What is Sky Q? Price, release dates and technical specs

Sky has announced its new web-connected TV service, and it’s a clear statement of intent with regards to reinventing the way its customers use Sky at home and on the go.

Updated 14/06/2016: Sky confirms Sky Q 4K UHD

As of August 13th, Sky Q Silver customers will be able to watch sport, movies and TV shows in Ultra HD.  Also refrred to as 4K, this format further enhances the visual crispness and quality, acting as the natural progression from HD.

UHD will be a free upgrade for Sky Q Silver customers, and while the format does not extend to every show availbale, it will be offered on the 124 live Premier League games on Sky Sports, and will be available with the premiere of Spectre.

Sky Q incorporates multi-viewing live channels in different rooms, new technology allowing ‘Fluid Viewing', and streaming of on demand content.

We take a detailed look at Sky Q and exactly what's on offer with this new TV and web platform.  We'll also be updating the information as and when more details are revealed.

What is Sky Q?

Sky Q brings together TV, online viewing and Sky Broadband access through a range of new hardware.  Currently Sky customers can watch live channels and on demand content through their Sky+HD box, whilst Sky subscription content on the go is accessed through the Sky Go platform.

Sky Q will efficiently combine these into a single slick premium service, which also offers a number of other innovative features, through the new hardware and the Sky Q app for tablets.

The service will further streamline the current product options by essentially assimilating Sky Multiroom.  A range of mini stream boxes will allow you to move between rooms and get the content through a broadband connection in that room, as opposed to the Multiroom system which requires new Sky set-top boxes to be wired in.

The Android and iOS apps will allow the content to be viewed on the tablet, so you can literally take the show with you between rooms without interruption.

So, if someone wants to watch the action on Sky Sports' Super Sunday, whilst someone else was halfway through a hangover-busting marathon of Futurama, then both parties can remain contented through Sky Q's seamless service.

As Sky Q will work like a hub of absolutely everything you get with Sky, which you can connect to throughout the home and the go, it should allow you to genuinely watch whatever you like, whenever you like.  The whole service is further enhanced by the new range of features, as well as the individual pieces of hardware, and next we'll take a look at what's going to be included.

‘Fluid Viewing' - Sky Q revolutionises how you watch

Fluid Viewing is another snappy term which refers to the incorporated tech that allows a programme to be watched seamlessly, even if you move rooms or switch devices.  There won't be a ton of cables snaking through your home creating some kind of intimidating and aesthetically disturbing jungle of leads.

As part of the Fluid Viewing experience of Sky Q, Sky has added “the number one requested feature from customers”, and that's the option to take a recording from your box and watch it on the go.  So, if you've got a bit of a journey ahead of you then you can take the latest recording of Game of Thrones, or whatever new show you've been hooked on, and watch it on your tablet when you like with Sky Q.

The number of shows that can be watched will change dramatically, as the main box - ‘Sky Q Silver' – features an eyebrow-raising 12 tuners.  You will definitely be able to record four shows at the same time, watch a fifth, support two tablet streams and supply TV to two mini stream boxes.  This suggests 12 tuners would be somewhat indulgent, but Sky is likely to be future-proofing.   This is actually a first for UK and Ireland, and will likely feature heavily in the marketing push approaching actual launch.

To provide comparison, Sky TV customers can currently record a maximum of two shows at the same time, through two tuners in the back of the traditional Sky+HD box, then watch a third recording from the hard drive.  Those with TiVo through Virgin Media have three tuners, so that's three live recordings while watching a fourth stored show from the box.  Put that against the nine streams being utilised by Sky Q, perhaps with the capacity for 3 more (in theory), then the competition, in terms of this particular feature, is getting dwarfed.

Sky Q hardware & specs: What you'll be using and why

A family of Sky Q products will be released, all forming part of the complete Sky Q experience.  There are two set-top boxes, a mini streamer, a touch remote and a hub, with the Sky Q Silver serving as the flagship.

 Sky Q Silver

Sky Q Silver box: A multi-purpose 2TB Sky set top box

The Sky Q Silver features a streamlined design, significantly more compact than the somewhat cumbersome Sky+HD effort staring back at Sky TV viewers across the UK.  As already highlighted, it will include 12 tuners, and the current word from Sky is nine simultaneous streams will be available.

There is a 2TB hard drive, which equates to up to 350 hours of high definition recording, and a huge draw will be the 4K Ultra HD support that is planned, although it may not be ready for launch.  The box also acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot, which is a smart feature of the Sky Q service that will no doubt prove popular.

It's worth pointing out at this stage that you can kiss goodbye to your current recordings through Sky+HD.  There just isn't a viable way of moving the recordings, so you will be starting from scratch with Sky Q, but think of it as an exercise in cleansing, and then set about trying your hardest to fill 2TB of hard disk space.

Further to this, you will not need a new dish, and any changeover would be organised and carried out by a Sky engineer.

Sky Q Silver - Official Specifications

  • 2TB Hard Disk Drive, 1.7TB available for customer use. Equates to up to 350 hours of HD recording

  • 2 x HDMI - HDMI Out (HDMI 1.4b output with HDCP 1.2 which will be updated post-launch to support 4K Ultra HD)

  • HDMI In (HDMI 1.4 input (YUV & RGB) with HDCP 1.2)

  • Optical S/PIDF (Digital Audio)

  • 2 x F-connectors (Satellite in 12V, 300mA)

  • 2 x USB (USB 2.0, max 500mA per port)

  • 1 x 10/100 Mb/s Ethernet RJ45 port

  • Dual-band - 2.4GHz and 5GHz

  • 2.4GHz 801.11n is 2x2 MIMO - back compatible with 802.11 b/g

  • 5GHz 801.11ac is 3x3 MIMO - back compatible with 802.11n

  • 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 576p resolution supported, with 2160p (Ultra HD) added through post-launch update

  • Powerline AV1.1 support (other Sky devices only)

  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE support

  • 4:3, 16:9 aspect ratio support

  • Full Band tuner 290-2340MHz

  • Digital audio optical S/PDIF connector

  • Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) compliant video and audio decoding

  • Dolby Digital support, over HDMI and Optical

  • Power source available for LNB of 300mA @12V DC

  • Audio decoding with sampling rates of 32, 44.1 or 48 kHz

  • DVB-S/S2 demodulation and error correction

  • Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) compliant video and audio decoding

Sky Q box: The ‘affordable' alternative

This alternative to the Sky Q Silver will no doubt be considered a ‘more affordable' option, as it has fewer tuners, less disk space and no capacity for Ultra HD upgrading.  Focusing on what it does offer, there 1TB of storage, which is pretty healthy, and the eight tuners will support streaming to a Sky Q Mini box, and one tablet via the Sky Q app.  It will operate in tandem with the new Sky Q touch remote and the reinvented Sky Q guide, just as the Sky Q Silver box does.

 Sky Q Mini

Sky Q Mini box: No more Multiroom

The grand plan is to have the Sky Q Silver box sitting in your living room, perhaps on some kind of throne, whilst the minions, also known as Sky Q Mini boxes populate a couple of other rooms in the house.

There's a lack of pricing available, rendering financial comparison with Sky Multiroom a little difficult at this time, but it will be a more efficient system.  The Sky Q Mini box will connect to a TV through an HDMI cable, whilst connecting to your network through WiFi and a Powerline adapter, and that will mean less cabling through the home.

It will serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot as well, supporting dual-band, so any web-connecting devices on 5GHz can make use of it and get a faster connection.

Sky Q Mini - Official Specifications

  • HDMI Out (HDMI 1.4b output with HDCP 1.2)

  • 1 x USB, (1A port, non-charging)

  • 1 x 10/100Mb/s Ethernet RJ45 port

  • Optical S/PIDF (Digital Audio)

  • Mains (Mains input 230V 20W) wireless connectivity

  • Dual-band - 2.4GHz and 5GHz

  • Powerline AV1.1 support (other Sky devices only)

  • Composite Video/L/R 4-pole 3.5mm Jack (L/R/Video/GND)

  • 2.4GHz 801.11n is 2x2 MIMO - back compatible with 802.11 b/g

  • 5GHz 801.11ac is 3x3 MIMO - back compatible with 802.11n

  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE support Visual

  • 4:3, 16:9 aspect ratio support

  • 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 576p resolution supported

  • Audio decoding - sampling rates of 32, 44.1 or 48 kHz

  • Digital audio optical S/PDIF connector

  • Dolby Digital support, over HDMI and Optical

  • Analogue CVBS Video and L/R Audio Support Audio

  • Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) compliant video and audio decoding

 Sky Q Hub

Sky Q Hub: An all-new router for Sky Broadband

The Sky Q hub will be compatible with ADSL2+ and VDSL, and it will use smart tech to communicate with the Sky Q Silver and Sky Q Mini boxes.  It will use the most efficient home network path, be it 2.4GHz or 5GHz, and act as the chief behind directing content to your home's various hardware recipients.

The Sky Q Hub is also integral to the feature which sees the Sky Q set-top boxes turn into Wi-Fi hotspots.  It simply won't be an option without the Sky Hub and, therefore, Sky Broadband.  Your web provider won't affect whether the set-top boxes can offer their various other functions, but the Wi-Fi hotspot option will be out.

Sky Q Hub - Technical Specifications

  • 2 x 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet RJ45 port

  • 1 x DSL port

  • Mains (Mains input 230V) Connectivity

  • Dual-band - 2.4GHz and 5GHz (2.4GHz 801.11n is 2x2 MIMO - Back compatible with 802.11 b/g / 5GHz 801.11ac is 3x3 MIMO - back compatible with 802.11n)

  • Powerline AV1.1 support - (other Sky devices only)

  • Support WPA/WPA2 with WPA-PSK/AES and TKIP security

  • Support WPA2/AES power consumption / power-saving features

  • IPv6 support Security

  • ‘Network Standby' mode - 20 minutes without use sees power drop to less than 12W

Sky Q touch remote: A new Bluetooth remote for your home

The Sky Q touch remote is an item of convenience, letting you swipe through the options on-screen, and it's a Bluetooth device, so you won't actually need the front panel of the set-top box on display.

Sky has said that a voice feature will be added down the line, making use of the built-in microphone.

Sky Q and Sky TV: A brand new interface

Sky TV's EPG is a familiar sight, but a little clunky in its execution and subsequently a little arduous.  This is perhaps pedantic, but it's undoubtedly a driving reason behind the revamped style of interface that comes with Sky Q.

The layout sees excellent use of content images alongside clearly defined sub-sections like Top Picks and Recordings, and with My Q you can find recommendations and shows you didn't finish.  It's a crisper, clearer and all-round slicker experience than the present EPG.

My Q also enables the function where you can pause in one room and carry on in another, with the content streaming from the exact same place to another TV connected to a Sky Q Mini box, or to a tablet with the Sky Q app.

Through Sky Q's new search functionality, all the live, recorded and on demand content will be brought together, making it easily accessible for viewers.  Anything from those three viewing platforms will be included in your search, so you'll see the complete selection of results.

Sky Q broadband: Supercharged home Wi-Fi

The fact that Sky Q set-top boxes can be turned into Wi-Fi hotspots (as long as you have a Sky Hub) could drastically affect your connectivity at home.  In the current set-up, you rely on the single Sky router to provide Wi-Fi in your home, and the secure network is used by multiple devices, such as tablets, smartphones and laptops.

The signal strength can be affected by a number of things, including obstructions and, obviously, the distance from the router.  Some rooms may be so far from the router that the signal drops out.  Through Sky Q, broadband can become more readily available throughout the home; if a room has a Sky Q Mini box connected then you can easily use this as a Wi-Fi hotspot, so the weakened signal created through distance from the actual Sky Q Hub no longer becomes an issue.

How to get Sky Q

Sky Q will be offered as a product alongside Sky+ and NOW TV, so customers will be able to choose if they want to take up this service, which Sky itself has referred to as “premium”.  It will be the top tier, without doubt, and if you want it you can either join Sky as a new customer, or upgrade if you're already with the provider and have one of the other two TV platforms.

How much is Sky Q? Sky Q price, packages and availability

Sky Q is available to buy from Tuesday 9th February 2016, with installations starting at the end of that month.  Set-up will be from £99, and Sky has indicated that existing Sky+ customers can expect to pay around an extra £12 a month compared with their current package.

The price for new customers will start from £42 a month, with no upfront hardware cost, which means Sky will retain ownership of the set-top box.  Customers can therefore expect to pay a higher premium for better tech, with the impressive-sounding 12-tuner Sky Q Silver box leading the way.

The monthly price is also going to vary depending on your channel choices, and whether you include popular premium services, such as Sky Sports and Sky Movies.

Stephen van Rooyen, Sky's Chief Marketing, Sales & Digital Officer, said: “We've had a fantastic reaction to Sky Q. So I'm delighted to reveal the news that people will be able to get Sky Q for our lowest ever set-up cost for a new premium product.

“We wanted to completely re-imagine TV, making it flexible and seamless across the screens in our lives. With Sky Q and Fluid Viewing that's exactly what we've done – giving people the best TV tech on the market today, at a really accessible price. We think people will love it.”

Availability is likely to be across the board, with the only limitations relating to the kind of broadband available in your area, and the number of set-box tuners you can use can be affected by your kind of accommodation.  Some flats use a communal box, and this can leave each tenant with only one feed.

Sky Q is expected to be offered alongside Sky's top TV packages, but it will be interesting to see how 4K Ultra HD is integrated.  It seems likely that this would create a new standalone top tier package, and the package would only work with Sky Q due to device compatibility.  There will be more on Sky Q prices and packages when we hear about it, as anything now is pure speculation.

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