When it comes to the latest in audiovisual technology it wouldn’t be unfair to say Sky TV’s ageing satellite system is years behind the competition when it comes to streaming and catchup TV. And with the likes of LoveFilm and Netflix changing the landscape of TV consumption, Sky has finally realised that its current crop of set top boxes just can’t keep pace with the ever-changing world of Internet TV.
Step forth Sky’s Now TV box, a dinky little plastic box that you can pick up for less than a tenner, and upgrades your TV to a smart TV capable of streaming services like BBC iPlayer and access to Sky’s premium programming without the need of a satellite dish.
There are several reasons why Sky has launched the Now TV box. Firstly, their current raft of set top boxes just can’t compete with the Apple TVs and game consoles of the world. If you’ve ever plugged your Sky box into a broadband router you’ll know that catchup TV doesn’t really work with Sky’s legacy system. I tried it a few months ago and was prompted to download each show on iPlayer before I could watch them – hardly an ideal solution.
So it’s no surprise that their Now TV box looks to solve a lot of the issues Sky faces with its proprietary boxes: first up, the Now TV comes with built-in WiFi, which means Sky can now beam online content to consumers who don’t have a Sky dish. Now TV also grants access to a range of a free catchup services from likes of Channel 4’s 4oD and Channel 5’s Demand5 catchup service.
As well these free services you get access to Now TV’s Sky services, which offers a range of content from Sky TV including premium movies and sport. This mean Now TV is clever alternative for those who don’t actually have a satellite dish. At the moment a Sky Sports day pass costs £9.99, which gives you access to all of Sky’s sports channels for 24 hours.
Sky Movies fairs a little better in the value for money stakes: the movies subscription costs a not unreasonable £8.99 per month for three months and £15 per month thereafter – better still there’s no yearly contract so you could subscribe for just a few months at a time.
There are downsides though: at the moment the Now TV is lacking quite a few apps you’d expect from an Internet TV service – so at the moment both LoveFilm and Netflix are missing in action. But you do get access to rudimentary versions of Facebook and Spotify – so you win some and lose some.
Techradar were impressed with the functionality on offer for the price during their hands-on review, but they too couldn’t forgive Sky for blocking out other services: “It should be pointed out that Sky is restricting some competing services from the library – and that means you can’t use this as a sneaky Netflix of LoveFilm box. Curses.”
Expert Reviews noted during their review that the set top box didn’t offer a value for money as an alternative to a full Sky Package but they did like the idea of a few friends chipping in for a big Premiership game using the system’s day pass: “At this price, it’s obviously not a replacement for Sky Sports on satellite for serious sports fans. Get a couple of mates to chip in and it’s actually quite reasonable.”
Expert Reviews weren’t enamoured by the quality of the streams either, which is limited to just 720p at the moment: “Unfortunately this the maximum output resolution the box runs at, and so though video quality is acceptable, it pales in comparison to 1080p content from Netflix or LoveFilm.”
Overall if you’re looking for a cheap way to add some smart functionality to an ageing TV, then Now TV is a no-brainer. If you’re looking for a box that supports both Netflix and Lovefilm then Now TV won’t serve you well for the time being – but for the price it’s hard not to be impressed by Sky’s first attempt at a fully-fledged Internet TV service.