Sky Q: the next generation TV box
SKY Q, boldly hailed as "the next generation" TV box, offers some of the most advanced smart viewing technology around.
The new Sky Q box has more tuners than any other box out there, can host Ultra HD content and stream to multiple devices and screens.
In this Sky Q review we look into all this and the many other features Sky Q offers; starting with the boxes themselves, as well as the packages and the prices we can expect to pay.
We also look into the extras - those that have been included and those we can add - and consider whether it's worth existing customers upgrading.
Now Sky Q is the default box with all Sky TV bundles, we can take a quick look at the main special offer Sky is running for new customers who sign up to their TV service online.
Sky TV Latest Offers
Sky Q boxes
Usually we'd look at the hardware much later on, but as they're the big selling point we'll explain the details of each of the Sky Q boxes now.
|Sky Q 1TB||Sky Q 2TB||Sky Q Mini|
|Used for||Main Sky TV box||Optional main Sky TV box||Additional boxes for Sky Q Multiscreen|
|Record TV||3 shows (watch a 4th live)||6 shows (watch a 7th live)||N/a|
|Watch in||High Definition||Ultra HD||Dependent on main box|
|Storage||500 hours of SD TV||1000 hours of SD TV||Stream content from main box only|
|Multiscreen||Up to 2 TVs and 1 tablet
(at the same time)
|Up to 3 TVs and 2 tablets
(at the same time)
|Price||£20 setup||£199 setup
(or £65 with Multiscreen)
|£12/mth for Multiscreen plus £50 setup with first box free,
then £99 per box
Sky Q 1TB
The Sky Q 1TB box is now the standard box for anyone getting Sky TV. It has a considerable eight tuners. Four of these are devoted to what we'd consider traditional TV - watching one channel while recording up to three others, or recording four different channels at once.
A fifth tuner looks after streaming to a tablet via the Sky Q app. While a sixth and seventh tuner are kept aside for streaming to up to two Sky Q Mini boxes. These are the small additional boxes that enable multiscreen - or multiroom - viewing, which we cover in more detail further down.
The eighth tuner is used to provide a channel preview in the mini guide, and to keep all the data used by the box up to date.
The 1TB hard drive isn't all for use by customers, but Sky say we should be able to store up to 500 hours of standard definition recordings on the 700GB that is available to us.
Sky Q 2TB
There are two important things to note about the Sky Q 2TB box.
The first is that this is the box that's capable of showing Ultra HD content: meaning people taking this box have access to what Sky boast is "the UK's most comprehensive UHD service", with a mixture of entertainment, sport and movies. But we'll go into the HD and Ultra HD specifics more later.
The second important thing about the Sky Q 2TB box is that it contains a whopping 12 tuners. At the moment, seven of these are for "live" viewing and recording - subscribers can watch one live channel whilst recording up to six others.
Then there are another five tuners reserved for streaming to three Sky Q Mini boxes and up to two tablets at the same time.
As with the Sky Q 1TB box, the final tuner is needed for previewing other channels and keeping the box up to date.
Sky say that 1.7TB of the 2TB drive is available to customers to store content - which should be enough for up to 1,000 hours of standard definition recordings.
Sky Q Mini
Sky Q Multiscreen, that is Sky's multiroom service, relies on customers having one or more Mini boxes. These don't contain any tuners of their own.
Instead they stream content from the main box in the house - and for those with Sky Broadband they act as wi-fi hotspots, boosting the signal from the main router.
With Sky Q Mini boxes you can pause in one room and pick up where you left off in another.
Plus, they're wireless and don't need to connect to your dish, so there's no mess and no fuss.
Sky Q Hub
Whilst Sky Q customers can use any broadband provider, one advantage that comes with moving to Sky broadband as well is access to one of the new Sky broadband hubs.
The Sky Q Hub is a much sleeker looking thing than the existing Sky Hub. The 5GHz part of the dual band wireless has been upgraded to support the 802.11ac protocol, and it can support connections of up to 1 Gigabit.
The slimmer shape means it has fewer Ethernet ports than its predecessor - two rather than four - but this is made up for in part by the fact that having one turns every Sky Q box in the house into a wi-fi hotspot.
It - and the other Sky Q boxes - have also been developed to support Powerline technology, which uses the home's electrical wiring to allow devices to communicate with each other without cables trailing between them.
This feature isn't fully available yet - but when it is, it should make streaming via Sky Q and going online everywhere in the house even smoother.
Sky touch remote and voice search
Voice search enables customers to watch content faster. To activate, users simply need to press and hold the voice button on the side of the remote and enter a voice request.
The voice search feature is only accessible with the touch remote, which only comes with the Sky Q 2TB box.
The touch remote also boasts another impressive feature: if the remote is lost users can press the Q button on the set top box and the remote will beep for 30 seconds, to help them locate it more easily.
How much does it cost?
As Sky Q is now the default box for any new Sky TV customer, the cost - with the 1TB box - is the same as for Sky TV and customers can choose from any of the Sky bundles.
There's more on what's included in each of these bundles, and the extra channels available, in our full review of Sky TV in general, here.
Sky Q prices with 1TB box:
Compare more package options for Sky TV here.
Customers who want to upgrade to the Ultra HD compatible 2TB box, which offers a greater capacity for recording TV as well as pairing with more Multiscreen devices, just have to pay a higher setup fee.
Sky Q prices with 2TB box:
However, customers who are looking at upgrading to the Sky Q 2TB box may also want to consider Sky Q Multiscreen - which while it carries it's own additional costs, brings the setup cost of the 2TB box down to just £65 and makes the most of all those extra tuners.
Sky Q Multiscreen
Sky Q is designed to be a multiscreen, or multiroom, service by default, capable of streaming content wirelessly to either another TV via a Sky Q Mini box or to a tablet.
Sky Q Multiscreen now costs £12 a month with a £50 setup fee, which includes one Sky Q Mini box. Anyone who wants more than one extra mini box will have to pay £99 for the second and each subsequent box.
And as mentioned, customers taking the Sky Q 2TB and Multiscreen pay just £65 for the 2TB box, rather than £199.
|Monthly price||Set-up cost (one off charge)|
|First additional box||Second mini box||Third mini box||Fourth mini box|
|Sky Q Multiscreen||£12||£50||+ £99||+ £99||+ £99|
Even more screens
Everyone who gets Sky TV gets Sky Go, which allows them to stream content included in their bundle on a range of devices, from computers to mobile phones, wherever they have a good enough data or broadband connection.
All Sky Q customers can stream content from their main box to at least one tablet, but those with one main Sky Q box will need to sign up for Sky Go Extra, at £5 a month, if they want to be able to stream or download content to more than one other device at a time.
Those with Sky Q Multiscreen get the equivalent of Sky Go Extra free of charge, in the form of access to the Sky Q app.
Multiscreen customers can register up to four mobiles or tablets, then schedule recordings or downloads on the main box, or watch downloads and on demand content on all of them at the same time, wherever they are.
For Multiscreen customers with the 1TB box - which can only stream to one tablet and/or two Mini boxes - it'll give them far more viewing options, even if they are limited to recordings or downloads, and on a smaller screen.
For more information on how multiroom services work and how Sky Q Multiscreen compares to similar services offered by Virgin and BT, see this guide.
Viewing in HD and Ultra HD
When Sky Q first appeared, one of the headline features was that people getting Sky Sports or Sky Cinema would automatically get them in HD, another was that the 2TB boxes were Ultra HD ready.
Since then things have changed a little - and not in an entirely logical way.
As we reported when Sky Movies regenerated into Sky Cinema, everyone who takes the premium channel pack - now gets all those channels in HD as standard, for the same price (£18 a month).
But in what seems like something of a backwards move, at about the same time Sky removed the ability for new Sky Q customers to get Sky Sports in HD as standard when adding the pack to any base bundle.
Instead they now have to sign up for the Box Sets Bundle, then add the separate HD pack at £6 a month.
Regardless of which bundle they have, customers will have access to a range of entertainment and documentaries in Ultra HD on demand.
Those with Sky Cinema can also expect to find at least 70 movies available on demand in Ultra HD; those with Sky Sports will be able to watch live or record various events, including 124 Premier League fixtures this season and every F1 race - with no extra subscription or special add-on pack required.
Even better, whereas every other Ultra HD package or service in the UK at present really needs a fibre broadband connection to run smoothly, Sky Q's Ultra HD content is available whatever the speed of our broadband connection.
That's because it's broadcast via satellite, using one of the box's many tuners to receive the content - even if we're watching on demand rather than live content.
As mentioned above, Sky Q boxes are 3D compatible as well as Ultra HD ready. Although Sky closed their 3D channel in June 2015, they do still offer on demand 3D content - mostly in the form of films through Sky Cinema's on demand service and the Sky Store.
Sky Q Installation
The next thing to note about Sky Q is that it represents a shift in the way Sky charge for their equipment.
Previously Sky customers have owned their set top boxes - having either been given them for free when signing up, or buying one of their previous better boxes outright.
Sky Q boxes, however, are only on loan to us - an arrangement that has its advantages. Everyone signing up for Sky Q will get it professionally installed, and can expect free servicing and mechanical fault repairs for as long as they have it.
Installation costs for both Sky Q boxes are as follows:
|Equipment||Without Sky Q Multiscreen||With Sky Q Multiscreen|
|Sky Q 1TB||£20||£20 + £50|
|Sky Q 2TB||£199||£65 + £50|
Bundling broadband with Sky TV
While Sky Q customers don't have to take Sky Broadband, there are often benefits to bundling, such as discounts on the cost of the broadband as well as reduced set up fees.
Once they have both TV and a phone line, Sky customers can choose to add on the provider's light use broadband package, Sky 12GB, for £5 a month - but most Sky Q customers are likely to find one of the unlimited broadband deals is better suited to them.
Sky Unlimited Broadband
It's worth bearing in mind, however, that while Sky TV is available pretty much everywhere in the UK, Sky Broadband isn't.
A quick postcode check can let you know whether Sky Broadband and Sky Fibre are available in your area:
Enter your postcode above to check availability in your area.
Once you know what packages you'll be able to receive you can compare the different speeds, usage allowances and prices of Sky's broadband deals in the table below. For more in-depth information though, check out our main guide to Sky Broadband here.
Compare more package options and check availability for Sky bundles here.
Taking Sky Q TV with Sky Broadband also means taking Sky's phone service.
Sky's line rental costs £18.99 a month, and it doesn't come with any inclusive calls. Customers can add a call bundle if they want, with prices starting from £4 per month:
|Plan||Contract term||Monthly price|
|Pay As You Talk||12 months||£18.99|
|Talk Evenings & Weekends Extra||12 months||£22.99|
|Talk Anytime Extra||12 months||£26.99|
|Talk International Extra||12 months||£30.99|
For those really keen on keeping everything under one roof, Sky also offer a SIM-only mobile phone service, which we review in full here.
How to upgrade to Sky Q
So now we've explained Sky Q in depth, how much will it cost existing Sky customers to upgrade?
It depends on the package they're after, and the main Sky Q box they choose.
|Main box||Without Sky Q Multiscreen||With Sky Q Multiscreen|
|Sky Q 1TB||£199||Up to £49|
|Sky Q 2TB||£199||Up to £99|
Existing customers who don't have Sky+ Multiscreen but who opt for Sky Q Multiscreen when they upgrade will face the same setup charges as completely new customers - that is, up to £20 for the 1TB box, and up to £65 for the 2TB box.
The emphasis on Sky Q Multiscreen may seem unfair at first, but of the three big differences between Sky+ and Sky Q, two of them are intimately connected with the multiscreen option: the ability to stream content from one box to another, and the fact that on a monthly basis, having multiple Mini boxes costs the same as having one.
The third big difference is the Ultra HD capability - but let's not forget that anyone wanting Sky Sports in HD must get the broadcaster's most expensive base bundle, then pay an extra £6 per month on top of that.
In other words, we should expect to have to meet some extra condition to be able to watch 4K HD content - and Sky have gone with the option that we'd say allows users to get the most out of the service.
It's also worth remembering that upgrading means committing to a new contract, of at least 18 months long.
When Sky Q first appeared, we said that the more of Sky's premium services we were interested in, or already had, and the bigger our appetite for watching content wherever and whenever we want - the better value Sky Q would appear, and that remains the case today.
For more information on how Sky Q measures up to services offered by other providers, namely BT and Virgin, visit our comprehensive review here.
And finally, for anyone considering signing up to Sky Q - here are their latest special offers: