There are a couple of different ways to get access to Sky's content.

The current options are Now TV through the Smart Stick or Now TV Smart Box 4K, or the Sky Q route, choosing either the standard 1TB box or the 2TB 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 package best suits your needs.

What is Now TV?

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.

It's an online streaming service that offers access to Sky's On Demand content including Sky Box Sets, as well as catch up TV. It can be accessed via the Now TV Smart Stick, the Now TV Smart Box 4K or the Now TV app, the latter of which is available on a number of devices including streaming sticks, games consoles, smart TVs, phones and tablets.

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 without a long-term contract. For example, you could opt to have Sky Entertainment for two months to watch the final series of Game of Thrones and then cancel it.

What is Sky Q?

Sky Q is Sky's full TV service, replacing Sky+HD. It currently requires a satellite, though Sky is working on bringing Sky Q to homes in the UK through broadband - likely to launch at some point in 2019.

Sky Q offers access to at least 300 live channels, though this number increases as you move up the various packages available. You can pause, rewind and record live TV, access catch up TV, and there is the option to add further Sky Q Mini boxes for Sky in multiple rooms around your home too.

There are two set top boxes available for Sky Q, a standard 1TB box with Full HD capabilities, and the Sky Q 2TB box with 4K capabilities. Unlike Now TV, Sky Q requires a minimum term contract of 18 months, with various packages and extras available.

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Now TV vs Sky Q: What features do they offer?

Pocket-lintNow Tv Streaming Stick Review Low Price Streamer Needs Full Hd Content image 1

Now TV Smart Stick

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  • Requirements: Internet connection but no satellite needed
  • Pros: Cheaper than Sky Q, no contract, pick and choose passes on a month-by-month basis, basic voice control
  • Cons: No recording capabilities, 720p resolution for Now TV services

The Now TV Smart Stick is a standard HDMI dongle, like Google's Chromecast and Amazon's Fire Stick, so it can plug directly into your TV or another screen (or something like a projector). 

Initial setup of the Now TV Smart Stick is simple: plug it in and enter your Wi-Fi details when prompted, then sign into your Now TV account. You can create a Now TV account on a computer or mobile device if you don't have one already.

Once setup, you will be able to stream Sky's entertainment, movies or sports, depending on an internet connection and the monthly passes you have selected. You'll also be able to access catch up TV through services like BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub. Netflix is also accessible through the Stick as a downloadable app.

Pocket-lintNow TV Smart Box 4K review Cheap and cheerful way to get Ultra HD image 1

Now TV Smart Box 4K

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  • Requirements: Internet connection but no satellite needed
  • Pros: Cheaper than Sky Q, no contract, 4K compatible, basic voice control, pick and choose passes on a month-by-month basis
  • Cons: No recording capabilities, 720p resolution for Now TV services

The Now TV Smart Box 4K is a set top box that connects to your TV via a HDMI-to-HDMI cable, rather than plugging straight into the back of your TV like the Smart Stick.

The Now TV Smart Box 4K works in the same way as the Now TV Smart Stick, offering access to Sky entertainment, movies and sports, depending on your passes, alongside catch up TV.

The Smart Box is 4K compatible though, allowing you to watch Netflix and YouTube in Ultra HD - something the Smart Stick doesn't offer. The Now TV Smart Box 4K provides access to over 50 apps including the likes of BBC iPlayer and Netflix, but like the Smart Stick, there are no recording capabilities - you'll need Sky Q for that.

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Sky Q 1TB

  • 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 is a set top box which connects to your TV via a HDMI cable, as well as your satellite dish via another cable.

The standard Sky Q set-top-box has eight tuners and 1TB of storage, for storage of 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.

There is also 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 enables you to view live or recorded content, as well as watch catch up and on demand services in whichever room you have put a Sky Q Mini box into, in addition to your main room.

Along with watching in other rooms, you'll also be able to pause and resume live TV in another room, while a Sky Q app allows you to record a film or TV series and transfer the content to your tablet.

Sky Q comes with a more intelligent interface than you'll find on Now TV, with a more image-led service. Additionally, for Sky Broadband customers, each Sky Q Mini box can also act as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Sky Q 2TB

  • Requirements: Internet connection and satellite needed
  • Pros: Record six channels while watching seventh, support for watching on two tablets and two Sky Q Mini boxes, Sky multi-room compatibility, 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 2TB offers a similar experience to Sky Q 1TB when it comes to the user interface and features, but it has one main difference: Ultra HD TV compatibility.

The Sky Q 2TB set-top box is 4K-ready for Sky's Ultra HD service. The regular Sky Q box doesn't offer this. A touch remote is also available that connects via Bluetooth, allowing users to hide their Sky Q box out of sight. 

There are 12 tuners inside the Sky Q 2TB box and it offers storage for up to 350 hours of recorded HD content. The Sky Q 2TB box also enables 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.

Now TV vs Sky Q: How much do they cost?

Now TV Passes prices 

Now TV has Now TV Passes that allow you to pay monthly for services rather than having a yearly contract. You can add any pass and take it away on a month-by-month basis. 

Below are the current Now TV Passes prices:

  • Entertainment Pass: £7.99/month
  • Kids Pass: £3.99/month
  • Movies Pass: £11.99/month
  • Sports Pass: £33.99/month
  • Sports Pass (five channels on mobile for a month): £5.99/month
  • Sports Pass (24-hour access): £8.99/day
  • Sports Pass (7-day access): £14.99/week

The Entertainment Pass delivers a month's access to over 300 Sky Box Sets and 11 live channels that aren't available on Freeview including Sky Atlantic, Sky Living, MTV and Comedy Central.

The Kids Pass adds access to channels including Nickelodeon, Nick Jr and The Disney Channel.

The Movies Pass offers a month's access to over 1000 movies On Demand including Box Office films.

The Sports Pass is split into four options: A monthly pass offering access to five of the eight channels on mobile only, a day pass, a week pass and a month pass for access to all channels on your TV.

With Now TV, if you don't have a device with the Now TV app, you'll also need to take the cost of either the Now TV Smart Stick or the Now TV Smart Box 4K into consideration, at £19.99 and £45.99 respectively. You will also need an internet connection.

Sky Q 1TB prices

Sky Q requires a minimum term contract of 18 months. There is also a one-off £20 setup fee, though the standard Full HD Sky Q box is free.

Below are the current Sky Q price packages for new customers:

  • Sky Entertainment package: £22/month
  • Sky Movies package: £33/month
  • Sky Sports package: £45/month
  • Sky Q Experience: £13/month

The Entertainment package offers over 300 Sky TV channels and 60 Catch Up channels.

The Sky Movies package offers the Entertainment package, along with over 1000 movies in HD.

The Sky Sports package offers the Entertainment package and eight Sky Sports channels.

The Sky Q Experience is basically what used to be known as Sky Multi-room, as well as Ultra HD, though the latter only works on Sky Q 2TB box. You'll also need to purchase a Sky Q Mini box for each extra room you want Sky in though, the first of which costs £20. Following Sky Q Mini boxes cost £99 per box after the first.

There are also a couple of extras that users can add onto their Sky Q package each month, but unlike the main packages, these have a 31-day contract.

  • HD: £5 extra/month
  • Kids: £5 extra/month
  • Ultimate On Demand: £12 extra/month

The HD package offers HD on over 40 live channels, in addition to whatever main package you select. 

The Kids package offers over 11 kids channels, over 5000 episodes On Demand and access to the Sky Kids app, again, in addition to the main package you select.

The Ultimate On Demand package offers over 1000 shows On Demand from Sky's Box Sets, as well as access to Netflix content and in addition to the main package you select.

Sky Q 2TB prices

Sky Q 2TB offers the same packages and extras as listed in the Sky Q 1TB section above, but installation costs £199 instead of £20. 

You'll also have to have the Sky Q Experience extra to unlock Ultra HD content, which is £13 a month, meaning the cheapest you can get Sky Q 2TB for with all its features is £35 a month.

The addition of the Sky Q Experience package does currently bring the installation cost down to £75 though.

Now TV vs Sky Q: What's the price difference?

Ignoring the upfront costs, with Now TV, you could get Sky Entertainment with Box Sets and Sky Movies for just £19.98 a month. For those with children, it would cost you £23.97 a month for the Entertainment, Movies and Kids package on Now TV.

The equivalent on Sky Q, which would mean the Sky Entertainment package, plus Sky Movies and the Ultimate On Demand extra to get access to Sky Box sets, would cost £45 a month.

Add the Kids extra to that and you're talking £50 a month. If you want Ultra HD, this jumps up to £62 a month with Kids or £57 without.

For access to all of Sky's content on Now TV, you'd pay £57.98 a month.

For access to all of Sky's content on Sky Q, you'd pay £73 a month. This does give you access to Netflix's content too, however.

Conclusion

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 Sky Q becomes available through broadband.

Now TV's Smart Stick is great for anyone who wants access to Sky's content but doesn't have a huge amount of cash to splash or a satellite dish. The Now TV Smart Box 4K offers the same as the Smart Stick with the addition of Ultra HD for Netflix and YouTube apps.

Sky Q meanwhile, is significantly more expensive than Now TV, but it offers a more complete experience with a better interface, at least Full HD streaming and more features, including recording, the option to have Sky in multiple rooms and Ultra HD (with Sky Q 2TB).