Sky Stream: Find out 5 things that Sky never told you about its new TV box
Sky Stream is finally available to order – over six months after Sky first confirmed plans to offers the new set-top box.
Prices start from £26 per month, with Sky offering next-day delivery at no cost with all orders. Since there’s no engineer appointment needed, you could be bingeing a new boxset, watching the latest Hollywood blockbusters or Premier League fixtures on Sky Stream within 24-hours. That might be one of the best Sky deals around at the moment – with those opting for Sky Q forced to wait weeks before an engineer installs a satellite dish to the outside of their home.
If you want more details the diddy Sky-designed streaming box, we’ve rounded up everything you need to known about Sky Stream. If you want to know how it compares to the other hardware from Sky, read our in-depth Sky Glass review and five-star Sky Q review.
Below, we’ve got three details you won’t know about Sky Stream from the latest announcement from Sky. Yes, there was plenty of information about the new streaming box when orders went live on October 18 …but Sky didn’t reveal everything you’d want to know.
5 things that Sky didn’t tell you about Sky Stream
On the face of it, Sky Stream and Sky Q cost exactly the same – £26 per month – for the same 150 live channels and 500 on-demand boxsets from HBO Max, Sky Originals, and Peacock. But while you might think the decision between these set-top boxes simply comes down to whether or not you want to watch over Wi-Fi or with a satellite dish …that’s not quite true.
Unlike Sky Q, Sky Stream offers 1080p High Definition (HD) as standard as part of its £26 per month subscription. That includes both live channels – like BBC One HD, Sky Max HD, Sky Atlantic HD, MTV HD, Comedy Central HD – as well as on-demand boxsets like like House of the Dragon, The White Lotus, Gangs of London, Brassic, and Succession.
There is an extra cost for those who want to stream in 4K Ultra HD with Dolby Atmos sound, which adds £6 per month.
In comparison, Sky Q viewers need to cough-up an extra £12 each month to watch in High Definition. That’s because Sky bundles HD with 4K Ultra HD picture quality as a single upgrade add-on.
In other words, it’s impossible to simply upgrade to HD and pay less each month, instead, you’ll always need to pay for 4K Ultra HD – even if you haven’t got a fast enough internet connection or television that supports the pixel-packed picture quality. The latter offers four times the resolution of HD, although to get the benefit you’ll need to watch on a 4K Ultra HD television.
2/ Sky Stream isn’t actually new
Don’t be concerned if Sky’s new Stream box looks a little familiar to you, you’re not suffering a bout of déjà-vu. Sky Stream was unveiled alongside Sky Glass during the glitzy press conference in central London last year as a way to watch live television and on-demand shows in other rooms around the house.
Since Sky Glass includes all of the gubbins needed to stream its exclusive channels inside a custom-designed QLED television, Sky needed a way to update its multi-room offering, which has been around since the launch of Sky+ HD. Enter, Sky Stream.
Sky Glass includes everything needed to watch, but multiroom viewing is handled by Sky Stream pucks
These small pucks don’t communicate with Sky Glass, which was a dramatic departure from the Q mini boxes used to enable the same functionality with Sky Q. These boxes, which are still available to satellite customers, can’t work independently of the main Sky Q box since everything (live television, recordings, on-demand boxsets, streaming services) is beamed from that set-top box using the local Wi-Fi network.
Sky Stream boxes are untethered, which led many to wonder whether a version of these set-top boxes would be sold separately to those who were happy with their existing telly and didn’t want to buy Sky Glass. With the launch of Sky Stream orders on October 18, we have our answer. Sky hasn’t modified the hardware at all – these are the same set-top boxes that Sky Glass customers use to watch in a spare bedroom or home office.
3/ Sky Stream knows where you live
Given that Sky Stream isn’t connected to a satellite dish and isn’t a QLED TV with built-in Dolby Atmos soundbar like Sky Glass …you might be wondering what’s stopping you from popping the set-top box into your bag and taking it to an AirBnB, a family member’s home, or a hotel room to continue watching live Sky channels and exclusive boxsets over Wi-Fi?
Sky Stream is registered to the address that you provided during the checkout process with Sky. If you try to tune-in using Sky Stream at a different address – a holiday home, for example – the set-top box will stop functioning correctly. Of course, if you have Sky Go added to your Sky TV contract, you’ll be able to most of the same channels, boxsets, sports and movies from any phone, tablet, games console, or streaming box like Apple TV. And all of these devices can be anywhere in the UK.
What about if you’re moving house? If your primary address is going to change in the near future, Sky Stream customers will need to contact the customer service team to let them know. This isn’t any different to the other devices in the Sky TV lineup, however, due to the diddy size of Sky Stream and its satellite dish-less telly viewing, some might’ve mistakenly believed they could just move the box and everything would work as before.
Sky Stream is locked to the address that you’ve registered with Sky TV
Yes, Sky Stream viewers will need to pay an extra £5 per month to fast-forward through the adverts in on-demand and catch-up content. The feature is free for the first 18-months, regardless of whether you opt for an 18-month or 31-day rolling contract. In other words, it’s not something you’ll have to worry about for a little while, but it’s worth knowing before you switch from Sky+HD or Sky Q.
Sky Glass has the same caveat, with the functionality – dubbed Ad Skipping Add On – bundled at no extra cost for the first 18-month with your new telly.
So, what’s going on? Well, it’s all to do with the way that Sky Stream handles recordings.
Sky Stream and Sky Glass both ditch the ability to record shows, films, and sport fixtures onto a local hard-drive.
This is a monumental change from Sky, which pioneered the ability to record shows, pause and rewind live television with its ground-breaking Sky+ box back in 2001. Recordings have been replaced with the all-new Playlist feature, which brings together episodes, films, and sport fixtures that you’d like to watch at a later date into a single menu.
While that might sound identical to the Recordings menu on your Sky Q or Sky+HD box …there’s one crucial difference. None of the programmes that you’ve added to Playlist are physically stored on your Sky Stream box – instead, everything is drawn from catch-up or on-demand services like BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, UKTV Play, and others.
For those who love to binge through boxsets of must-watch telly, or prefer shows from ad-support broadcasters like ITV, Sky and Channel 4 over the Beeb, that fee could be well worth it. If you’re already paying for ITV Hub+ to remove adverts from its catch-up app and website – at a cost of £3.99 a month – the alternative from Sky, which removes adverts from all channels, will seem like a bargain.
However, for those who are accustomed to Sky+ or Sky Q, this marks a pretty significant change. The introduction of Playlist also means you won’t be able to keep programmes indefinitely – you’re at the mercy of BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub. Some shows, like Match Of The Day, are only available for a very short amount of time due to complex licensing agreements. As such, you might come back from a few weeks away with only one episode available to watch, compared to three or four on Sky Q, which stores everything locally.
It’s worth noting that there are some advantages to the approach taken with Playlist on Sky Stream.
First up, since you’re not writing data to a whirring hard-drive inside the box, you’ll never need to worry about running out of storage on your Sky Stream box. That means you’ll never need to hastily cull an old series you haven’t got around to watching because you need to schedule a new recording. Likewise, you don’t need to worry about power cuts or signal problems interrupting the recording because, you know, you’re not actually recording anything to your box.
Playlist also brings together episodes from a dizzying number of sources. For example, if you add the latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale on Channel 4 to your Playlist, the clever AI will scour streamers like Disney+, Netflix, Peacock, and Prime Video, as well as Sky’s own library of on-demand titles, to bring together previous seasons alongside the new episodes airing each week. That way, you’ll be able to catch-up on previous episodes to get up-to-speed before you jump into the latest instalment.
Sky Stream doesn’t offer any of the beautiful pastel colours found in Sky Glass
5/ Black is the new black
Sky Stream ships with the same redesigned remote control that launched alongside Sky Glass. That means you’ll get backlit buttons – something we’d never had on any previous Sky TV remote – to make navigating the menu, adjusting volume and channels in a dark room much easier. There’s also a microphone built-in for voice commands.
But while Sky Glass subscribers enjoy a choice of five colours for the television – Anthracite Black, Ocean Blue, Racing Green, Dusky Pink, and Ceramic White – with a colour-matched remote control, Sky Stream users are stuck with Anthracite Black. Sky does sell its redesigned remote control separately via Amazon UK for £29.99. Buying this accessory from Amazon and pairing it with Sky Stream will work, but it’s an extra expense that Glass owners don’t need to worry about.
Of course, previous Sky remotes have always had a one-size-fits-all approach to colour, but with Sky Glass that all changed. For those expecting that Sky Stream would continue the trend (it is, after all, a standalone version of the same experience) you’ll be sorely disappointed when your new satellite-free box arrives in the post.
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