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now tv smart box hands-on

Sky launched its Now TV Smart Box earlier this year.

Not only is it a new box altogether, it also has a new way of paying for your content, thanks to the UK's first contract-free triple-play offering.

But what about the box itself? How does it differ from the previous Now TV Box? Saddle up, we're about to compare the two.

Check out our standalone review of the Now TV Smart Box here.

Live TV

now tv live pause

This is the biggest change from the previous Now TV Box. With the addition of 60 free-to-air channels (including terrestrial mainstays BBC One and Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5), and up to 15 in high definition, it's essentially a Freeview box with added streaming skills.

Admittedly some TVs come with Freeview Play built-in, negating the need for a live TV feed from the Now TV Smart Box. But for anyone without a Freeview Play-enabled telly, this is a huge boon.

The previous Now TV Box, by contrast, only let you stream TV shows and films over the internet. You could stream some channels live, such as Sky News, but it didn't connect to a digital aerial like the Now TV Smart Box, so your live options were more limited.

Plus it has all the same catch-up options (BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5) and on-demand offerings using the Sky Passes (Entertainment Pass, Sky Cinema Pass, Sky Sports Pass, Kids Pass) as the standard Now TV Box.

But everything's in the same place, so there's no need to switch menus or devices to go from streaming to watching live TV.

You can also pause live TV for up to half an hour, though this depends on the channel and your location. Still, it means no more missing a crucial plot twist because you nipped to the loo.

New user interface

now tv smart box homepage

To incorporate the new live TV feature, the user interface has been rejigged. The new homepage is easier to navigate, helping you find what you're looking for. Plus new editorial picks recommend what to watch – these are updated during the day too, so should always be bang up to date.

New innards

now tv smart box with remote

Like previous Now TV Boxes, the Now TV Smart Box is made by streaming box specialist Roku. In this case, it's based on the Roku 4.

Given that the Roku 4 is Roku's latest streaming box, and that the old Now TV Box is based on the ancient-in-tech-terms Roku 2, it's not surprising that the new box is faster.

What it doesn't have that the Roku 4 does, however, is 4K streaming. This seems to be reserved for Sky's top Sky Q service. But perhaps it'll come to Now TV at a later date.

Comes as part of a triple-play bundle

now tv combo

You can buy the Now TV Smart Box as part of a triple-play bundle called the Now TV Combo. It's the first of its kind that's contract-free in the UK.

To do so, pick a Now TV Pass, a broadband speed and what type of landline deal you'd like. Then Sky will hook you up on a month-by-month basis, without tying you into a lengthy contract.

However, you have to pay a one-off broadband installation fee of £40 (or £50 for the faster broadband options), plus line rental of £17.99 a month.

Let's look at some options. The cheapest is £27.98 a month (including line rental) – that gets you the Entertainment Month Pass (with access to 11 Sky channels), up to 17Mbps broadband and no free landline calls.

A mid-range bundle would be the Sky Cinema Month Pass and a broadband connection of up to 38Mbps, which comes to £40.98 a month (including line rental).

Finally, the top-tier option would be the Sky Sports Month Pass and up to 76Mbps broadband. That costs £69.98 a month, including line rental.

(Call packages cost £4 extra a month for free evening and weekend calls to UK landlines and mobiles, and £8 a month extra for unlimited calls to UK landlines and mobiles.)

You can add more Passes at any time, or change yours every month, and your bill will adjust accordingly. However, you can only have one Sky Sports Pass on your account at any one time.

You can also sign up to a 12-month contract, if you'd prefer, and pay less every month. Then there's no set-up fee either.

More expensive

now tv devices

You can buy the Now TV Smart Box on its own with no obligation to have your broadband and landline with Sky.

The box costs £39.99 on its own, which is much more than the existing £15 Now TV Box. So you have to weigh up how much you want those new features.

New router

now tv hub

Sky also launched a new router alongside the Now TV Smart Box.

Called the Now TV Hub, it has four Ethernet ports and built-in diagnostics, so if your connection drops you can see what the problem is. It also automatically switches to low power mode when not in use, saving you money on your energy bills.

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