The Sky Q, Virgin 360, and BT TV Box Pro are all modern TV boxes with the ability to pause and rewind live TV, record programmes, and access a range of on-demand apps.
The BT TV Box Pro stands out as the only box to be wireless, so customers can set up their home entertainment stations without a multitude of trailing wires.
At a glance: Which box is best?
The TV boxes provided with Sky TV, Virgin Media TV, and BT TV all have similar specifications, but there are some standout differences:
|Sky Q box||Virgin 360 box||BT TV Box Pro|
|Storage||1TB / 2TB||1TB||1TB|
|Resolution||Ultra HD 4K||Ultra HD 4K||Ultra HD 4K|
The boxes are provided when customers sign up for a premium TV contract. While Sky TV can be taken without broadband, Virgin Media TV and BT TV are only available to customers who also bundle broadband.
Here are each of the cheapest TV and broadband bundles that include these boxes:
|Package||TV||Broadband||Monthly price||Upfront price||Contract term|
|Big bundle + Drama & Docs||145||264Mb average||£37.99||Free||18 months|
|Offer: No setup fee (was £35)|
|Sky TV + Broadband Superfast||400||61Mb average||£40||Free||18 months|
|Offer: No setup fee|
|Entertainment + Fibre 2||96||67Mb average||£20
for 3 mths,
|Offer: Black Friday: 3 months free broadband and reduced setup costs (was £61.99) + £100 BT Virtual Reward Card (Ends 07/12/2023)|
Verdict: Who offers the best TV box?
Sky Q is the best box out of the three because it has wider support of on-demand apps for additional content, the ability to upgrade to a 2TB box for extra storage. It also supports voice control and customers can request a dedicated accessibility remote.
Virgin 360 comes in a close second however, with many of the same features as the Sky Q box including voice control and the ability to record up to six shows at once. We also really like their Personalisation Profile feature that allows multiple members of a household to have their own guide customisation.
The BT TV Box Pro comes third, but shouldn't be dismissed as it also allows customers to record multiple shows at once, and has the same 1TB capacity for TV recordings. It's also the only box to offer a wireless installation, so customers don't need as many trailing leads in their setup.
Overall all boxes perform well, but if we had to pick we'd go with the Sky Q box.
Winner: Sky TV customers can upgrade to a 2TB box and double their storage, all other boxes come with 1TB.
|Sky Q||1TB (upgrade to 2TB)|
|BT TV Box Pro||1TB|
All three of these TV boxes come with 1TB of storage capacity as standard. While existing Sky TV customers, once they've signed up, can choose to upgrade to a 2TB box for an additional cost.
1TB, or one terabyte, is the same as 1,000GB or 1,000 gigabytes. That used to be quite a lot, but nowadays even the latest iPhone 14 can be taken with 512GB, or half the amount of storage.
With more shows becoming HD as standard, and moving towards Ultra HD, the 1TB won't go as far as it did when these boxes were first released. That said, so much programming is now delivered on-demand the need to record TV shows has also reduced.
It's possible to record up to 600 hours of standard definition programming on a 1TB box, but in 1080p HD that reduces to just 175 hours, and even less for 4K UHD programmes which can be more than twice the size of HD films.
However, that's still around 60 to 90 two to three-hour HD films, which should be more than enough storage for most households.
The Sky Q box wins this round however, because Sky TV customers can choose to upgrade to a 2TB box and double their storage capacity. The 2TB box supports recording up to 350 hours of HD programming, and costs an extra £99 to upgrade on a self-installation basis.
Winner: The Sky Q box has the most tuners, allowing customers to record six separate programmes while watching a seventh live.
|Sky Q||7 (Record 6 and watch a 7th live)|
|Virgin 360||6 (Record 6 and watch a recording)|
|BT TV Box Pro||4 (Record 3 and watch a 4th live)|
Sky Q and Virgin 360 both allow customers to record six programmes at once, while also watching something else at the same time.
The Sky Q box has seven tuners however, while the Virgin 360 box has just six. This means Sky customers can watch a seventh live programme, while Virgin TV customers will have to choose something pre-recorded or on-demand.
While that does put Sky Q slightly ahead for this round, most households will find six tuners more than enough anyway.
The BT TV Box Pro is a slight outlier in this category as the box only has four tuners, allowing customers to record three at once, whilst watching a fourth live show. However, even four tuners will be enough for most people, so don't rule it out on this basis.
Winner: The Virgin 360's Personalised Profile feature allows each family member their own personal space for customisations and favourite shows.
The Sky Q, Virgin 360 and BT TV Box Pro all offer a modern electronic programming guide (EPG) that allows customers to navigate their way around their subscription channels, recordings, and on-demand apps.
The Sky Q guide can be navigated via content type on the left-hand side. A preview box of the new channel will be shown in the top-left, so customers can see what's on before they switch to the new channel.
Similarly, the Virgin 360 guide is easier to navigate than previous incarnations and it comes with filters to allow users to only see channels they're interested in.
Personalisation is also available on Sky Q and the BT TV Box Pro, so customers of all boxes will be able to customise their viewing experience.
However, one thing we like about Virgin's set-up is their Personal Profile function that allows customers to create six profiles for their household. This is a great way of keeping each family member's content and viewing habits separate.
Winner: Sky Q has the largest number of integrated apps for customers to choose from.
Subscriptions to on-demand apps are either combined in the pay TV bundle, or customers can take out separate subscriptions to access more content.
Sky Q has the largest array of on-demand apps on its platform, with Virgin 360 and BT TV Box Pro offering good support but missing some popular apps.
Here's a list of which apps each box supports:
|Sky Q||Virgin 360||BT TV Box Pro|
|Paramount+||Yes||Coming in 2023||No|
Sky Q has the most on-demand apps for customers to choose from, while Virgin 360 comes a close second with the major apps covered including Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and Paramount+ due to come to the platform sometime in 2023.
BT TV Box Pro has the least app support, although it does offer NOW TV which isn't available with either Sky or Virgin due to wanting customers to take their dedicated Sky Sports and Sky Cinema packs.
Overall, while Sky has more support for a wider range of on-demand apps, Virgin 360 and BT TV cover the main bases like iPlayer, Netflix and Prime Video, which may well be adequate for most homes.
Winner: While all three boxes support 4K Ultra HD picture quality, Virgin Media offer more HD and Ultra HD content as standard.
The Sky Q box, Virgin 360 box and BT TV Box Pro all support picture quality up to 4K resolution in Ultra HD.
To watch in the highest resolutions customers will also need either a HD-ready or Ultra HD-ready TV, and they may need to pay extra for this content too.
As we explain in our guide the best HD TV content, each provider has a different way of charging for HD and Ultra HD programming. For example:
|1080p HD||Ultra HD 4K|
|Sky||£7 per month||£11 per month|
|Virgin Media||Bigger Bundle and up||Bigger Bundle and up|
|BT TV||£6||Included in HD plan|
There are some variations to the above for different content types, for example Sky TV includes Sky Sports and Sky Cinema in HD as standard, whereas these packs are in SD with Virgin Media and BT unless customers upgrade.
Virgin Media customers can now access Sky Sports in Ultra HD as well, but again this requires an extra fee of £7 per month.
While BT includes channels such as BT Sport Ultimate in 4K with their HD pack, most of their content is provided through NOW Memberships which can only be boosted up to 1080p HD.
Overall, while Sky has the most HD and Ultra HD content available customers have to pay more for it. On the other hand Virgin Media include more high quality viewing as standard in their plans, particularly in their Bigger Bundle and Ultimate Volt Bundle.
Winner: BT TV Box Pro offers wireless functionality so customers don't need to install trailing wires as they do with Sky Q and Virgin 360.
The headline feature when the BT TV Pro Box was released in mid-2021 was the wireless connectivity option.
Whereas set-top boxes are traditionally connected to a customer's broadband router by wires, the BT TV Box Pro is the first to allow customers to do away with the wires and to connect wirelessly instead.
It's a simple feature that many customers will probably think should be part and parcel of modern life, yet BT have got there first.
There are still some downsides to their wireless connectivity such as the stipulations that the router should be within five meters of the box and the box itself should be kept in the open to improve the signal, but it's still a new and exciting option from BT, that's not yet available with either Sky or Virgin's boxes.
Winner: Sky TV offers an accessible remote that customers can request.
Accessibility options come in many different varieties as set-top box providers try to ensure their services can be used by as many customers as possible.
All three set-top boxes have options for subtitles, sign language and audio description (where these are available), yet there are shortcomings on the remotes offered by all providers.
In the name of simplifying things, they have hidden the accessibility features within the settings menus, so customers have to go into a menu and then select their accessibility functions. For subtitles, especially, where remotes used to have a prominent button, this can be frustrating.
Voice control can switch subtitles on with Sky and Virgin remotes, but that doesn't help all customers who are hard of hearing and may not want to use voice control on their TV.
Sky do allow customers to order a Sky Accessibility remote, however customers must be an Accessibility customer and that's something they shouldn't necessarily need to disclose in order to get a remote more suited to their needs.
Summary: Sky Q vs Virgin 360 vs BT TV Box Pro
Overall winner: Sky Q has more on-demand apps for customers to choose from, as well as a larger storage option, and accessibility features like voice control and a dedicated accessibility remote.
They each pause and rewind live TV, allow customers to record multiple programmes at once while watching something else, and support a range of on-demand apps for extra content from Netflix and Prime Video.
Ultimately however, the Sky Q box has the largest amount of app integrations, so customers won't miss out on programming from Disney Plus, Paramount+ and Apple TV+, which aren't all available on either Virgin 360 or BT TV Box Pro.
For those who love their recordings, Sky TV customers can also upgrade to a 2TB box and double their storage, although it does come at an extra cost.
While the Virgin 360 and BT TV Box Pro are also great set-top boxes that provide a smooth viewing experience and access to a range of additional content, they don't quite match the features and content available through Sky Q.
Lastly, it's worth noting both Sky and Virgin Media launched streaming versions of their TV platform in 2022, the Sky Stream Puck box and Virgin Media Stream box, which offers access to their TV services over the Internet.