Sky has been pushing the idea of its contract-free movie and sports streaming service Now TV for over a year now. Premium on-demand content is a burgeoning area that is so far being dominated by the likes of Lovefilm and Netflix – and Sky's service was launched to rival these non-contract, all-you-can-eat offerings.

Not content with Now TV just being online or an app on a TV or set-top box, Sky has decided to release its own hardware that costs less than the price of a Blu-ray.

Sky's Now TV Box is a serious statement of streaming intent from the broadcaster. The box's size may be tiny but it holds enormous potential for Sky to open up its premium movie bundle to customers who have yet to sign on to its wares.

At just £10 the Now TV Box is a bargain. It's cheap enough to buy on impulse and on mass if you have a variety of televisions in your house that aren't yet 'smart'.

Now TV review

For that money you get access to a host of catchup and streaming TV services, including the ever-popular BBC iPlayer, Sky News, BBC News and Demand 5, as well as the option of watching NOW TV services from Sky if you want to fork out for a day or month pass.

For those of you familiar with a Roku box, you may have some fun playing spot the difference. The Now TV Box brings the same design (although it is in white and blue) the same small size and even the Roku channel store.

That allows you to pick from a (relatively limited) number of other available media channels, and to add them to your 'home' screen once you install them so you have easy access.

Now TV

The tiny box and cute little remote arrive in small box that also contains an HDMI cable and power cable. The box is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand (84mm x 84mm x 24mm), and the inclusion of an HDMI cable means that you can be up and running in a matter of minutes.

The box connects to your WiFi, so there's no need to have it next to your router. Given that Sky has only just announced that its boxes will come with Wi-Fi as standard, this is good to see.

Now TV review

The remote is small and shiny white plastic - just like the box itself - but is intuitive and simple. The buttons are a back and home button, an okay and arrow pad, rewind, fast forward and play/pause plus a star key, an apps key and a dedicated Now TV button

Before you can get started with the box, it does say that you need to register for Now TV. You do not need to pay for anything - just register for the service and type in your user name and password.

Now TV

As this Sky Now TV Box is all about pushing people to its on-demand service, you would think that this would be mandatory but there is a Continue without registering option.

Now TV

Once you are signed in, the opening screen is your home screen, and it offers you the default streaming and catchup offerings from Channel Five and the BBC, as well as Sky News and BBC News streaming channels and Now TV front and centre.

The various services worked as you would expect for us; the BBC iPlayer app, for example, uses the familiar black and pink UI and access to programmes was okay.

Now TV review

HD (720p) and SD options are available - which is a bonus - although the former really suffers from the lack of a super-fast connection, so bear that in mind.

This is, we would imagine, something of a loss leader for Sky - so the Now TV service is inevitably prominent. There's a Now TV button on the little remote and it's front and centre of the home screen, begging to be pressed.

The other default 'apps' on the homescreen are the Roku channel store, Sky News, the BBC iPlayer, BBC News and Demand Five (Channel Five's catchup service).

And in August 2014, Sky also added a YouTube app, giving you access to all that Google's video service has to offer.

Adding more homescreen apps is straightforward: the Roku channel store brings a limited range of streaming channels (TED TV for instance), some quirky content options (Indian Food!) and a few familiar apps like Facebook, Picassa, Flickr and Spotify.

NOW TV UI
NOW TV UI

Once chosen, the app is put on your homescreen to access. If you have a decent home entertainment audio setup this is a great way to get something like Spotify through your system. If you love Facebook you can now see updates on your TV and if you adore your photos this can put them on a great screen to display them with Picassa or Flickr.

It should be pointed out that Sky is restricting some competing services from the library - and that means you can't use this as a sneaky Netflix of Lovefilm box. Curses.

Now TV review

It is definitely a closed Roku box. There is no Plex on board, so media streaming isn't available through the box (although a quick Google shows you may be able to side-load the app) and gaming is also non existent, but the cut-down price does reflect this.

It's a clever idea from Sky to try to get its pay as you go service into more homes. For those people who want Sky but cannot get a dish this is a valid option, especially for those that want to dip in and out of premium film and sport content.

Now TV

And for those that have digital television, broadband internet, but no available catchup services this is a brilliant choice. In fact, it is an essential choice – you won't find a cheaper way to upgrade your television anywhere.

It's a clever idea from Sky to try to get its pay as you go service into more homes. For those people who want Sky but cannot get a dish this is valid option, especially for those that want to dip in and out of premium film and sport content.

And for those that have digital television, broadband internet, but no available catchup services this is a brilliant choice.

It comes with an HDMI cable (there is a 3.5mm to RCA A/V port option which limits you to SD) which itself mostly justifies the cost of the unit.

Now TV Review

It's a slight shame then that when it comes to streaming Now TV content, the quality is changeable. It is prompt, though. The movie channel started up within seconds and started streaming and did take a while for the stream to steady and become completely watchable. Sport seemed to be streamed at a poorer bitrate than movies as well.

And then there is the price. There are some fantastic offers going around for Now TV at the moment, but a Sky Sports day pass is £10 and full price for movies is £15 a month. It's great that they are contract free but you are paying a much higher premium than, say, Netflix. But, you will be getting more recent movies – Sky is quoting movies up to 12 months in advance of Lovefilm and Netflix.

Now TV

It comes with an HDMI cable (there is a 3.5mm to RCA A/V port option which limits you to SD) which itself mostly justifies the cost of the unit.

Even just registering for the service, but not subscribing, brings a strong glut of streaming options, which makes this box something of a no-brainer.

The apps bring a wealth of other Smart options - allowing you to use your television in a number of of interesting ways.

UPDATE: Interestingly, Sky have also started to sell bundles with a Now TV box and day or months subscriptions in shops, so for those that want to take a look before they order you can have a fondle.

Verdict

If you are prepared to put up with registering for Now TV (but not necessarily paying for any of the content), you have a spare HDMI in port on your television and a broadband connection then this is a fantastic low-cost way of putting Smart functionality and catchup on your TV.