As the biggest addition to Sky’s all-conquering offering since the introduction of Sky+, Sky Q wants to be the Sonos of TV, allowing you to watch telly all over your house and even take recordings on the road.

It's the Sky Q Silver package that we're testing here, which allows you to simultaneously watch one channel, record four others and stream to either two separate Sky Q Mini boxes (one of which is included in the bundle), two tablets, or one of each. Phew.

You can go with the slightly more affordable, standard Sky Q box, but it has fewer tuners and half the hard-drive space. It can’t stream to as many secondary screens, either, plus - and this one's a biggie - it won’t be able to receive 4K when Sky HQ flicks that big switch later in the year.

Whichever version you go for (it's got to be Silver really, hasn't it?), you'll be shelling out more for an already pricey package – is it really worth it? We put the kettle on, kicked off our winklepickers and sat down on the sofa for a weekend to find out.

It's a setup

David Beckham might’ve been ahead of Stuff in the Sky Q installation, er, queue but as the future king of England we’ll let him off. We were still pretty high up the list, so the engineers were still getting used to the setup process when they paid us a visit, meaning it took a little longer than you might expect. No doubt this will improve as they get more practice.

In the vast majority of cases you won't need a new dish or even new cables: just a small part of your existing dish (called the LNB) needs to be swapped out. In our case, though, Sky's engineers decided we might as well have our super-old dish replaced, and who are we to disagree?

That wasn't even what took a while. In order to stream between boxes, Sky Q creates its own mesh network – a dedicated wireless network that’s separate to the one you use for everything else and therefore avoids interference. It makes placement of each box crucial for maximising speed, and the engineers spent a good couple of hours making sure everything was performing as well as possible. If it means our telly viewing isn't interrupted by other people streaming Netflix or playing Destiny while we're trying to catch up on Last Week Tonight, it's two hours well spent.

If there’s a large gap between your router and the Silver box, and the Minis aren’t spaced out enough to daisy chain the signal, you might need to give the network a bit of help. Ours required Sky to install a booster halfway between the router and the Silver box, which isn’t ideal, but once it was up and running it was as stable as a wired connection, and has remained so ever since.

Even with Sky supplying your broadband, each house is likely to be different, but because Sky includes servicing as part of the Sky Q monthly cost, it's in the company's interest to make sure everything is working as it should be.

Mini Me

The multiroom-enabling Sky Q Mini boxes are plug ‘n’ play – all they need is power, a Wi-Fi (or Ethernet) connection and an HDMI cable plugged into a telly and they’re good to go. That means you can move them between TVs if you want to without too much upheaval.

Sky’s ‘Fluid Viewing’ is, in our humble opinion, a rather silly marketing term that simply means you can watch telly wherever you want, starting in one place and seamlessly moving to another if that's what you fancy. Silly name or not, the good news is that in action it’s very impressive. Pause a recording on the Silver box, pick up a tablet or switch to a TV with a Mini box attached and within seconds you can resume watching where you left off via the My Q menu. You can even switch back to watching on the main telly a bit later.

In fact, you don't even need to pause the first box, so if you decide you love whatever you're watching but can't bear to remain in the same room as the person you're watching it with, you can just take yourself off to your bedroom and keep watching in blissful solitude.

Each Mini and tablet has access to everything the Silver box does, including everything you've saved to its hard drive, so using one is a lot like sitting in front of your main telly. You can delete recorded shows from the Silver’s drive using a Mini, too, but this isn't supported by the tablet app - at least not yet. Picture quality appears to be just as good as from the main box, even without a direct wired connection to a satellite.

Mini boxes come with normal remotes that have good old-fashioned buttons where the touch panel would be. They also connect via Bluetooth, though, so you don’t need to point it at the box in order for it to work, although try shaking off the habit.

It's always been good value to get your broadband from Sky if you've already got the TV, and with Sky Q there's a handy extra bonus: the Sky Q Hub router, which comes with Sky Q, enables your main Sky Q box and Mini to act as Wi-Fi hotspots, improving your wireless network right through your house. In the future Sky will also be switching on a powerline feature, which will send your network data through your mains as well as via Wi-Fi, with the system intelligently using the best option at any given time.

While we're on the subject of networking, one slight negative on the Sky Hub front is that the router itself has just two Ethernet sockets. One suspects that the majority of Sky customers use Wi-Fi almost exclusively, but those that do like to use Ethernet to connect devices such as NAS drives could find this a bit annoying.

Ex-stream-ly impressive

Streaming to a tablet – and it only works on tablets, not phones – requires the new Sky Q app. It’s easy to setup – just fire up the app and it’ll detect a Sky Q box on your network.

The app almost exactly mimics the TV interface, enabling you to set recordings, download shows to watch on the go, or stream live or recorded shows within your home. Quality and reliability are good, probably because it’s streaming over your home network rather than the internet as it does with Sky Go.

You can only cache Sky’s own programmes to a tablet to watch offline, so disappointingly you can’t take Only Connect with you on your commute. Downloading to tablet storage is quick, though: three minutes to get a 32-minute Alan Partridge episode from Silver box to iPad Mini, for example. Downloads remain on your tablet for a month if unwatched or 48 hours from the moment you click Play, at which point it's automatically deleted. It's a lot like renting a movie from iTunes or similar, except you're obviously not paying extra for each download on Sky Q.

A pretty penny

And now we come to the thorny subject of price, and it's not all that straighforward.

The standard Sky Q Bundle costs £42 a month, £6 per month more expensive than the existing Sky HD Family Bundle, to which it's most comparable in terms of content. That content is essentially everything except Movies and Sport, which will add £17 a month or £25.50 a month respectively, or £34.50 if taken together.

On top of that selection of content, your extra £6 per month nets you streaming to one tablet (to which content can be synced for taking outside the house) and the ability to record three shows while watching a fourth live.

It doesn't sound like a bad deal, but here's the kicker: you have to pay a one-off setup cost of £99 if you want the standard Sky Q box or £149 for the Sky Q Silver box. And those prices assume you've also subscribed to Movies, Sport or Sky Broadband at the same time - they're £249 or £299 respectively if not. And you won't own your Sky Q box because the "kit is loaned to Sky customers and needs to be returned at the end of the relevant subscription".

And the Sky Q Silver Bundle? That's £54 plus £99 for setup (£299 without at least one of Movies, Sport or broadband), plus the same additional costs if you want Sport and/or Movie channels. This bundle includes the Sky Q Silver box (obvs) and a Mini for one other room. As discussed above, the Sky Q Silver is able to stream to a second Mini, but you'll have to pay an extra £99 to get a second Mini box. On top of that streaming to Mini/s, the Silver bundle includes streaming/syncing to two tablets, rather than the standard bundle's one.

TL;DR Sky Q doesn't add quite as much to the existing Sky HD prices as you might expect, but then Sky HD wasn't exactly cheap to begin with.

Full Sky Q pricing details here

Sky Q verdict

Nobody’s pretending a Sky subscription isn’t already an expensive way to watch TV, even before upgrading to Q. However, comparing it to a £7.50-per-month Netflix subscription is disingenuous. It offers so much more than just the content.

There’s no doubt that Sky Q makes everything else look old fashioned, but it’s also hard to shake the feeling that it solves problems that for some people probably don’t currently exist. Just look at the homes the people in Sky’s Q adverts live in: they’re luxury penthouse apartments with floor-to-ceiling windows or they're large, four-bed houses.

In those abodes and even in more modest family homes Sky Q will make a great deal of sense. It's a more seamless, neat and, OK, fluid experience than the rather archaic multiroom option that Sky was already offering. For those of us in one- or two-bedroom houses, though, Sky Q's extra features will look like luxuries that might not be worth the extra expense.

But don’t let that take away from the fact that this is impressive, well-realised technology that you can’t get anywhere else. Sky Q isn’t for everyone (at least not yet), but neither is a Tesla Model S, and that doesn't mean that both aren't brilliant.

Sky Q works flawlessly and could change the way you watch TV - especially when 4K finally arrives.

Stuff says... 

Sky Q review

Undoubtedly the best TV experience you can get, but only true telly addicts and early adopters need to dive in right now
from
£99
Good Stuff 
Slick new interface
Fluid Viewing works brilliantly
Nice new remote
Bad Stuff 
Expensive
No 4K yet
design
0
video
0
smarts
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build
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