Sky's new Now TV Smart Box is in many ways very similar to its existing Now TV Box. It still offers a temptingly cheap way of getting Sky's suite of Now TV streaming services onto your TV, it still offers access to a wide range of other on-demand services, and Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are still annoyingly absent.
[Update: Since the original release of the Now TV Smart Box there's been a lot of movement in the set-top box market. For one thing, most TVs sold nowadays have streaming services built in, negating the need for a set-top box entirely, but we've also seen boxes embrace 4K streaming with the Roku Streaming Stick+, the Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast Ultra.
All of this means the Now TV Smart Box isn't quite the same value that it once was. Unless you spot a deal that includes several free months of Now TV, then you might be better off with a Freeview Play set-top box instead.]
The main thing that's new here is the inclusion of a Freeview HD tuner for watching TV, which also allows you to pause and rewind as you watch. This means there's a decent case to be made for Sky's new box being the only thing you need to plug into your TV.
Whether this really is the only box you need, however, is something of a vexed issue, as it depends on a few things – namely how 'smart' your existing TV is, what streaming services you currently use, and how you like to watch live TV.
Before we get deeper into those considerations, let's look at what you get with the Now TV Smart Box.
Features and set-up
The Now TV Smart Box costs £50, or it's free as part of Sky's new triple-play Now TV Combo offering, which enables you to pay for TV, phone and internet services on a monthly basis, without having to sign up to a contract. Prices for that start at £9.99 a month (not including line rental).
If you don't take advantage of Now TV Combo, you can access Sky's TV services via the traditional Now TV route of purchasing monthly passes for Entertainment, Sky Cinema, Kids and Sports programming (sports fans can also purchase weekly or 24-hour passes), and via the Sky Store app.
The Smart Box itself is a 1080p-resolution Roku-manufactured device, and comes supplied with power and HDMI cables, and a remote control. Note, though, that you don't get an aerial cable, so you'll have to buy one separately if you don't have one lying around.
On the rear of the device you'll find the HDMI and aerial ports, as well as an Ethernet port should you wish to use a wired internet connection (Wi-Fi up to 802.11n is supported). There's also a microSD card slot under the HDMI port, but you'll need a keen eye to spot it.
The microSD slot, along with a USB port on the right of the device, can be used to play back video files (in MP4 or MKV format), music files (in AAC, MP3 or WMA format), or to view JPEG, PNG or GIF images.
There are no separate audio-out options – your only option is to have the audio channeled via the HDMI connection.
The box comes with 12 apps as standard, including Now TV and Sky Store (naturally), BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5, YouTube and Vevo, and there are numerous others available through the built-in app store, including Spotify, IGN and Facebook.
Disappointingly, however, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video continue to be absent from Sky's Now TV box, so if you subscribe to either of those services you'll need to have another device hooked up in order to access them.
Setting up the device is relatively painless. Simply plug in the power, HDMI and aerial cables (alongside the optional Ethernet cable), and turn on the device.
You'll be walked through a couple of initial steps, including entering your Wi-Fi username and password, and selecting your resolution. The device will then scan for Freeview channels, and finally you'll find yourself at the Smart Box's home screen.