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Sky Q box review

Sky Q set-top box review

Sky Q is Sky's revolutionary set-top box, and it now comes standard across all Sky packages. It has a host of great features, including a fresh user interface and a revamped remote control that responds to voice commands.

When Sky updated its set-top box from the Sky+ HD to the Sky Q box, the company aimed to make it easier to access a wider range of content — live, recorded and on-demand — than ever before.

It did this by revamping its menu and, more importantly, by letting subscribers watch TV shows, sports and films across TVs, smartphones and tablets seamlessly.

In this guide to Sky Q, we get under the skin of the service and outline exactly what it offers.

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New user interface

New Sky Q menu

Sky Q's new software pulls together a lot of content, both live and on demand. With so many options, it can get a bit overwhelming to remember where everything sits.

My Q

My Q is the main homescreen on the Sky Q. It pulls together your new recordings, the last on-demand programming you've watched and new recommendations based on your viewing habits.

The user interface's recommendations are actually quite personalised and intelligent: The programmes change based upon the time of day and your typical viewing habits at that time of day. So if your kids come home from school and watch cartoons in the early afternoon, they'll only see recommendations for cartoons or kids' programming and won't get recommendations for Game of Thrones, Westworld or other not-so-child-friendly series.

Another smart feature in the My Q section is that the continue watching section pulls in the next episode of whatever series you're working your way through rather than pulling up the episode you'd previously been watching.

Recordings

Both Sky Q boxes have massive amounts of storage space — so you'll probably be using the recording feature quite a bit.

Sorting through your recordings on the Sky Q is easy as the software lets you sort your recordings in a number of different ways. The default option is most recent, but you can also sort recordings A-Z or by type, such as purchases and rentals.

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TV Guide

This section does exactly what it says on the tin, so to speak. It's your standard TV guide, showing you what's on TV. You can sort by linear channels or by channel type to make it easier to find what you'd like to watch.

The TV guide is also where you can set up recordings, and you can access catch-up TV from the guide, too.

Catch-up TV

Alternatively, you can access catch-up TV through the dedicated section in the main menu.

Here you'll find catch-up TV from some Freeview channels — like iPlayer and All 4 — and Sky series.

On-demand content

Watch Game of Thrones series seven on Sky Q

Sky Q boxes give you quick access to heaps of on-demand content, including dedicated sections for Sky Sports, Sky Cinema and Box Sets. If your current subscription doesn't give you access to these, you can upgrade within the box directly, no need to call or go online to do so.

If that's not enough content for you, you also get access to the Sky Store where you can buy or rent box sets and films. Some of these are available through add-ons like Sky Cinema or Box Sets, but some are exclusive to the Sky Store.

Similar to the recommendations for live TV, the on-demand TV sections recommend personalised content to you, too, based upon the time of day.

There's also a dedicated Kids section on the Sky Q boxes which stores on-demand content and recordings earmarked as being for kids so kids can have their own easy-to-use section.

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Other features

Sky Q also has a music section where you can listen to the latest hits on VEVO. The box also has Bluetooth and airplay capabilities so you can stream music from your mobile or tablet through your TV — which is great if you have the Sky Soundbox.

You can also watch short-form content from the likes of Vice, GQ and Vogue in the Online Video section, as well as YouTube. These videos are sorted by genre or you can choose the editor's picks of what's popular.

The Apps section lets you access Sky News and updates from Sky Sports, even if you don't have a Sky Sports subscription. It also has apps for weather and photo-sharing.

Sky Q Multiscreen

Sky Q Mini box

Sky has had multiroom capabilities for a number of years now, but Sky Q Multiscreen takes it a step further. Whereas multiroom just lets you watch the live Sky feed in another room, Sky Q Multiscreen lets you watch recordings, too.

You can start watching something in one room, pause it and resume in another without missing a beat. It also works on tablets and smartphones thanks to the Sky Q app.

The Sky Q Mini boxes also act as Wi-Fi hotspots to boost your signal throughout your home.

Sky Q hardware

All this is made possible by a fresh set of TV set-top boxes, a redesigned remote control and the use of cables in your walls to transfer TV around your home.

In this section we look at each part of the hardware in turn, as well as the Powerline tech that connects it.

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Sky Q 1TB or 2TB

When you sign up for Sky, you can choose between the Sky Q 1TB and 2TB boxes.

Sky Q 2TB is the higher-end of the two, hence more expensive.

As the name implies, it has 2TB of storage (which is enough for 350 hours of HD TV), but it has a few more upgrades from the 1TB than just storage space.

The 2TB box has the ability to record six channels at once while watching a seventh, and the ability to stream content to two other TVs and tablets simultaneously. You can also watch Sky TV in up to three rooms at the same time with the Sky Q Mini boxes. Also, the 2TB version supports 4K or UHD image quality.

The standard Sky Q 1TB box lets you store 175 hours of HD TV, can record three channels while you watch a fourth, can stream to one tablet, and supports two Sky Q Mini boxes. Again, the 1TB box is not 4K/UHD-compatible either.

4K and Ultra HD

Sky+ HD ushered in the age of high definition broadcasts, so it's only fitting that Sky Q brings the next resolution: 4K. This is also known as ultra high definition, or UHD, and contains four times as many pixels as a standard high definition broadcast.

In other words, the image quality is vastly superior, with everything appearing much sharper and colours appearing much more vibrant. Sky Q was the first set-top box to support UHD, and in our opinion, it's still one of the best when it comes to picture quality.

Although not every programme is available in 4K just yet, Sky is offering more and more UHD content. Many films are available in 4K, as are some newer series. The biggest draw, however, may be their Sky Sports in 4K, which is a direct rival to BT's BT Sport Ultra HD.

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The remote control

Sky Q remote

The remote control is one of the biggest changes from Sky.

It features a circular touchpad that feels a lot more modern than the old Sky remote. Swipe up, down, left or right, and you'll navigate the UI with the corresponding movement.

Swipe and hold your finger down, and the scroll will speed up, which is handy for getting through long menus.

It works over Bluetooth so doesn't need line of sight to work. In other words, you can stash the Sky Q box away in a cabinet, and the remote can still talk to it.

The remote also has a voice-activated search feature where you can find films or TV shows based on genres, actors, directors, ratings or quotes.

While the remote is revolutionary, it might not be to everyone's tastes. If you don't feel comfortable using it, never fear — you can still purchase a standard remote control through Sky. It won't give you the voice-activated functions, however.

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Powerline

The Sky Q box can send shows and recordings to the Q Mini box wirelessly over Wi-Fi, or it can do so through the cables in your walls.

This feature is called Powerline, and it pipes the shows through the mains socket to each box. This helps free up your broadband's bandwidth for other uses, like downloading files or streaming music, allowing you to multitask more efficiently.

The Sky Q box switches between Powerline and Wi-Fi dynamically, depending on which is stronger. Like all the best tech, you shouldn't even be aware it's there.

Product updates

Both boxes — and remotes — also update themselves whenever new features are released. Sky releases updates fairly regularly based on customer feedback and these are automatically upgraded on your box.

Sports fans will appreciate Sports Start Over, which allows live sports programmes to be watched from the beginning again, regardless of whether the programme was recorded or not.

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