The New Year is just around the bend, and whilst for most of us that means coming out of a hedonistic Christmas food coma and promising to make a change, Sky are facing down the barrel of another Sky+ anniversary. January 2016 will mark the 16th anniversary of the service which helped Sky grow into one of the biggest pay TV operators in the country. It was a box that introduced the idea of recording and manipulating live TV to the mainstream and gave us permission to make a cup of tea in the middle of a crucial scene. Quite simply, it changed the game for TV viewing in the UK, but as we near its 14th birthday, it’s beginning to look a little long in the tooth.
That’s why Sky recently took to the podium to announce Sky Q. It’s not quite a full replacement for Sky+, which will continue to exist as the entry-level Sky product, but it will replace Sky+ for those serious about their TV viewing. So, will Sky Q be a worthwhile upgrade for customers looking to improve upon their TV experience?
Let’s talk first about hardware, namely, the Sky Q box itself. The main hub box is known as Sky Q Silver. It’s a unit around half as thick as the current Sky+ HD box but it manages to fit a number of pretty impressive upgrades in. There’s now 12 separate tuners (up from 4) and 2TB of storage built-in to the device, for a huge collection of recordings. That increase in tuners means you can now accomplish things like having five different devices watching separate channels whilst continuing to record on two others. There’s also an all-new remote, which beeps if you lose it between the sofa cushions
Along with the main Silver unit, there are a number of smaller Sky Q Mini boxes, which connect to the main hub through a built-in Wi-Fi network and allow full access to all the features of the main box in rooms around your home. These can all be connected through an optional Sky Q Hub which uses Powerline and Wi-Fi technology to bring all your Sky Q boxes together in order to boost your homes Wi-Fi network, ensuring that your entire home is covered by strong Wi-Fi signal.
That alone might make it a worthwhile upgrade for those with large homes or multiple televisions, but that’s not all Sky Q offers. Along with dedicated boxes for TV viewing, Sky Q allows tablet users to transform their screen into another TV, with full access to recordings, live TV and all other Sky Q functions. More than that though, it’ll also allow you to do it out of the house, so you truly never miss a TV event again. It’s all tied together with a brand new user interface which brings everything bang up to date with a glossy new UI and built-in applications.
Perhaps the biggest upgrade though, and the one that will most certainly be missed by those who opt to stick with Sky+, is the move towards 4K. Currently, Sky don’t have a 4K service (they say that’ll come later in 2016), but Sky Q is fully compatible with the new service. With many, if not most, of new TVs coming with a 4K resolution as standard, the new Ultra-HD format is about to kick off in a major way, and with Sky Sports and Sky Movies, the company are in a superb position to take advantage and bring customers some great content.
So, is Sky Q a worthwhile upgrade? That’s going to be a matter of pricing when Sky announce it, but from a purely technological standpoint – absolutely.