There are different ways to get access to Sky's content.
The options are Now TV through the Streaming Stick, Now TV box or Now TV Smart Box 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 and Sky Q 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 vs Sky Q: let's look at the options
Now TV box
- REQUIREMENTS: Internet connection but no satellite needed
- PROS: Much cheaper than Sky Q, no contract, pick and choose passes on a month-by-month basis
- CONS: No recording capabilities, can't pause or rewind live TV
- PRICE: Box £14.99, Entertainment Pass £7.99 a month, Movies Pass £9.99 a month, Sports Pass £33.99 a month
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 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. It is however worth noting that Now TV is also available on numerous devices including Chromecast, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, YouView, Apple TV and Roku, as well as iOS and Android smartphones and tablets so you don't need to buy a separate box if you have any of the compatible devices.
Rather than a yearly contract like the older Sky+HD and Sky Q, Now TV has what it calls Now TV Passes that allow you to pay monthly for services. There is an Entertainment Pass for £7.99 a month, a Kids Pass for £2.99 a month, a Movies Pass for £9.99 a month and three Sports Passes from £6.99 for 24-hours to £33.99 for a month, and you can choose the ones you want and when. You can add any pass and take it away on a month-by-month basis, so add movies just for December for example.
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, while the Kids Pass adds access to channels including Nickelodeon, Nick Jr and The Disney Channel. Movies offers a month's access to over 1000 movies on demand including a new premiere every day. Sports is split into a day pass for £6.99, a week pass for £10.99 and a month pass for £33.99, all of which offer access to the seven Sky Sports channels.
Now TV Smart Stick
REQUIREMENTS: Internet connection but no satellite needed
PROS: Much cheaper than Sky Q, no contract, pick and choose passes on a month-by-month basis, will be able to pause and rewind TV via an update
CONS: No recording capabilities, still 720p
PRICE: Box £19.99, Entertainment Pass £7.99 a month, Movies Pass £9.99 a month, Sports Pass £33.99 a month
The two main competitors are the Amazon Fire TV Stick (which is over twice the price) and Google's £30 Chromecast. If you've got Roku, YouView, EE TV, Apple TV, PlayStation 3/4, Xbox 360 (or later) or a 2015-or-later Samsung or LG Smart TV then you can already get access to Now TV through its app.
The Now TV Smart Stick will also give you access to catch-up services including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Demand 5 and All 4, plus you can download over apps including YouTube, Sky Store and Vevo. As such, it's a great way to bring catch-up TV to an older TV or a TV where the built-in apps aren't as good.
The Now TV Streaming Stick is a standard HDMI dongle so it can plug directly into your TV or another screen (or something like a projector).
Initial setup of the Streaming Stick is so simple: plug it in and when prompted enter your Wi-Fi details, then sign into your Now TV account (you can create one on a computer or mobile device if you don't have one already). That's it, job done.
But the big disadvantage of this stick compared to rivals is that the services provided by Now TV are 720p, although Full HD streams are coming. There will be some who buy this stick believing they'll get Full HD content from the outset, which isn't the case.
This resolution shortcoming really shows up when you're streaming live channels or when you're checking out content through catch-up TV which you've seen elsewhere at better quality.
The Streaming Stick's advantages? It's the initial price, basic voice control and the ease-of-access to pay-as-you-go Sky services.
Now TV Smart Box
- REQUIREMENTS: Internet connection but no satellite needed
- PROS: Much cheaper than Sky Q, no contract, digital tuner built-in for live TV, can pause and rewind live TV, pick and choose passes on a month-by-month basis
- CONS: No recording capabilities
- PRICE: Box £39.99 (Value and Combo packs available too), Entertainment Pass £7.99 a month, Movies Pass £9.99 a month, Sports Pass £33.99 a month
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 be able to stream Sky entertainment, movies and sports, depending on the passes you select and an internet connection, as well as watch live TV over an ariel connection.
The new Now TV offers over 50 apps including the likes of BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub for catch-up TV, but you can also pause and rewind live TV by up to 30 minutes. There are over 60 free channels, including 12 HD 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, as part of a Now TV Combo monthly package deal, which includes a streaming pass, unlimited broadband and a phone line, or as part of a Value Pack that includes the Now TV box and savings on several months of your chosen pass, whether Entertainment or Sky Sports.
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 £24.99 a month. For all the passes and the top broadband connection, you'll be looking at around £90 a month.
In terms of the Value Packs, you can get the Now TV Smart Box with a three-month Entertainment Pass or five-month Sky Entertainment pass for £49.99 or £69.99, respectively. There is also the option of the box plus a one-month Sky Sports for £73.99.
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.
- REQUIREMENTS: Internet connection and satellite needed
- PROS: Record three channels while watching fourth, support for watching on tablet and Sky Q Mini box too, Sky Multi-room compatibility
- CONS: Minimum contract of 18-months, can quickly get expensive
- PRICE: From £22 a month with £20 setup fee
Sky Q replaces Sky+HD. Setup costs for Sky Q start from £20 and packages start at £22 a month with a minimum subscription of 18 months. This will give you 270 channels. There is also a £32 a month (though currently £25) bundle for 300 channels or £38 a month (currently £31) bundle that offers 350 channels plus 350 Box Sets.
To add Sky Movies to any of those three bundles, you'll need to pay an extra £10 a month, while Sky Sports will cost an extra £18 or £20 a month, depending on if you want the new Main Event channel.
Like there was with 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 says stores 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 calls Fluid Viewing.
Sky Q Multiscreen costs an additional £12 per month on top of whichever bundle you have chosen to watch Sky in more than one room. The first Sky Q Mini Box is free, while each thereafter is £99.
An app called Sky Q Sync allows you to record a film or TV series and transfer the content to your tablet.
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
- REQUIREMENTS: Internet connection and satellite needed
- PROS: Record six channels while watching seventh, support for watching on tablet and Sky Q Mini box too, Sky Multi-room compatibility, extra shows in Ultra HD, Sky Q Touch remote
- CONS: Minimum contract of 18-months, can quickly get expensive, one-off box cost is high
- PRICE: From £22 a month with £199 one-off cost for box
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 the Sky Ultra HD service. The regular Sky Q box doesn't offer this.
The Sky Q Silver box itself costs £199. The same three monthly bundles are available as the standard Sky Q the same Sky Movies and Sky Sports costs apply too, as well as the same minimum 18-month subscription.
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 six channels simultaneously, while watching a seventh 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 £17.98 a month. For those with children, it will cost you £20.97 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 £20.97 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 £39.99 up front though, so bear that in mind.
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 £41 a month and a setup fee of £20. For the same on Sky Q Silver, it would be the same monthly cost but with an upfront cost of £180 more than standard Sky Q, although you will get Ultra HD movies, TV shows and sport at no additional cost.