The Sky Now TV Smart Box represents one of the simplest solutions if you want to stream video and get catch-up services without upgrading your actual TV set. It's affordability and integrated Freeview HD tuner are extra points in the positives column.
At the heart of the Now TV Smart Box, though, is its main aim of getting you hooked on Now TV services. You can buy "passes" that let you watch Sky Cinema, Sky Sport and entertainment channels without a long and expensive contract.
You can't stream Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, limiting its appeal if you like to dabble with a few services – the focus really is on Now TV plus the terrestrial services. It's also worth noting that the box lacks 4K streaming.
On the plus side, you can pause and rewind live TV – something not every smart box can do – and at £40 it's one of the cheapest ways to get catch-up services. Well, bar Sky's own Now TV Stick anyway.
Whether this really is the only box you need, however, is something of a tricky call, as it depends on a few things – like 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 though, let's look at what you get with the Now TV Smart Box.
Features and set-up
The Now TV Smart Box costs £39.99, or comes 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, although this is just a holdover from the box's Roku origins and doesn't offer any functionality on this device.
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. 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. There are rumours Netflix is on the way, but we haven't seen anything so far.
The good news is, 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.