At the end of 2015, Sky announced a new premium TV service called Sky Q. It then became available to consumers from March 2016, with several different packages on offer.
Now it has entered a third phase, with 4K Ultra HD programming officially on the horizon.
But what is Sky Q exactly? What does it offer and why is it different to other paid TV services?
We answer those questions and more below, as we give you everything you wanted to know about Sky Q.
What is Sky Q?
Sky Q is the latest brand from Sky and it is not just a service, but a complete family of devices. It completely reinvents how Sky provides your television entertainment at home, incorporating a number of new elements, while still providing many of the features you expect from the TV company.
There are a range of Sky Q hardware devices, starting with a high-end Sky Q Silver set-top-box that's the brains behind the outfit and designed to sit in the living room, much like the existing Sky+HD box. There is also a second main set-top-box, called simply Sky Q, that has a smaller hard drive and lacks some features (such as Ultra HD support), but will likely be better for those on a budget.
There are also other devices and ways to connect, with a Sky Q Mini box to extend the Sky Q experience into other rooms along with a Sky Q Hub internet router, supporting Sky Q apps for mobile devices and a new Sky Q Touch remote.
The result is all-encompassing, letting you watch what you want, where you want and whenever you want. In many ways, Sky Q allows Sky to fend off many rival TV services, offering things like a more integrated EPG, multi-room solutions that connect to the Silver box yet work as if separate devices, as well as the ability to view and save recordings onto mobile devices to watch on the move.
Sky Q is very much Sky's "premium" TV service.
Sky Q: The hardware
Sky Q and Sky Q Silver box
The Sky Q Silver box replaces your traditional Sky+ or Sky+HD box under your TV. It offers a slim design, so is much more compact than previous Sky+ boxes. There are two boxes available, the Silver being the more advanced with 12 TV tuners, allowing recording of four channels while watching a fifth (the others are used for other features, including one reserved for live 4K UHD events). The Sky Q Silver STB allows viewing on two tablets, and supports two Sky Q Mini boxes to watch programming concurrently. All devices can view different content at the same time.
The Sky Q Silver box has a 2TB hard drive, which can store up to 350 hours of HD recordings. It will also support Ultra HD with a resolution of 2160p after a software update is delivered at the end of this month (July). Sky's 4K UHD programming will kick off (literally) with the start of the Premier League football season on 13 August.
At present it supports 1080p.
The regular Sky Q box has 1TB of storage (up to 150 hours of HD) and has fewer TV tuners - eight - only supporting simultaneous viewing on one tablet and one Sky Q Mini box. It is Full HD and won't be upgraded for Ultra HD. It will remain 1080p only.
Sky Q Mini box
The Sky Q Mini box is your gateway to viewing Sky content in other rooms. This connects to your main Sky Q box, either by Wi-Fi or via powerline networking, letting you use your electrical wiring to carry the information between boxes. Powerline networking is built-in across Sky Q devices.
It serves two purposes. First, it will kick in to ensure a stable connection between boxes when streaming video if there is a dip in the Wi-Fi connection for any reason. This will also work if you are with any broadband service provider.
Then there is the ability to turn your Sky Q Mini boxes into Wi-Fi extenders - additional hotspots dotted around the home. This also uses the powerline connection, but will only work if you also have Sky Broadband and the Sky Q Hub router.
You get full access to all the Sky Q features through the Mini box, be that live TV, watch recordings stored on the main Sky Q or Silver boxes, or view on demand content. The only obvious difference is that the EPG does not have picture-in-picture view of live programming on other channels - that's only available on the main Sky Q Silver or Sky Q boxes.
In addition, even if you have a Sky Q Silver box capable of playing 4K content, the Sky Q Mini boxes can still only play video in Full HD.
Sky Q Touch remote
The latest remote adds touch, so there is less button pressing and more swiping to help you get around. It's also a Bluetooth remote, so there's no need for line-of-sight, perfect for those who want to hide the Sky Q box out of sight.
It also features a built-in microphone, and in the future it will be offering voice as a search option, helping you quickly find your content.
Sky Q Hub
As Sky Q is super-connected, there's a dedicated Hub to sit behind it all. Like all of the Sky Q TV boxes, this router for Sky Broadband integrates powerline networking, so you can use the mains wiring to connect it to your Sky Q devices as well as use its Wi-Fi capabilities.
Dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz ac connectivity is offered for the latter.
You can also have any of the Sky Q boxes act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for your Sky Broadband. If you struggle to get a signal upstairs or in your man cave, Sky Q should now solve that problem.
Sky Q: Multi-screen viewing
One of the big changes that Sky Q brings about is putting a lot more flexibility into how you can watch your content in different rooms and on different devices. This is thanks to the multiple tuners in the Sky Q set-top box, allowing you to record, as well as share content around the house.
The Sky Q Mini box doesn't need to be connected to your satellite dish, it works wirelessly (or through powerline connectivity) so is a perfect bedroom solution. It's integrated with the main box experience, allowing you to view live or recorded content, as well as watch catch-up and on demand services. The same is true of the tablet apps, letting you view in different rooms, on your iPad or Android tablet for example.
In that sense, Sky Q brings Sky up to speed with competitors like EE TV. This currently allows for streaming of content across tablets and smartphones on the home network. Sky Q will work across up to two tablets and three TVs simultaneously, plus recording of up to four channels at once - all thanks to those 12 TV tuners in the Silver box. If you have the regular Sky Q box, this is reduced to recording three channels and watching another, with support for one tablet and one Sky Q Mini.
You can not only watch in different rooms through this new super-connected arrangement, but you can pause and resume elsewhere, rather like you can on most streaming services. Sky calls the whole thing "Fluid Viewing".
Sky Q: What is Fluid Viewing?
Everyone loves a bit of branding, and Sky is no different. It calls this seamless connected experience Fluid Viewing.
That makes a lot of sense, as you are able to flow from room to room and watch whatever you want. You don't have to run cables around your house and use an IR blaster just because you want to watch Sky upstairs, as Sky Q is now designed to do exactly that.
Sky also says that the number one requested feature was the ability to download content to a tablet to take away and view on the move. That means that if you've recorded a film or TV series and you are heading off on your travels, you can transfer that content to your tablet using the Sky Q app. This is called Q Sync.
Not every recorded programme is available to download and view offline thanks to rights issues, but the vast majority of shows are available.
Sky Q basically means you're no longer confined to your set-top box, instead offering fluid, erm, viewing.
Sky Q: More intelligent user interface
Sky Q is far more image led than it has been previously, and offers a new, more intuitive user interface. Arguably, this is one of the areas where we'd seen a lot of activity from the likes of YouView, offering better integrated ways to navigate the TV shows available to view.
Now the home page has everything laid out clearly like Top Picks, Box Sets, Recordings, TV Guide and more down the left with images of content on the right.
My Q is a clever section that pulls in shows you didn't get a chance to finish watching, the latest episode of your favourite series, as well as other recommendations.
Sport can now be viewed via live matches or by digging down into your favourite sport and searching what's available that way.
A tap of the remote button brings up a side bar with apps that are quickly available, with integration of things like Facebook photos, or a side-bar to access Sky Sports news, for example. You'll can also access apps like Vevo and YouTube, with more third-party services on the way.
Sky Q: 4K Ultra HD TV
Many have been calling for Sky to offer an Ultra HD (4K) service and it is finally ready to do so. The service will launch on 13 August and will be made of a mixture of live sporting events, delivered through the dedicated extra TV tuner, and on demand movies and TV shows.
Over 70 UHD films will appear on platform to watch on demand before the end of 2016, with many premieres, including The Revenant, The Martian and Spectre. Box sets of series, such as Blacklist, will also be available.
The Sky Store will also feature Ultra HD content, with many recent blockbusters available to rent.
The Ultra HD content is only available to Sky Q Silver subscribers, as it requires that box to work, but bar the Sky Store content, it comes at no extra cost.
Sky Q: When can I get it and how much does it cost?
Sky Q is now available from Sky's own online store.
As an existing subscriber, you will probably have already received details on how you can upgrade, with Sky saying that it costs a one-off fee for the hardware, with packages charged at around £12 a month over your existing Sky+HD monthly fee.
There are also different, full pricing details for new customers.
There are two packages available for new customers, one that features a Sky Q or Sky Q Silver box and access to 300+ TV channels. That costs £42 a month.
The other package costs £54 a month, has the same channels but includes a Sky Q Silver box and a Sky Q Mini box.
You can also choose to add Sky Movies for an extra £17 a month or Sky Sports for an extra £25.50 a month. Adding both will set you back an extra £34.50 a month (so at a discount).
The one-off fees for the hardware break down as follows:
If you take the £42 a month Sky Q bundle with Sky Broadband, Sky Movies or Sky Sports, you can get the Sky Q box for £99. The Sky Q Silver box as part of that bundle costs £149.
If you take the Sky Q Silver TV bundle at £54 a month, you can get the Sky Q Silver box and a Sky Q Mini box combined for £99.
If you don't take Sky Broadband, Movies or Sports, you must pay £249 for the Sky Q box or £299 for the Silver box as part of the £42 a month bundle.
The hardware for the £54 a month bundle, when taken without the other Sky add-ons, will cost a combined £299.
Extra Sky Q Mini boxes will cost £99 each.
There is also an installation cost of £50.
A Sky Q Hub router doesn't cost any extra when taken with Sky Broadband or, for existing customers, when upgrading to Sky Q.