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Sky Q set-top box review

Sky Q set-top box review

Sky Q is Sky's revolutionary set-top box which now comes standard across all Sky TV packages. It has a host of great features, including an integrated interface and an all-in-one remote control that responds to voice commands.

What is Sky Q?

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

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.

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How to use Sky Q

New Sky Q menu

Sky Q pulls together a lot of content, both live and on-demand. With so many options that it can get a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, the recent partnership with Netflix means that Sky Q customers can search and browse all of their content from both Sky and Netflix in one place.

Sky Q homescreen

Sky Q homescreen

The main homescreen on Sky Q pulls together all your new recordings, the last on-demand programming you've watched and new recommendations based on your viewing habits including "Today's top picks" and "Top 10 this week".

The user interface's recommendations are actually quite personalised and intelligent as 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.

You'll also see navigation menus for other sections of Sky Q:

  • TV Guide
  • Recordings
  • Catch up TV
  • On demand
  • Sky Cinema
  • Sky Store
  • Sports
  • Kids
  • Music
  • Apps
  • Settings
  • Help
  • My Account

Sky Q recordings

Both versions of the Sky Q box have plenty of storage space — so you'll probably be using the recording feature quite a bit.

Sorting through your recordings on the Sky Q set-top box 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 the name suggests. It's your standard TV guide, showing you what's on TV. You can sort by channel number 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, Box Sets, Subtitled, and Netflix. 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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Netflix on Sky Q

You can access Netflix content on your Sky Q set top box in two ways: by signing in to your exisiting Netflix account, or by choosing the Ultimate TV Add on.

Subscribing to Netflix via Sky has the added advantage of allowing you to access all your on-demand content in one place. You can browse and select films and TV shows across both Sky and Netflix and receive recommendations for one based on your viewing habits on the other.

Existing Netflix customers on Sky Q

If you're already a Netflix customer you can sign into your account in the "Apps" section of Sky Q. After you enter your email address and password once you won't be prompted again unless you log out or there's a problem with your account.

Now when you navigate to the Netflix section of Sky Q you'll see the standard Netflix interface as you would through any other platform, including user profiles.

You can connect any Netflix subscription to Sky Q, but the number of screens and the streaming quality will of course be impacted by your Netflix subscription.

New Netflix customers on Sky Q

When you subscribe to the Ultimate TV Add on, your Netflix access will be integrated into your Sky Q set top box. This means you'll be able to browse through all your content in one place and choose from great Sky TV content like Big Little Lies, Parks and Recreation and Catherine the Great, right alongside The Crown, Stranger Things and Time King.

The Ultimate TV Add on also means you only have one bill to pay, making life a little less complicated.

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 the advanced set of Sky Q set-top boxes, a specially-designed 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 1TB set top box

With the Sky Q 1TB box you can do the following:

  • Record up to three shows while watching a fourth live
  • Access apps like Netflix, YouTube, Disney Plus and Spotify
  • Store up to 500 hours of SD recordings
  • Watch films and TV shows in HD
  • Watch live TV and your recordings via a Sky Q Mini box

You can also upgrade to the Sky Q 1TB UHD set top box in order to watch content in 4K, provided you have a UHD subscription and a 4K TV.

Sky Q 2TB set top box

The Sky Q 2TB box has similar features but slightly more advanced:

  • Record six shows whilst watching a seventh live
  • Access apps like Netflix, YouTube, Disney Plus and Spotify
  • Store up to 1000 hours of SD recordings
  • Watch films and TV shows in 4K Ultra HD
  • Watch live TV and your recordings on two Sky Q Mini boxes simultaneously

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.

4K and Ultra HD

4K TV, 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 Sky Q remote 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.

The Sky Q remote comes standard with the Sky Q 2TB box. If you opt for the 1TB box, you'll have to pay extra to upgrade your remote.

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 if you have the 2TB box. The standard remote won't give you the voice-activated functions, however.

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The Sky Q box can send shows and recordings to your 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.

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