Now TV Smart Box review

Basic Freeview and catch-up, and access to Sky's content, but still no Netflix or Amazon video

Now TV Smart Box

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Once you've set up your Smart Box the home screen is what you'll see when you first turn it on, and you can go there at any time by pressing the home button on the remote.

The top left tile of the home screen shows a live feed of the last channel watched, while the others will show a curated selection of on-demand titles from Now TV and other services.

When I checked out the home screen the selection was dominated by picks from Now TV, although there were a couple of options from the BBC and Channel 5 in there as well; this may change over time, depending on what's available.

Now TV Smart Box Home Screen

The next menu down the list is a 'Best of Catch Up' selection, which is dedicated to the five main on-demand services. Each app gets its own row, featuring a link to the app itself at the far left, and 10 top picks from that service.

This is helpful if you're just browsing for something to watch, but if you want to search for a particular programme you'll have to boot into the specific app; there's no universal search feature along the lines of what you get with the Roku 4.

The next item in the list is the TV Guide. There are three tabs here: one for the device's 60 free-to-air Freeview channels, one for the Now TV streaming channels, and one for radio stations.

Now TV Smart Box TV Guide

From here you can select any of the Freeview TV channels or radio stations, and they'll play more or less instantly.

Annoyingly, though, selecting any of the Now TV channels doesn't take you directly to that channel; instead it will launch the Now TV app, and from there you need to select the channel again.

This is especially grating if you've scrolled down a fair way to select the channel you want on the first list, as you'll be dumped right back to the top of the new list; it's a small thing, but it makes the experience feel a lot less cohesive, and more like a collection of apps than a selection of platform-agnostic content.

When you're watching Freeview content you can press the up and down keys on the remote to scroll through channels, or press left to view a list of available channels – it's here that you might start to wish the remote (which is the same as the one that was included with the last Now TV Box) had a number pad to enable you to jump quickly to a specific channel.

You can also pause and rewind up to half an hour of live TV, but the absence of recording functionality is unfortunate. Yes, many shows will be available on the various catch-up services, but inevitably many others won't; additionally, having the ability to record shows means you have a permanent copy, with most catch-up content expiring after a set period.

Now TV Apps

Our final stops on our tour of the menus are the My Apps list, which enables you to select apps directly, and the App Store, which enables you to download more. Each app has its own interface, and some are definitely easier to navigate with the Smart Box's remote than others.

It's in the My Apps list that you'll find the Sky Store, where you're able to purchase movies and TV shows to stream whenever you wish.

It feels odd that the Sky Store doesn't have a menu all to itself, given that it has a dedicated button on the remote, but at least the button makes it easy to get to.

An annoying result of the Sky Store being a separate app within the Smart Box is that you need to sign into your Now TV account a second time before you can make any purchases. Again, this makes the Smart box feel like a collection of separate apps rather than a single unified experience.

This sign-in process is thankfully a one-time thing, but it's annoying all the same.

Now TV Smart Box Remote

As for the remote, it's a perfectly passable experience, but it's not the best around.

Amazon Fire TV's Alexa has brought voice search to streaming boxes, Roku has its remote built into an app for phones and tablets, and even your average Freeview box has a number pad to enable you to quickly skip to the required channel.

Compared to those, navigating through channels using the Smart Box's minimalistic remote can feel like a chore, especially when you're skipping from a channel like E4, which is pretty far down the TV guide, to ITV, which is near the top.

It's not a bad remote by any means. It's fast and responsive, and you can certainly do most of what you need to do quite easily; but it's also exactly the same as the remote that came with the streaming-only Now TV box, and I can't help thinking it would benefit from a few more buttons to help users get around the expanded selection of content a little more easily.


Sky's Now TV service might be limited to 720p resolution, but the Smart Box itself is a 1080p machine. This means that it's the streaming services themselves that get to decide between 720p and 1080p.

It would've been nice to see Sky offer up an Ultra HD 4K streaming box like the Roku 4 – although with only Netflix and Amazon Prime currently offering 4K streams, and with both of those services absent from the Smart Box, the increased resolution would, as it stands, be of limited use.

Now TV Smart Box Content

I watched a variety of content, from live TV through Freeview to on-demand viewing and live TV streamed through apps, and the video quality was consistent with my previous experiences of each of the major services.

Obviously various factors will influence the quality of the images you receive, such as your internet speed and television reception, but in my experience the Now TV Smart Box delivers solid image quality, with little in the way of artifacting.

Sound quality is also good. I wasn't able to test the box through its maximum 7.1 surround sound configuration, but a 90W Roth Audio sound bar I had to hand made audio sound crisp and clear.

Jon Porter

Jon Porter is the ex-Home Technology Writer for TechRadar. He has also previously written for Practical Photoshop, Trusted Reviews, Inside Higher Ed, Al Bawaba, Gizmodo UK, Genetic Literacy Project, Via Satellite, Real Homes and Plant Services Magazine, and you can now find him writing for The Verge.