Sky Q has been revealed and unlike the rumours, it’s not just Sky’s 4K box. While 4K will be coming at some point in 2016, Sky’s focus for Q is to set TV free from the existing shackles of the living room.
Many complaints about Sky over recent years have centered around some of the restrictions imposed by the hardware – notably the fact that users could only watch and record up to two programmes at a time. Now those restrictions have been completely obliterated.
The Sky Q Silver box features 12 TV tuners and 2TB of storage facilitating the ability to watch five different programmes on five screens, whilst simultaneously recording four other shows. Users needn’t own Sky boxes around their homes to consume that content either, as the Sky Q box can now beam recorded, on demand and live content to the new Sky Q App on their tablet.
The normal Sky Q box will come equipped with many of the same features as the Sky Q Silver, although there will be 1TB worth of storage and only three programmes can be recorded at once while one other is watched live.
Both boxes come with two F-connectors, two USB 2.0, an HDMI in and HDMI out, an optical audio port and an Ethernet RJ45 port. They also support dual-band Wi-Fi as well as Dolby Digital audio.
For many users the Sky Q App will be a game changer. Current Sky users can only consume their recorded content on the box it’s recorded on; despite being able to remotely control what records on what box from a mobile device.
With the new Sky Q App users will be able to watch their recorded content on their mobile devices but also sync it for offline playback – ideal for those wanting to catch up with their shows while on a long flight or on the daily commute.
In recent months Sky has showcased its dedication to keeping its set-top box up to date with new features and that commitment will continue with Sky Q.
One key feature launching in 2016 will be Ultra HD content – although details surrounding Sky’s commitment to 4K content are currently scarce. To enable the Ultra HD content on the Sky Q the company has announced plans to release a software update which will change the HDMI output from 1.4b to 2.2. Thus far, the update has only been confirmed for the Sky Q Silver, meaning standard Sky Q users may be stuck on 1080p. Voice search and a Sky Q App for smartphones will also be launched in 2016.
In addition to the overhaul of the Sky set-top box, there’s also a new remote. Installers will be pleased to learn that the new remote communicates with the box via Bluetooth rather than infrared; meaning there’s no need for the remote and box to be in direct line of sight.
There are two new remotes; one which existing Sky users will be familiar with and a touchpad remote similar to that of Apple’s latest TV set-top box. The latter ditches the classic Sky buttons for going forward, back, left and right, as well as the select button, in favour of a simple, stylish touchpad.
While the Sky Q Silver will be the box most likely to replace existing boxes in many living rooms, multi-room users will also get a new box which will make it even easier to get Sky in as many rooms in the house as possible.
The new Sky Q Mini will be a plug and play box giving wireless access to the main box. The beauty of the Sky Q Mini however is the fact that it facilitates the installation of a Sky box where a satellite connection cannot be made.
Unlike existing Sky multi-room boxes, Sky Q Mini doesn’t possess any TV tuners – meaning it will get all of its content from the main box. If that box happens to be a Sky Q Silver, there can be two other Mini boxes to one Sky Q Silver.
Despite there not being a TV tuner, users will still be able to enjoy many of the benefits of the Sky Q ecosystem. That means if a user is watching a show in the living room but decides they want to watch the rest in bed, all they need to do is pause the programme in the living room and then click resume when in the bedroom.
Sky’s last major hardware-based announcement has been designed for Sky Broadband customers.
Installers are used to having to integrate Wi-Fi boosters in large homes, but with the new Sky Q Hub, that’s been made even easier. Broadband customers who acquire a Sky Q Hub can use it to convert all of their Sky Q boxes into Wi-Fi hotspots, giving users a strong signal wherever they are in the house.
The Sky Q Hub also utilises Powerline networking technology so it can use in-home electrical wiring as well as Wi-Fi to communicate with Sky Q boxes.
Users will need a strong signal to benefit from all the new features on the software-side of Sky Q as well.
The Sky Guide that many users are familiar with is gone with Sky Q. In its place is a new UI that focuses on large images and tiles with scrolling menus.
While the Sky Guide of old had a horizontal user interface with what’s showing on TV at the top, Sky Q has relocated the currently showing box to the left, while the rest of the UI is displayed vertically on the right.
It’s clear that Sky’s target with Q is the likes of Netflix rather than its traditional competitors like BT and Virgin Media, as the company has put an emphasis on on-demand content and Internet services.
Dedicated Apps for YouTube and Vevo have already been announced for Sky Q, with additional streaming content coming from Condé Nast entertainment including GQ, Vanity Fair and Wired, GoPro, Junkin Media, Kin Community, Red Bull Media House and Whistle Sports.
Additional online content is on the cards for later in 2016, although Netflix and Amazon Instant Video support has yet to be announced.
Users will be able to beam content from their iPhones and iPads using AirPlay however, while streaming music from Bluetooth is also possible. Browsing through Facebook Photos on the Sky Q will also be a possibility.
Jeremy Darroch, Sky’s chief executive, comments: “Sky Q is a brilliant new way for customers to experience TV on their terms.
“We wanted to re-imagine TV so that it’s flexible and seamless across different screens and to put a huge choice of entertainment at their fingertips.
“We think customers are going to love Sky Q and the great news is that it will get even better with much more to come in the future.”
Unfortunately Sky has yet to reveal some crucial details regarding Sky Q. An ‘early 2016’ release window for the UK and Ireland has been revealed, although pricing is still an unknown factor.
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