Sky Q is now well established, offered as the de facto option for newcomers to Sky TV and throwing off its original shackles as a premium service.
Existing Sky+ users can upgrade to Sky Q at reduced rates, so it’s really the provider’s main option going forward. And at some point this year you won’t even need a satellite dish to get it.
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 is a great alternative 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, a Sky Q Hub internet router, Sky Q apps for mobile devices and a 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.
The current Sky Q set-up requires a satellite dish connected to either the 1TB or 2TB set-top-box, but from 2018 Sky will also be launching a version of Sky Q that works over broadband internet only.
A Sky Q app will be launched later in the year that will be available on smart TVs and third-party set-top-boxes – likely Roku, considering Sky has a part-share in the company, and other devices. Sky claims it will provide the full service for those who cannot or will not have a dish installed. More will be revealed in time.
Sky Q: The hardware
Sky Q 1TB and Sky Q 2TB box
The current Sky Q 2TB box replaces your traditional Sky+ or Sky+HD box under your TV. It offers a slim design, so is 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 up to six channels while watching a seventh (the rest are used for other features, including one reserved for live 4K UHD events). The Sky Q 2TB box currently allows viewing on two tablets, and supports two Sky Q Mini boxes to watch programming concurrently. There are plans to expand the amount of devices able to view at once in the coming months. 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 plenty of Sky Cinema, Sky Sports and TV content available to view in that resolution. HDR (High Dynamic Range) support is planned for later in 2018.
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 are being added regularly. For example, the Sky Q 2TB box added Dolby Atmos surround sound support in 2017. Homepage personalisation is also on its way, which will also work with sports so you can choose your own football team, for example.
A new Kids Mode is also forthcoming, presenting all kids content in one place with its own user interface.
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 includes 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, which works with voice search functionality. By holding a button on the side of the remote, customers can look for shows and movies through voice commands, such as “films by Tom Hanks with five star ratings” or “Liverpool game”.
After the new personalisation features are added from spring 2018, you will also just be able to use phrases such as “show movies for me”.
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 Sky Q system’s biggest talents offers 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 (with more devices being added in the coming months). It will record up to six 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.
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 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 originally called this experience “Fluid Viewing” but has since dropped that tagline.
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.
The main interface 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 is also the main home page. It 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 and videos, 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. A Spotify app, for access to music through a Spotify Premium account, is coming spring 2018.
A user interface refresh is also coming, with a new “wide-screen” design. We’ll update when we know more.
Sky Q: 4K Ultra HD TV
Sky’s 4K service has grown considerably since launch and now offers a healthy mixture of live sporting events, delivered through the dedicated extra TV tuner, and on demand movies and TV shows. Sky has also recently revealed that it will be doubling its 4K content offering soon and adding HDR.
Until then, there are plenty of 4K films to watch if you have a Sky Cinema subscription as part of your bundle, all available to view on demand. 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, Formula One 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” £70 for the Sky Q 1TB box, up to £65 for the Sky Q 2TB box, so is the preferred option surely.
- 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 £20 for installation. A Sky Q 2TB box will cost £65 for installation.
- Alternatively, you can get a Sky Q 1TB or 2TB box without a Multiscreen subscription for a £199 installation fee.
- See more details on the Sky website
New Sky customers
New customers have different pricing structures depending on what bundle they opt for:
- An Entertainment TV package, with hundreds of channels and 1TB Sky Q box costs from £20 per month.
- To add HD is another £5 a month.
- The Box Sets add-on, with access to hundreds of TV box sets on demand, also costs an extra £5 a month.
- The installation fee for the Sky Q 1TB box is £20 regardless of whether you take a multiscreen subscription or not.
- 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 £65 one-off installation fee.
- If you want the Sky Q 2TB box without Multiscreen it will cost a £199 installation fee.
- Sky Cinema currently costs from an additional £10 per month.
- Sky Sports currently costs an additional £18 per month.
- See more details on the Sky website