At the end of 2015, Sky announced a new premium TV service called Sky Q. It is now celebrating its one-year anniversary, and is now the de facto option for newcomers to Sky TV.
Existing Sky+ users can also upgrade to Sky Q at reduced rates, so it's really the future for the provider.
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 flagship brand from Sky and is not just a service, but a complete family of devices. It incorporates a number of enhanced elements over the traditional Sky+ boxes and services, 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 2TB Sky Q 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, the Sky Q 1TB box, 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. It offers things like a more integrated EPG, multi-room solutions and the ability to view and save recordings onto mobile devices to watch on the move.
Sky Q: The hardware
Sky Q 1TB and Sky Q 2TB box
The Sky Q 2TB 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 2TB model 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 2TB box also 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 2TB version has a 2TB hard drive, hence the name, which can store up to 350 hours of HD recordings. It also supports 4K Ultra HD with a resolution of 2160p, with some Sky Cinema and Sky Sports content available to view in that resolution.
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 1080p and is not capable of Ultra HD playback.
New features coming in 2017 include the ability to record six shows while watching a seventh (on the Sky Q 2TB box) and homepage personalisation. You'll also get the start over feature on sports coverage, where you can watch a match or event from the beginning if you join part way through.
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 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 2TB or 1TB boxes.
In addition, even if you have a Sky Q 2TB 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, which is also scheduled to be activiated in early 2017.
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 boxes, 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.
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 2TB box. If you have the 1TB 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 more intuitive user interface than the previous Sky+ menus.
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. Ultra HD broadcasts can also be started or recorded from there.
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.
Apple AirPlay and Bluetooth music playback is also available through Sky Q boxes.
Sky Q: 4K Ultra HD TV
Sky's 4K service is still in its infancy but already offers a mixture of live sporting events, delivered through the dedicated extra TV tuner, and on demand movies and TV shows.
There are plenty of 4K films to watch if you have a Sky Cinema subscription as part of your bundle, including The Revenant, The Martian and Spectre. Box sets of series are also available. They download to your box, but you can start to watch soon after the downloaded commences depending on the speed of your broadband connection.
The Sky Store also features Ultra HD content, with many recent blockbusters available to rent.
A Sky Sports subscription is needed for 4K footy, F1 (from 2017) and other live events.
The Ultra HD content is only available to Sky Q 2TB subscribers, as it requires that box to work.
Sky Q: When can I get it and how much does it cost?
Sky Q is now available from Sky's own online store.
Existing Sky customers
Prices for existing customers wishing to upgrade vary depending on whether they already have a Sky Multiscreen subscription or not:
- If you already have a Sky Multiscreen subscription, you will be charged an installation fee of "up to" £49 for the Sky Q 1TB box, up to £99 for the Sky Q 2TB box.
- If you don't already have Sky Multiscreen, you can get it for £12 per month on top of your existing bundle, with a Sky Q Mini box included. In this case a Sky Q 1TB box will cost you a £15 installation fee. A Sky Q 2TB box will cost £60.
- Alternatively, you can get a Sky Q 1TB or 2TB box without a Multiscreen subscription for a £199 installation fee.
New Sky customers
New customers have different pricing structures depending on what bundle they opt for:
- An Original TV package, with 270 channels and 1TB Sky Q box costs £20 per month.
- A Variety bundle, with more than 300 channels, including kids TV, and 1TB Sky Q box costs £32 per month.
- A Box Sets bundle, with more than 350 channels and access to hundreds of TV box sets on demand, plus the 1TB Sky Q box costs £38 per month.
- The installation fee for the Sky Q 1TB box is £15.
- You can add Sky Q Multiscreen, which includes one Sky Q Mini box, for an additional £12 per month. In that instance, you can swap out the 1TB box for the Sky Q 2TB box for a £60 one-off installation fee.
- If you want the Sky Q 2TB box without Multiscreen it will cost a £199 installation fee.
- Sky Cinema usually costs an additional £18 per month.
- Sky Sports costs an additional £27.50 per month.
For more, read our Sky Q review: The future of multi-room television?