Sky announced its new entertainment service - Sky Q - at the end of November 2015, followed by a new Now TV option called Now TV Smart Box at the end of June 2016. Both have now joined the broadcaster's options, with Sky Q bringing a more fluid and seamless experience than the previous offering, and the Now TV Smart Box adding live TV to the Now TV offering.
There are therefore now four ways to get access to Sky's content. The Now TV or Now TV Smart Box routes, the Sky+HD route with a bundle that suits you or the Sky Q route, choosing either the standard option or the Silver offering. The question is, which is the right service for you?
This feature explains the differences between Now TV, Now TV Smart Box, Sky+HD, Sky Q and Sky Q Silver to help you decide which Sky option best suits your needs. Read on to find out which Sky package is right for you.
Now TV is the cheapest way to access Sky's content and it is aimed at those who are unable to have regular Sky, perhaps due to lack of satellite or budget. There are two options, as we mentioned, with this section focusing on the original Now TV box that is still be available alongside the new Now TV Smart Box.
Now TV is an online streaming service that offers access to live TV channels, as well as on demand services. The original Now TV box itself costs a one-off £14.99 and you will need internet access so take that into account, but it is worth noting that Now TV is also available on Chromecast, PS4, PS3, YouView and others so you don't need to buy a separate box if you have any of the compatible devices.
Rather than a yearly contract like Sky+HD, Now TV has what it calls Now TV Passes that allow you to pay monthly for services. There is an Entertainment Pass for £6.99 a month, a Movies Pass for £9.99 a month and three Sports Passes from £6.99 and you can choose the ones you want and when. There is also a Kids Pass for £2.99 a month, which will give you access to channels including Nickelodeon, Nick Jr and The Disney Channel. These channels were originally available with the Entertainment Pass but as of 21 June, they have to be accessed separately.
The Entertainment Pass delivers a month's access to over 250 Sky Box Sets and 11 live channels that aren't available on Freeview including Sky Atlantic, Sky Living, MTC and Comedy Central. Movies offers a month's access to over 1000 movies on demand including up to 16 new Sky Movies premieres each month. Sports is split into a day pass for £6.99, a week pass for £10.99 and a month pass for £31.99, all of which offer access to the seven Sky Sports channels. You can add a pass and take it away on a month-by-month basis, so add movies just for December for example.
Now TV Smart Box
The Now TV Smart Box is the second of the Now TV options. It is a larger, flatter device than the original Now TV box and it adds a digital TV tuner that can access the entire gamut of Freeview channels in the UK. That means you will not only be able to stream Sky entertainment, movies and sports, depending on the passes you select and an internet connection, but you will also be able to watch live TV over an ariel connection.
The new Now TV offering features over 50 apps including the likes of BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub for catch-up TV, but it will also allow you to pause and rewind live TV by up to 30 minutes. There are over 60 free channels, 15 HD channels and 35 pay TV channels, on top of those available with the Entertainment, Movies, Kids and Sports passes.
The Now TV Smart Box is available as a standalone box for £39.99, or as part of the new Now TV Combo monthly package deal, which includes a streaming pass, unlimited broadband and a phone line. The Now TV Combo deal prices vary depending on the your choice of Sky pass, broadband and landline packages. The same four passes as the original are available and there are three broadband options comprising Brilliant Broadband up to 17MB, Fab Fibre up to 38MB and Super Fibre with speeds of up to 76MB.
The cheapest option for the Now TV Smart Box is the Entertainment Pass with Brilliant Broadband, which costs £9.99 a month, plus line rental of £17.99, making it a total of £27.98 a month. Opt for all the passes and the top broadband connection and you'll be looking at around £90 a month. Remember that includes the phone and internet though, whereas we haven't included those for the Sky+HD and Sky Q options below.
As we said though, you could just buy the box on its own and get the same access as the original Now TV box, but with the addition of the live TV channels. The various passes for the new Now TV Smart Box provide the same channels as the those you get with the original Now TV box and you can opt in and out of them on a month-by-month basis as you can with the original.
Sky+HD was the current Sky TV offering up until Sky Q launched, now making it the middle option. There are two Sky+HD boxes available - the standard 500GB box and the 2TB box - and there are several bundles available, all at various price points.
The TV bundles start at £20 a month and creep up to £75.75 a month, depending on which you choose. It goes without saying, the more you pay, the more channels you get but there are a number of standard features across all the bundles.
With each TV bundle, you get one standard Sky+HD box for free that will allow you to pause, rewind and record live TV. The box comes with built-in Wi-Fi and you'll have access to plenty of Catch Up TV channels including BBC iPlayer, All 4 and ITV hub.
Users will also get the Sky Service app, Sky+ app and Sky Go, the latter of which allows you to watch Sky on up to two devices wherever you are over Wi-Fi or 3G/4G. Other features include Sky Atlantic access with shows including Game of Thrones, and Smart Series Link that remembers the series you have recorded in the past for any future series.
The 1TB box will store an average of 185 hours of standard definition content and it will cost £199 per extra box. The 2TB box offers storage for up to 1180 hours of standard definition content but it's a little pricier and it doesn't come as standard, nor is the first box entirely free. The first 2TB box has an upfront cost of £49, while buying a second would cost £249.
When it comes to the different bundles, there aren't great deal of extras when it comes to features as the price variation is about the channels offered instead. The Original Bundle, which is the £20 option, doesn't offer access to over 300 Sky Box Sets like the other bundles do however.
The final option within Sky+HD is Multiscreen. This is where you pay an additional £11.25 per month on top of whichever bundle you have chosen to watch Sky in more than one room. The first Sky Multiscreen box is free and it will be the standard 1TB option again, but you will also get Sky Go Extra, which would normally cost £5 a month. Basically, if you pay for Sky Go Extra on top of your bundle but you don't have Multiscreen, you'd only be paying an extra £6.25 per month for an extra box and the ability to watch Sky in bed.
Sky Go Extra allows you to download content and watch it offline, which you can do on up to four devices, including Xbox One now, rather than the two offered with Sky Go.
It is worth noting none of the bundles or boxes within Sky+HD support 4K or offer any 4K content. You'll need to look a little further down this feature to Sky Q Silver for that.
Sky Q is the latest and newest service from the broadcaster. Setup costs for Sky Q will start from £99 and packages will start at £42 a month with a minimum subscription of 18 months. To add Sky Movies to your bundle, you'll need to pay an extra £17 a month, while Sky Sports will cost an extra £25.50 a month. Although if you want both movies and sports, you can add it to the standard Sky Q package for a combined total of £34.50 a month.
Like Sky+HD, there are two set-top boxes but there is more variation than just storage when it comes to the Sky Q service. In this section, we are focusing on Sky Q, while the next section will talk about Sky Q Silver.
Sky Q has eight tuners and 1TB of storage, which Sky claims will offer space to store up to 150 hours of recorded HD content. It is Full HD compatible and it allows users to simultaneously record three channels, while watching a fourth, and there is support for watching on one tablet and one Sky Q Mini box too.
The Sky Q Mini box connects to the main Sky Q box via Wi-Fi or Powerline networking and it allows you to view Sky content in other rooms. It is essentially the new Multiscreen, allowing you to view live or recorded content, as well as watch catch-up and on demand services in whichever room you have put a Mini box into, in addition to your main room. Along with watching in other rooms, you'll also be able to pause and resume in another room, which is what Sky is calling Fluid Viewing.
A new app called Sky Q Sync will allow you to record a film or TV series and transfer the content to your tablet. It seems like this will be similar to what you can do with the current Sky Go Extra but everything will be more seamless.
Sky Q also comes with a more intelligent interface than you'll find on Sky+HD or Now TV, with a more image-led service like you'd find on YouView. The home page has categories including Top Picks, Box Sets, Recordings, TV Guide on the left, with images on the right. There is also a section called My Q that brings in shows you didn't get a chance to finish watching, the latest episode from one of your favourite series and other recommendations. Third Party apps will also be present in a side bar including VeVo and YouTube.
Sky Q Silver
Sky Q Silver offers a similar experience to Sky Q when it comes to the user interface and features such as Fluid Viewing, but it has one main difference: Ultra HD TV compatibility. The Sky Q Silver set-top box is 4K-ready for when the Sky Ultra HD service launches on 13 August. The regular Sky Q box doesn't offer this.
Sky Q Silver setup fees start from £99 and the monthly package at £54 a month for new customers. The same Sky Movies and Sky Sports costs apply as regular Sky Q and the same minimum 18-month subscription applies too.
There are 12 tuners inside the Sky Q Silver box and 2TB of storage, which should allow for up to 350 hours of recorded HD content. The Sky Q Silver box will enable users to record four channels simultaneously, while watching a fifth and it also supports two tablets and two Sky Q Mini boxes, with all devices capable of viewing different content at the same time.
In addition to all the features mentioned already, the Sky Q service, which includes both set-top boxes will come with a new touch remote that connects via Bluetooth so you can hide your Sky Q box out of sight. There is also something called the Sky Q Hub which is a new router for Sky Broadband that integrates Powerline networking, allowing you to use your mains wiring to connect your Sky Q devices together rather than using Wi-Fi. You can use Wi-Fi instead though.
Each Sky Q box can also act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for your Sky Broadband but as you might have guessed, you'll need to make sure you have Sky Broadband for this to be an option. You don't however need Sky as your internet provider for any of Sky's TV services to work as standard, just for the hotspot feature.
So which Sky TV service is right for you? Well, this very much depends on your budget and whether you have access to a satellite dish because if you don't, your only option is currently one of the Now TV choices, until 2018 when Sky Q will become available through broadband.
Now TV is great for anyone who wants access to Sky's content including Box Sets but doesn't have a huge amount of cash to splash. Ignoring the cost of internet, you could get Sky Entertainment and Sky Movies for £16.98 a month. For those with children, it will cost you £19.97 a month for the Entertainment, Movies and Kids package.
The new Now TV Smart Box is the option for those who want to access Sky's content, as well as live TV channels but again, don't have a huge amount of cash or access to a satellite dish. Ignoring the Now TV Combo deals, you could get Sky Entertainment, Movies and the Kids package for the same £19.97 a month as you'd pay with the original Now TV, but you'll get access to over 60 live TV channels too. The new box will cost you an extra £25 up front compared to the original Now TV box though, so bear that in mind.
A similar package with Sky+HD would set you back £53 a month, but you do of course get the ability to pause and record live TV, along with a few more channels and other features. Now TV Smart Box will let you pause and rewind but not record.
Sky Q is the most exciting of all three services, but it comes at a price. For the Entertainment and Movies like above on regular Sky Q, you'd be looking at £59 a month. For the same on Sky Q Silver, it would be £71 a month, although you will get Ultra HD movies, TV shows and sport at no additional cost.
Sky Q looks like it will offer the most seamless and user friendly experience, allowing you to pick up and drop shows and movies as you move around your home. If you're happy to pay the extra over Sky+HD, then it's likely to be the best option but if you want to be ready for 4K content, then Sky Q Silver is your only option.