Streaming has never been so affordable. While smart TVs, games consoles and set-top boxes give you access to services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, some people still opt for a dedicated streaming device, which is a great option if you don't have any of the above.
At just £24.99 at the time of writing, the NOW TV Smart Stick is one of the cheapest streaming devices around. But what's it like to use? And how does it stack up against the Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku models and Apple TV? Read our full NOW TV Smart Stick review to find out.
NOW TV Box vs NOW TV Smart Stick
Since Sky first launched its streaming service, there have been a number of dedicated media streaming devices from NOW, each with their own list of pros and cons.
However, the NOW TV Box and its predecessor the NOW TV Smart Box have both been discontinued. Instead, NOW has focused its efforts on supplying a simplified streaming stick that makes accessing NOW’s exclusive range of content easy and affordable.
NOW TV Smart Stick design
The NOW TV Smart Stick has a pretty basic design. As it's a streaming stick, it looks fairly similar to all the others, and is similar to an old-fashioned, oversized USB memory stick; with a NOW TV logo on the front and a microUSB port on the other end.
The NOW TV Smart Stick has a reset button on the top in case you need to restart the device. But that's about it in terms of bells and whistles.
Both the streaming stick itself and the remote control are matte black, with the only pop of colour being the NOW TV logo and the bright yellow arrow keys on the front.
Like previous devices, the NOW TV Smart Stick itself is produced by Roku (there's even a small Roku logo on the back). But whereas some have been rebadged versions of Roku devices, this one has been custom-made for Sky.
NOW TV Smart Stick set-up
If you've used a Roku or similar media streaming device before, you'll know the drill. Setting it up is a cinch.
The stick plugs into your TV's HDMI socket which keeps it around the back of your TV and out of sight. You then use the microUSB port to connect the streaming stick to a USB power source using the supplied adapter.
We found that the USB socket on our TV powered it just fine. But for some models you might need to use the mains socket. It's not a big deal, but it could be an issue if you have a lot of kit already plugged in (games consoles, set-top boxes, etc.) and don't have a socket spare.
Next, you connect to your home Wi-Fi network (there's no wired option). You now have to sign into your NOW account, or create one if you're new to the service.
NOW gives you access to Sky's TV content, but on a rolling month-by-month basis. You can subscribe to various TV memberships in order to watch entertainment, sports, films or kids' TV. You only pay for what you watch, so you can switch from having access to all five memberships one month, to just one or two the following month, or even none at all if you don’t think you’ll need them.
Check out our full list of what channels are on NOW TV to see which ones you’d like to watch.
NOW TV Smart stick performance and interface
The NOW TV Smart Stick has a clear, colourful menu that's heavy on the pictures and easy to navigate, however the actual navigation is a bit sluggish. Apps take a while to load, and channels don't start instantly. It's not painfully slow, but don't expect Sky Q levels of polish. But then that's to be expected, given the price.
There's no Ultra HD or 4K streaming option that you get with Sky Q. Again, that's to be expected, but the NOW TV Smart Stick automatically detects your TV’s definition and sets it to stream in either 720p or 1080p (full HD) accordingly.
NOW TV Smart Stick navigation
The default screen on the NOW TV Smart Stick is, unsurprisingly, focused mainly on NOW TV content. It lists new and trending content from across all of the NOW TV memberships and then lists your previously-watched NOW TV shows and films for you to continue watching.
Beneath that are lists of your installed apps and items that are on your watchlist before dedicated sections for movies, entertainment, sports, and kids programming. There are also suggestions for the streaming platforms for UK terrestrial channels — including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5 — which somewhat replicates the traditional TV setup.
All your additional content can be accessed by downloading each platform’s dedicated app.
Which apps are available on the NOW TV Smart Stick?
The NOW TV Smart Stick has the majority of streaming services available via its app store, including the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Disney Plus. You can then log in and access all of your content across all these platforms via the streaming device.
There are a few noteworthy exceptions, such as the home-streaming service Plex, but the extensive full list of apps is below:
- All 4
- BBC iPlayer
- BBC Sounds
- BT Sport
- Disney Plus
- Divine TV
- Eulive Media
- EWTN Europe
- Free Speech TV
- HappyKids.tv 2
- ITV Hub
- NHL Game Centre
- Picasa Web Albums
- Pluto TV
- Prime Video
- Red Bull TV
- Sky News
- Sky Sports Box Office
- Sky Sports News
- Sky Store
- Spotify – Music & Podcasts
- The Roku Channel
- TuneIn Radio
- UKTV Play
- Wall Street Journal Live
- Web Cam One
- Yupp TV
NOW TV guide
A version of the traditional electronic programme guide (EPG) is available in the TV Guide section, giving you a quick look at what’s currently on live TV and what’s on next. Though there isn’t the option to skip forward or series link programs like on the Sky Q box, all the content playing is available to search and watch via the main menu.
There isn’t much live TV available other than the Sky channels, live sports, and what’s available on iPlayer, and unlike the previous NOW TV Smart Box, there's no Freeview tuner built in.
NOW TV memberships do offer a wealth of content, however. As well as new series, there are hundreds of box sets of classic series like 'The Sopranos' and 'Boardwalk Empire'. Sky Sports still has the lion's share of live Premier League matches, Sky Cinema serves up a new premier every day, and there's a ton of kids' shows too.
Obviously you'll have to pay for all of this individually, but NOW is still much more flexible than a Sky subscription.
NOW TV Smart Stick remote control
The Smart Stick comes with its own remote control, so you don't need to use your mobile to control it.
It can control your TV too — at least, the power and volume buttons can. This is very handy, as it means that once you're up and running, you don't need to find the dedicated TV remote to adjust the volume or shut it down.
The remote is bigger than the Smart Stick itself, though that's not hard considering the Smart Stick's dinky dimensions. It's all pretty self-explanatory: you've got a d-pad for moving around the menu, home and back buttons, plus pause, rewind and fast-forward.
There's also a selection of shortcut buttons, for jumping straight to the My TV section, the TV Guide, kids' content and the Sky Store.
And there's a microphone button. Hold it down, and you can speak to search for content. It's a neat extra, but far from perfect.
A spoken search for 'Collateral' brought up the Tom Cruise film 'Collateral' from 2004, 'Collateral Beauty' and 'Collateral Damage', but not the more recent BBC drama (which was available on BBC iPlayer). Similarly, a search for "Premier League football" returned no results, nor did one for "Arsenal".
It also doesn't support the movie quotes feature that was recently added to Sky Q. So you can't say "May the force be with you" and be presented with 'Star Wars', for example. For that, you'll have to pay the extra for Sky Q. Voice searches are also limited exclusively to NOW’s own TV content, so you wouldn’t be able to search for titles on platforms such as Netflix or Disney Plus.
If this is a feature you’re keen to have, check out our Google Chromecast review.
Is the NOW TV Smart Stick good value for money?
The NOW TV Smart Stick is definitely great value for money, at just £24.99, it's one of the cheapest streaming sticks around.
If you’re a Sky TV customer and want to move into the more flexible world of streaming, the NOW TV Smart Stick definitely makes sense, keeping all of Sky’s exclusive and original content front and centre so that you never need miss out on your favourite shows and films.
All prices correct as of 17/01/2021