far, but we have to say we like what we’ve seen with a new streamlined look and a shortcuts bar on the right-hand-side of the screen.
Existing customers on Sky + and NOW TV services have no need to fret, by the way, as Sky Q is intended to sit alongside the current services and not immediately replace them. We have yet to be given pricing details but this is not likely to be a budget offering so place your bets on what it will cost…
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