Fluid Viewing is the tagline Sky is using to market its latest product, Sky Q - a brand-new TV service that offers up seamless viewing in the home, by marrying up on-demand and live television content. While ‘fluid viewing’ is usually something associated with what a urologist does, Sky isn’t taking the piss with its latest hardware and software upgrade: it’s the biggest and most advanced Sky system ever. Here's our full Sky Q review.
What Is It?
Sky Q is a new premium service by Sky that comprises a main set-top box, a new Sky hub router, a Sky Mini box (or two) and a brand-new app that allows you to watch your recorded Sky Q content on the go, by side-loading shows and movies on to a tablet.
It allows you to watch a show in the living room, pause it and watch from where you left off in the bedroom and vice versa. The service will also learn what you like to watch and suggest shows you might be interested in.
There are two packages available: Sky Q Silver is the more premium of the two (and the one we reviewed), which has 2TB of storage, the ability to record four things at once, the ability to stream to two tablets and connect up to two Sky Q Mini boxes. Standard Sky Q cuts storage in half, can record three things at once and lets you stream to a single tablet.
Who Is It For?
Those who have Sky TV but are sick of being shackled to the living room to watch their favourite shows. Anyone sick of the limitations of Sky Go. Folks who want a service that’s future proof and don’t mind spending a pretty penny on getting a whole lot of new functionality.
Sky Q is like what happened when Chris Pratt slimmed down for Guardians of the Galaxy. He was still everything you loved about him in Parks and Recreation, but upgraded in a svelte new body. The new main Sky Q Silver box is a whole lot trimmer than the old Sky HD box (232 x 155 x 34mm, compared to a chunky 398 x 283 x 81mm) and allows you to record four shows at once (thanks to 12 tuners packed inside) and also acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot. This is because Sky has opted to use a new mesh setup for connecting up the boxes in your home, making use of the 5GHz dual-band router that’s part of the package. This means that you can view Sky around your house and it won’t impinge on any downloading, music streaming or gaming anyone in your home is doing.
While the front of the box has a glowing Q, the back has a couple of USB ports, an Ethernet connection, 2x HDMI and an optical connection.
The Sky Mini box, which takes feeds off the main Sky Q box, is smaller still and looks just like the new Sky Hub that comes with the package.
Sky Q is a joy to use. It’s been built from the ground up, so you won’t just find a stuffy EPG grid here – everything is a lot more flowing and intuitive. Gone is the text-heavy Sky+HD interface and in its place is something that’s a whole lot more visual.
One the left-hand side of the screen is now where you will find the channel you are watching, then there’s a middle column which holds the main categories, including the TV Guide, Recordings, Movies, Kids and Music. New sections include Top Picks – this is stuff Sky reckons will be of interest, but it isn’t contextual.
If it’s context you want, then head to My Q and Q Play. This is the beating heart of the new Sky service. It’s here where you can see what things you are currently watching and you can then dip in and out of them on whatever device you want. This is where the Fluid Viewing concept comes from - you can watch something in the living room, pause it, then continue watching in the bedroom. If you need to go out then you can side-load it through the Sky Q app (available on iPad and Android). It really does work, too. The whole thing is almost seamless.
It’s here that contextual recommendations are also housed. These are based on your viewing history and also what time of day it is. No one wants a horror movie while you are eating your Shreddies, so that’s the sort of thing Sky Q will avoid.
All of this is controlled by a new touch remote control. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it does enhance the Sky Q experience once you do get the hang of it. Sky is also bundling a plain-old button-heavy Bluetooth remote if touch really isn’t your thing.
Sky has also made it so you can stream your own music through its set up. This makes a whole load of sense, given your main TV is probably attached to the best sound system in the house - you can do this through both Airplay and Bluetooth.
Sky has also tried to make sure that the web content also nestles next to its premium movies, TV and sports output. It’s a little jarring, having short-form content from Funny or Die and the like on your Sky box, but it’s worth a watch.
Sky has also added its own apps to the service, too, so you can check out Sky Sports or Sky News while watching something. Again, this is a fun but not essential part of Sky Q, and we’ve seen it all before on the myriad Smart TV platforms available.
Sky Q currently works best if you completely buy into the Sky eco-system. Sky has started installing the service in homes, but only to Sky broadband customers first. And if you want the Hotspot functionality, then this is only available through Sky Broadband.
Installation prices radically inflate, too, if you don’t have Sky Broadband, the movies package or the sports package.
Also, 4K. Sky Q is Ultra HD ready but there’s no content available at launch - it’s great that we will see this sometime in the future but those looking for 4K right now should look to BT or Netflix. Oh, and don’t expect to find Netflix or Amazon Prime on this service either - again, we expect they will be on board at some point, but for now they are suspiciously missing.
-- The only time we had issues with My Q was when we tried to do it with live content. Turns out you can’t pause a live show and continue watching upstairs - you have to press record first before beaming it elsewhere. It’s a niggle but a fairly small one.
-- Although the Sky Hub is compatible with powerline networking, this feature isn’t available at launch so bear this in mind.
-- Sky Q has no way of porting over your current recorded Sky content so keep a list of all of your series link shows and other things that currently clutter up your existing HD box.
-- Installation will take a good two hours. Although your dish shouldn’t need replacing (unless it is really old), a new LMB will have to be added to accept the new Sky Q feed.
-- Remote record is another feature that will come with time but is not available from launch.
Should You Buy It?
Sky Q is the best TV experience around but it is pricey. What you get for the money, though, is a Sky service in your house in which all the elements finally talk to each other. The days of separate recordings on HD boxes are gone - Fluid Viewing means that all of the content is stored on the main box and all the other's apps and boxes link to this, so you alway have access to your programmes, no matter where you are.
With 4K on the way, Sky Q is future proof, too. This does also mean that it isn’t quite the finished article at the moment, which makes it veer into early adopter territory, or for those who have deep pockets and want the best television experience in the land right now.
Sky Q Review – Specs:
Price: Sky Q bundle, from £42 a month with £99 setup fee; Sky Q Silver bundle, from £54 a month with a £149 setup fee. If you aren’t a Sky Broadband, Sky Movies or Sky Sports customer, installation fee rises to £249 and £299 respectively.
Dimensions: 232 x 155 x 34mm
Screen resolution: 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 576p (2160p to be added in future update)
Colour: Matt black and mirror silver
Storage: 1TB (Standard), 2TB (Silver)