Sky Q's killer features
Sky has unveiled its brave new world of television – with the Sky Q box headlining a suite of new products which may just be the perfect answer to your home entertainment demands.
At its heart, the new Sky Q service brings with it a hugely enhanced version of the Sky+ box, but also introduces a whole new UI, some killer features for those who buy extra boxes and, perhaps most significantly, the ability to transfer your recordings to your tablet or phone.
Of course, all of this will come at a cost – which has yet to been revealed – but we've been mightily impressed with what we've seen so far.
So what are these standout features? Read on…
1. Sideloading your recordings
Every big piece of tech needs a killer app, and for Sky Q it's the ability to transfer your recordings to a mobile device to take out and about. Although downloadable catch-up TV has been available on devices, not least through the iPlayer, being able to push each and every recording to your tablet to watch on your commute will be a huge deal for many.
Suddenly your tablet becomes, effectively, a portable DVR – and although Amazon (and Sky Go Extra) have been allowing downloads to tablet for some time, the lifting of the shackles from a limited selection to everything is significant.
2. 12 tuners
Of course, making the traditional side of the service work better is also a key factor. For linear viewing, the staggering 12 tuners in the Sky Q box will allow for four simultaneous recordings, plus watching a fifth channel. Taking that even further, it will also enable the potential streaming of content to two of the Sky Q Mini boxes, and a further two mobile devices.
Yes, that adds up to nine tuners – the other three are currently for future expansion. But still, that's a whole lot of simultaneous streams.
3. Wi-Fi hotspot boxes and powerline broadband
With Sky Q's entire system leaning heavily on connectivity, a box that's out of range could be kind of a big problem. But the Sky Q mini boxes – which serve as the multiroom boxes – also act as Wi-Fi hotspots and, fantastically, the Sky Q Hub will use your home's power lines to push broadband around the house.
So those hard-to-reach corners of your building will suddenly be a whole lot more connected.
4. New look
When we heard that the Sky Q UI would be going a whole lot more Netflix we rolled our eyes, but actually the user interface looks remarkably intuitive. There is potentially the issue of having too much functionality to bring to the front, but it's clearly been thought through by people who watch a lot of television and we're keen to see how it feels in real-life usage.
The other significant thing is the way the UI melds recordings and on-demand. You no longer need to worry as much about where the recording lives – just whether you can watch it.
With the best will in the world, set-top boxes are by and large pretty drab (or occasionally entirely hideous), but the new kit from Sky looks, well, surprisingly nice. Perhaps that's because it's significantly smaller than the current Sky+ box.
And if you simply don't like any set-top box clogging up your living room the remote control is connected via Bluetooth, so you could just shut the box away in a cupboard.
6. Smart functionality
Although it's limited, Sky Q's sidebar – enabling you to check out a currently very limited number of apps – is a nice function given that it simply pushes your viewing window aside into a smaller amount of screen. Handy for checking the sports scores or latest headlines without losing track of what you're watching.
There's also Vevo functionality, and YouTube support too. Perhaps unsurprisingly, but definitely disappointingly, there are no plans for either Netflix or Amazon Video apps.
7. 4K Ultra HD (at some point)
With the launch date set for early 2016 Sky has been clear that, at launch, there will be no 4K Ultra HD functionality. But it has confirmed the box's internal componentry will allow for UHD in the future.
Presumably, that means when Sky has enough of a 4K catalogue, and a plan for what it wants to show, the functionality will arrive. Eventually.
We're betting that'll be in time for the next English Premier League season, to encourage a boost in Sky Q subs.