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Sky Q set-top box review

Sky Q set-top box review

Sky’s premium TV offering is market-leading for good reason, but it’s not for every budget. Here’s our verdict on the Sky Q set top box and service.

Sky Q box pros

  • Unrivalled choice of content
  • On-demand options
  • Customise your experience
  • Seamless mobile and multiroom access

Sky Q box cons

  • Price (especially for add-ons & Ultra HD)
  • Amount of options can be overwhelming
  • Fiddly remote

Sky Q homescreen

What is Sky Q?

Sky Q is the main satellite TV service run by European telecoms giant, Sky. It’s the premium version of the provider’s long-running, subscription-based pay TV offering, after replacing Sky+ and Sky+ HD a few years ago.

While it’s still fundamentally a satellite television product, Sky Q offers a huge range of internet-connected services. This includes streaming platforms like Netflix, on-demand box sets and films, catch-up TV and a revamped mobile app for watching content on-the-go.

It comes with more recording capacity than ever before, ultra-HD and 4K options. And it’s all experienced on a modern, intuitive interface for easy navigation across different menus.

But it comes at quite a hefty price. Is it worth the money? Read on for our in-depth Sky Q review to find out.

Sky Q Mini box

Sky Q box design and setup

The Sky Q box is a lot more compact than the older Sky+ HD model, and it has much more storage capacity. So not only is it less bulky, but it doesn’t skimp on the amount you can record. The 2TB Sky Q box can now handle up to six recordings at once, so you’ll be spoilt for choice on things to save and watch later.

It’ll easily fit into any TV cabinet or shelf, and will look tiny next to some older DVD or Blu-ray players. It has a modest, matte black finish with a silver strip spanning the bottom, so it’ll blend right in with any other hardware you have.

It also has a couple of front-facing lights — an ‘On/Standby’ and a red ‘Recording’ indicator. They’re noticeable but also very dimmed, so they won’t be distracting while you’re watching TV. The Sky Q box also does away with the huge blue ring light that would constantly rotate if you were in playback mode on an older Sky+ box. Which is something I don’t think any of us will miss.

The Wi-Fi connection seems very strong, with little-to-no dropouts in connection. In my home, we usually keep ours behind a closed, wooden lattice cabinet door and sandwiched between two other electrical devices, yet we don’t experience many issues. However, if you want to guarantee a good connection you’ll probably want to allow it more space to connect to your router properly.

Sky Q boxes

Sky provides four different Sky Q boxes depending on the service you choose:

  • Sky Q 2TB (with 4K Ultra HD)
  • Sky Q 1TB (with 4K Ultra HD)
  • Sky Q 1TB (no 4K Ultra HD)
  • Sky Q Mini (multiroom box)

The Sky Q box you receive will depend on the amount you’re willing to pay for your service. The most expensive box comes with more storage for your downloads and recordings and is capable of 4K Ultra HD viewing, whereas the cheaper options have less storage and lower viewing quality.

See the latest Sky TV deals

Installation

If you already have a Sky dish installed, then it’s a fairly simple case of plugging in the satellite cable, connecting the box to your Wi-Fi, and following the on-screen setup instructions.

However, if this is your first satellite TV service, you’ll need an engineer to visit and install the Sky satellite before you can start enjoying Sky Q. You’ll be prompted to book this when you sign up for your package. Sky will likely charge an installation fee of £29.95 for the work, depending on the deal you sign up for.

sky q bluetooth touch remote

Sky Q remote

Sky Q comes with an advanced smart remote to make searching for your content as easy as possible. However, its design can lead to a couple of frustrations.

The Sky Q Bluetooth Touch Remote contains a voice search button and microphone for Sky Q’s excellent keyword-based voice navigation. This makes it really easy to find specific TV shows and films. You can read more about how Sky’s voice search function works later in this review.

It offers a range of intuitive playback buttons towards the top of the remote, so it shouldn’t take long at all to learn how it works. Also, the Back button has some very handy uses, such as taking you back to the live broadcast without having to spend lots of time fast-forwarding.

In addition, its signal to the Sky Q box is incredibly strong. Gone are the days where you actually have to point the remote to the box for it to register a button press. You can now do it from pretty much anywhere in the room.

sky q remote mic

Sky Q Touch Remote frustrations

Sky has added a touch-sensitive feature to the playback buttons, but they largely don’t work very well and can sometimes lead to accidental ‘presses’ if you swipe a button with your finger.

The silver buttons in the ‘playback ring’ are also quite tough to press down. So you can’t really press any of them if the remote is lying on a flat surface like the couch or a table, because it’d just rock to one side.

You need a pretty firm hold on the remote to really work the buttons, especially compared to the famous grip of the older Sky remote.

How does Sky Q work?

You can find content on Sky Q in a number of ways, depending on when or how you’d like to view it. Here are the main places you’ll be able to find your TV shows and films.

sky q homepage

Sky Q homepage

The main page you see when you first turn on the Sky Q box does feel a bit like an advertising billboard. Most of the screen is taken up by a large sky-blue display of a highlighted TV show (almost always one produced by Sky itself). This is followed by a lot of content recommendations based on new releases and what’s popular.

As you scroll through the suggestions, you’ll quickly notice that it’s just an infinity display of stuff, most of which seems irrelevant and a little bit overwhelming. While it’s a good sign that you’ll never run out of things to watch, it’s not an especially useful page. You’ll be better off using the much more familiar TV Guide or Recordings menus.

As Sky Q learns your viewing habits, it will start to tailor its recommendations to you a little more. And it will occasionally offer a real gem that you won’t want to miss. So don’t disregard it completely, but don’t trust it to be too helpful.

Sky Q TV Guide

The TV Guide remains largely unchanged in looks and function, now just in the newly-branded blue Sky Q decor. It doesn’t have all the features that Sky+ used to have, but that doesn’t necessarily make it harder to navigate.

Instead of searching by channel number, you can scroll down the left sidebar to find the type of content you’re after, and the relevant TV guide for that area will appear instead. This is similar to previous versions of Sky TV, but there are now more specific options to choose from so you can find channels a little easier.

When you select a channel on the TV guide, the mini preview in the top-left corner will display what’s currently being broadcasted. All you need to do is select it a second time to confirm that’s what you want to watch, and you’ll be taken to the full channel view.

The greatest update, though, is that you can create your own customised TV Guide that exclusively features the channels you’re interested in. This saves all of that wasted time wading through channels you’ll never watch to get to your favourite shows.

Sky Q box sets and recordings

The amount of content available to watch on-demand with Sky Q is incredible. While recordings have long been a staple feature of Sky, Sky Q’s connection to the internet means that almost all of the content it has the right to show can be downloaded onto your Sky Q box and watched anytime.

For shows that Sky Q can broadcast but not offer on-demand (often due to copyright laws), you now have more space and capacity to record content on your box too:

  • Sky Q 1TB: Record three shows simultaneously while watching a fourth
  • Sky Q 2TB: Record six shows at the same time while watching another

This is a massive increase compared to previous versions of Sky. And it’s a good move from the provider to keep up with the significant rise in customers watching TV on-demand whenever they want.

How easy to use is Sky Q?

Sky Q’s interface is quite easy to navigate. Many long-time customers will already be familiar with much of the interface, and a lot of the new features are easy to search through. There’s also the handy fallback of voice control for anything that’s too hard to find by scrolling through menus.

sky q collections

Navigating menus

While all the options you’re offered on the homepage are a little overwhelming, it does mean that you could quickly see something you like the look of and hit play.

The TV Guide has lost some of its revered features, and the pure wealth of on-demand content might be hard to wade through if you’re looking for a particular show.

But that’s where voice search comes in. Simply hold the Sky remote’s microphone button and say the name of a show, channel, genre or even cast member. Then all relevant results will just appear, ready to watch or record. It’s incredibly convenient.

In recent studies, voice search has been found to return less accurate results with female voices, as well as regional and minority accents. This is due to voice recognition software often being created by a majority white and male team of developers, which has led to a lack of diversity in the testing process.

If you’ve found that voice recognition devices haven’t worked very well for you in the past, here are some tips for getting the results you need:

  • Know what you’re going to say before you say it. This might sound a little obvious, but it’ll prevent any gaps in your speech that might be mistaken as the end of your sentence.
  • Be as direct as possible. Try to stick to the keywords of what you want — title of the show, name of the actor, channel name, genre, etc.
  • Keep it instructional. Don’t worry about asking it — that just uses up unnecessary words. Starting phrases like ‘Show me...’ or ‘Find...’ will do perfectly!

Navigating full channel view

As usual, Sky Q will show you information about the show you’re currently watching in full channel view by either pressing Select or Information. However, when scrolling through nearby channels or shows scheduled later on, there are now a number of helpful and intuitive features to give you a better idea of what else is on.

The mini-menu now also shows a small display of what’s playing on other channels, so you can get a first impression of the show before confirming you’d like to watch it. The video on the mini-menu is muted, so you could technically have both shows running at the same time if you wanted.

Playback

Pausing, rewinding and fast-forwarding on Sky TV hasn’t changed a huge amount in recent years. It continues to be seamless and just plain great for watching TV on your own terms.

The only real difference is that you can now fast-forward a lot quicker than 30x, by pressing fast-forward and then holding down the right button for however long you need to. However, the on-screen image won’t fast-forward with you if you do this, so it’s a little bit of a guessing game to get to the right bit.

If you’re trying to pause a show to study a particular scene or shot, the slider will appear and block part of the screen. To make sure you can see the entire display, just hit Back when paused and the whole screen will become available again.

Some channels also offer the ability to play a programme from the beginning if you happened to join it halfway through. This is mainly a feature for Sky’s own channels, rather than other ones that Sky doesn’t have the same rights to.

New Sky Q menu

What can I watch on Sky Q?

As you may have gathered, the range of content available on Sky Q is wider than ever before. From the traditional satellite channels to catch-up options and streaming services, there is so much television to choose from.

Here are the main ways to watch content on Sky Q.

Sky Q channels

As usual, Sky Q has hundreds of satellite channels that span just about every topic you can think of. While you aren’t likely to ever watch most of them, it’s the choice that you pay for when you go with Sky TV.

You can also access additional exclusive content like Sky Sports or Sky Cinema by paying an extra monthly fee. Sky Sports in particular is an expensive add-on, but the premium sports content you get as a result is worth the money for many people.

You can access these channels either through the TV Guide, which you can navigate using the topic sidebar, or by typing in the channel number while you’re in the full channel view. You can also ask the remote to take you to a specific channel.

On demand

A large amount of the content that’s shown on Sky’s channels is stored in the cloud and available to download to your Sky Q box. This includes box sets of many different shows as well as past one-off programmes that featured on Sky channels.

The main downside is that Sky doesn’t have the rights to keep all TV programmes that are broadcast on its channels. So you still might end up missing certain shows that you weren’t able to record in time.

Some shows that Sky is allowed to offer on-demand will also only be available for a temporary period. Therefore if you see something you’ve wanted to watch for a while, you might have to get in quick.

Apps and streaming services

The beauty of Sky Q’s excellent connectivity is that catch-up and streaming services are in healthy supply.

If you don’t have a smart TV, a Sky Q box will turn your TV into one. All the main apps for watching online content — Netflix, Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, All 4 and more — can be accessed from within the Sky Q interface.

netflix+sky

Watching Netflix on a Sky Q box

Netflix was the first streaming service to be added to Sky Q. Once you select the app, you’ll quickly notice that it’s just the same Netflix app you’ll see on a smart TV — just hosted within the Sky Q experience.

Sky is now offering bundled pay-TV deals that contain a Netflix subscription. So you can merge both monthly payments into one cheaper bill if you like making use of both services.

See the latest Sky TV deals

Picture and sound quality

HD is so commonplace in screen tech nowadays, it’s actually easier to find a new TV with 4K Ultra HD picture quality than it is to find one without. But despite how ubiquitous the technology has become, Sky still charges customers £5 extra per month to watch HD channels.

This feels like an unnecessary policy to have in 2021, especially given that it already offers a premium service of Ultra HD (or 4K) programming for an extra cost of its own.

There are now dozens of HD channels available to watch, most of which have replaced their standard definition versions in the TV Guide ( BBC Two HD is now channel 102, for example). So to put the highest-appearing channels behind a paywall could lead to some issues with user experience for those who don’t have the HD add-on.

Ultra-HD and 4K options

The latest high-quality screen tech to be broadcast in our homes, Ultra HD (UHD), is fast making its mark on consumers. Sky Q’s highest-priced options include access to Ultra HD content. But channels are quite few and far between unless you decide to pay extra for Sky Sports or Sky Cinema, where the benefits of UHD can really be seen.

While there are already 8K TVs on the market, it takes TV broadcasters and services much longer to support new screen technology than it does for TV manufacturers to produce them. So expect Ultra HD 4K to become the highest-achievable quality for many years to come.

Sky Q Multiroom

Multiroom continues to be a great perk of Sky TV, especially as families start to develop different viewing needs as kids grow older.

Sky Q’s multiroom service works through its Mini Q boxes, eight of which can run from the same satellite dish. You’ll be able to set individual parental controls for each box, depending on what limits you’d like to place on different family members’ content. They offer full HD content, connect to your Wi-Fi, and will cost £14 per month each to use. Which is quite a lot extra to spend.

It might work out cheaper to get a streaming stick for around £50 and give them a profile on the streaming services you already pay for. £14 per month is roughly worth two standard streaming service subscriptions.

Make sure your broadband can handle it

With more online content being viewed on different devices at the same time, your household’s demand for broadband could go up pretty quickly. You’ll want to make sure that you have a broadband speed that can handle lots of high-quality streaming all at once.

Here’s a quick look at the broadband speeds each streaming quality needs.

  • Standard definition streaming — 1.5Mbps
  • HD streaming — 5Mbps
  • Ultra HD / 4K streaming — 25Mbps

Compare broadband deals with Uswitch to find broadband packages that can handle a house of streaming.

sky go tv guide

Sky Go App

After a brief affair with the Sky Q App, Sky has changed its tune and decided to focus all its attention on revamping Sky Go — the original mobile TV app for customers to watch content on-the-go.

The new-look Sky Go app is now in the suave Sky Q colours. And thanks to Sky Q’s well-established online content offerings, the app experience is now more seamless than ever.

There’s a TV Guide option for live channels from wherever you are. But it’s also very easy to browse and watch catch-up TV, box sets, sports, movies and more all from within the app.

You can also download certain on-demand shows to your device and watch them offline without needing to connect to the internet. Just make sure you have enough storage on your device.

The available channels aren’t as extensive as they’ll be on the main Sky Q box. But even if you can’t watch a certain show on the app, you’ll be given the option to record it to your Sky Q box instead.

sky q learning at home

Sky Q parental controls

Sky Q offers a range of parental controls for when your children are watching TV.

Its long standing PIN-protection security feature remains., So you can stop your kids from accessing inappropriate content, as well as purchasing certain shows and events. But there are other measures to take in case your PIN is discovered by the kids.

For young children, Kids Safe Mode is a surefire way to give your child free reign of the TV without the risk of them watching anything they shouldn’t. It’ll restrict all available TV shows and movies to ones with a U rating.

These parental controls can also be applied to multiroom boxes and the Sky Go app. This will give you peace of mind when the kids are watching content on their own devices.

How much is Sky Q?

Sky TV packages with Sky Q differ in price depending on the amount of channels or the type of content you want to watch.

The Sky TV & Netflix package comes in at a very reasonable £25 per month for both services bundled together. But this doesn’t come with any of its sports, movies or Ultra HD channels.

If you want to get anything more than Sky’s basic offerings, you’ll have to pay up for it. Adding Sky Sports and Sky Cinema to your subscription will quickly double your monthly cost to £50 per month. And including HD, Ultra HD and Multiroom options will increase your monthly cost even more.

Prices correct as of 17/03/2021

Compare Sky TV deals

Is Sky Q worth it?

Adding together all the services you can access via its set-top box, Sky Q offers the most extensive roster of TV programming and online content available in the UK. Its service is top-quality and the TV viewing experience it provides is second-to-none.

The issue is, Sky knows that. And therefore it’s very happy with putting large price tags on its premium offerings and add-ons because many people are prepared to pay a little extra for a lot more.

Deciding whether Sky Q is worth it for you depends entirely on the TV you don’t want to miss out on. If you can’t miss live Premier League football matches, if you’re desperate to catch the TV premiere of a movie the day it arrives, or if you want to experience content in stunning Ultra HD quality, you’ll have to cough up more for the privilege.

And if that’s something your budget will allow, you should by all means go for it — you likely won’t regret your decision.

If you’d like access to some of Sky’s exclusive content but aren’t prepared to pay the expensive fees for a bunch of channels you’ll never watch, a good alternative would be NOW TV.

It’s still owned by Sky, so it offers the same content as Sky Q, but in packages that let you pick and choose the type of content you watch a lot better. It’s not as premium a service, but it’s a great way to view Sky channels without forking out for the entire Sky Q experience.

Here are the different TV passes on offer with NOW:

  • Entertainment pass (popular entertainment channels on Sky)
  • Sports pass (Sky Sports channels)
  • Cinema pass (Sky Cinema channels)
  • Kids pass
  • hayu pass
  • Freeview channels

View all of our NOW deals at Uswitch.

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