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Friday, January 24, 2014

Sky Now TV Box review - is Sky's little and cheap media-streamer a good deal for on-demand TV fans?

The Sky Now TV Box is a cute little gizmo that plugs into your dumb TV and makes it smart. Thus you can sign up for Sky's Now TV service and enjoy all of Sky's broadcasting without a long-term contract, a satellite dish or cable connectivity. (See all Digital Home reviews.)

The Sky Now TV Box is in effect a Roku LT player with a white paint job. To use it you'll need a TV with an HDMI port, and a Wi-Fi connection with a minimum broadband download speed of 2.5Mbps. If you don't have an HDMI port you can always get a mini-jack to RCA cable. If you don't have Wi-Fi, well, you're out of luck. There's no ethernet connector and, although you almost certainly have a Wi-Fi connector, we'd like the option of wired connectivity for a more consistent connection.

The setup process is unusually easy for a device of this type, however. Clearly Sky has put some investment into the interface as it is very simple to follow.

Some quibbles: output from the Sky Now TV Box is limited only to 720p video streaming. you'll have cause to regret this if you have a big HD TV. And although the Sky Now TV Box comes with a decent remote with which to navigate those clean interface pages, we'd like to see an app for smartphones or tablets. Sky is normally pretty good on that score, so this feels like an ommission.

But the headline news is that the Sky Now TV Box is a simple device that works well and is easy to set up and use. And measuring just 23x84x84mm this little white slab is unlikely to take up too much room or disturb the feng shui in your designer living room.

The Sky Now TV Box is in essence a rebadged version of the Roku LT streamer. You can get more technical detail in our full Roku LT review.

But the killer question is... is Sky's Now TV Box a good deal?

Well, at £9.99, including postage, the Now TV Box itself can be described as a real bargain. Most internet media streamers cost between £50 and £100 so Sky's little white box is the best value option around, bar none. But that's not to say that the whole deal is great. After all, Sky is supplementing the cost of this device to get you to shell out for its own Sky Now service. Sky Now costs £9.99 a day for the Sports bundle, £8.99 a month for Movies, and £4.99 a month for Entertainment. That's a pretty expensive way to get Sky's goodies on your TV.

No, the Sky Now TV Box is a good deal only if you are a non-Sky subscriber and you only occasionally want to watch Sky TV, but you also want a smart TV media streamer.

If that is the case this device is well worth a look. Of course, Sky wants you to spend money watching its Sky Movies and Sky Sports content and if you're already a Sky TV customer you may as well stop reading this review. But the Now TV Box offers other on-demand and catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer, Demand 5 and Spotify. There's no Netflix support, however. Clearly Sky wants you to get your cinematic jollies from Sky Movies. Netflix and LoveFilm are both cheaper at £5.99 a month, but for Sky's £9.99 a month you do get more recent movies, and the on-demand service really does deserve a second look these days.

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