Sky Q TV box

I have a friend who paints cars for a living and a while ago I popped in for a cuppa. His secretary popped her head round the door and said “Mr Jones is asking if his car was ready” and my friend said “Tell him the paints still wet” and then said to me with a wink “but don’t tell him the paint is still in the can” ๐Ÿ™‚

I think this adequately describes the Sky Q TV box! Before going over to Sky from Virgin, I had a good play with my daughters Sky+ box, along with the apps available for Android and iPad and was suitably impressed. Unlike the Virgin Tivo, the UI (User Interface) was clean and uncluttered, the “Planner” was lovely and all the apps seemed to suggest that Sky understood the customer needs. Virgin kept putting prices up and didn’t offer anything better, although I haven’t had hands on with the Tivo V6 because the Virgin Hub 3 put me off! The Tivo box just kept getting more sluggish and unresponsive.

After being on cable for 20+ years (which became Virgin) I made the leap and ended up with the Sky Q TV box and to be honest I could not be more underwhelmed! “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind!

Like the Sky+ box, the Sky Q box has a nice clean UI (user interface) which is reasonably easy to use and somewhat intuitive but some of the useful features of the Sky+ box have not been carried over to the Sky Q box and it soon became obvious that the Virgin Tivo had some better features.

The “apps” for the Sky Q box, compared to the apps for the Sky+ box are IMO less useful than a chocolate fireguard. In the 6 months I’ve been using it, the apps have been combined and haven’t offered (IMO) any improvement. The apps are obviously not aimed at me !

The “My Sky” app is fine if you want to view your current bill but if you want to do anything more useful e.g. sort out the “talk shield” you now (following an update of the app) have to use a PC and browser, go figure!

None of the other apps allow “remote management” of the SKY Q box, the only thing you can do is set something to record. There is no option to view the “planner” (because it doesn’t have one) to see (not watch) what you have already recorded or have scheduled to record. WHY? That’s a pretty basic fail!

It seems that all the apps (for IOS & Android) are geared toward people that want to watch telly on a tiny phone screen or a larger tablet screen. Personally, if I want to watch telly; I go into the snug / TV room and watch telly on a big screen (without any of the “cinema surroundย  sound” bollox) where I can sit in my recliner and get comfy for a snoozeย  ๐Ÿ™‚ I certainly don’t want to watch TV on my Android phone or my iPad but accept there maybe some people that do!

That might beg the question, “why do I want to use an app on my phone and / or iPad?” Well strangely I’m not normally sat in front of the telly all the time and having an app to browse and plan my viewing would quite useful.

OK, lets forget about the apps; they’re not aimed at me. Lets have a look at the box interactively with that lovely remote control box that accepts voice commands, depending on what mood it’s in ๐Ÿ™‚

We are presented with a nice clean UI which shows promise. You can press the “Sky button” and see what you have recorded (it’s taken me ages to stop saying “taped”) and you are presented with small “icons” of the things you have recorded but using the left, right, up and down arrows (on the remote) it is difficult to decide what you are looking at because for some strange inexplicable reason the highlighted “border” is the same colour as the background. Why the “icon” isn’t highlighted in a different colour beggars belief, is it me! It is possible to view an A to Z list of your recordings, it isn’t pretty and getting there is like “death by button pressing” and life is too short for that!

What happened to the Planner!. Yes you can look atย  (a list of ) “Scheduled recordings but it isn’t pretty and it doesn’t tell you what channel it will record on. Neither does it indicate potential “recording clashes”, that’s a very big fail!

Maybe you just want to see whats on telly, It takes five “presses” of one or more buttons to get to the TV Guide. Pressing the “Home” button takes you to what they want to shove at you, sorry stuff they think you want to / ought to watch. Call me churlish but I’m not really interested in what other people think I might want to watch!

I accept that I’m not a typical telly viewer, if I put the telly on it’s because I want to watch something I’ve recorded or I want to look at the TV Guide to see if there is anything I want to record. Ideally I would use an app on the iPad to view the EPG to see what I have already have scheduled to record or indeed recorded and to see if there is anything else I want to record.

I never put the telly on in the hope of finding something to watch, basically I don’t do “Live TV” and that includes the News! I basically watch telly when I want to be entertained and have nothing better to do. Having some 200+ channels is wasted on me, if I can’t see anything I’m interested in watching / recording on the fist page; I get bored of looking!

With regard to “recordings”.

It seems to record what it likes and quite often doesn’t record what you want to record, even with “record series” selected. We have set several things to record series and it records duplicate “shows” with identical series x and episode x that have been screened on different days or maybe different channels. When you decide to cancel a series link, it still records it.

There is no option to control the recording behaviour e.g. minutes before and / or after. This seems to cause problems with “recording clashes” but it doesn’t alert you the fact it won’t record due to a clash until after the event, deep joy!

There is no option to set the number of “shows” saved in the “record series”, e,g, for a show that comes on say daily; you might only want to save the last 1 or 3 or 5 etc but it just records stuff from all over the place, regardless of whether you have watched it or not.

There isn’t any consistent indication (if any) to show if you have watched a recording. Sometimes you select a recording to watch and it starts playing at the end of the recording. Sometimes there is an option to “watch from start”, which would suggest you have already watched it even though you know you haven’t watched it. Other times, you want to watch delayed (so you can skip the adverts) but most often when you select play it plays from the “current live” position instead of from the beginning.

There doesn’t seem to be a consistent “rolling record” for the currently selected channel e.g. if you put the telly on and you have missed the beginning of the show, sometimes you can to rewind to the beginning for up to say 60 minutes and other times you can only watch the show from when you put the telly on! Maybe that’s something to do with the box going into sleep mode or maybe it’s just a “feature” ๐Ÿ™‚

EPG (Electronic Program Guide / TV Guide).

After five “clicks / presses” of one or more buttons you are presented with a reasonably clean screen. If you use the down arrow to look at details of a show (lower down on the list), quite inexplicably the whole of the screen scrolls up so that the line that you want to look at now becomes the top row / line so when you have looked at the show details; you have to use the up arrow to get back to the default top line.

With regard to “show /program” details, it doesn’t really tell you much, the Virgin Tivo does a much better job of that.

The EPG doesn’t hide or “grey out” channels that you don’t subscribe to, wonder why! It means when you select something to watch you then sometimes get a message saying you need to upgrade subscription to watch it. If you set it to record and then go to watch it at sometime, you get a “failed to record” message “because you don’t subscribe to this channel”. grrr, spit grrr.

The good news is that it does show up to about 2 weeks in advance. Unfortunately you can’t go back to see what you have missed and might want to find on “catch up”.

Other bits

Sky recommend NOT using TP-Link (homeplug) Ethernet connections to the Sky Q router, not sure why because it worked fine with the Virgin Tivo. It seems to be configured to only accept a WiFi connection to the Sky router and you have to use the WPS button on the router to get the connection to work! Why would anyone want to use WPS, it’s outdated and insecure but I accept that having a WPS button is more secure. Yes I’m paranoid Pete with regards to security ๐Ÿ™‚

Conclusion.

The Sky Q telly box needs a LOT of tweaking, it’s very much like “the paint still being in the can”. It’s more of a concept and is certainly a work in progress job; that has been rushed out. Proper product testing would have highlighted the issues.

It needs to at least offer the same or better than the Sky + box and the apps need to be more useful and less about viewing telly on a “mobile device”. It NEEDS an app to be able to remotely manage the box so that you can see what you have recorded and have scheduled to record.

It would be helpful to have an app to enable you to do the things you can do interactively e.g. delete scheduled recording, check on recording conflicts etc. Using an app on the iPad or PC with a proper keyboard would be easier than using the remote!

It would be nice if there was less emphasis on getting you to subscribe to more “services”.

It would be nice if there was a lot more “intelligence” built-in to the UI, currently a butchers pencil has more brains ๐Ÿ™‚

The good bits.

The UI is fairly clean and uncluttered and doesn’t have a gaudy colour scheme like Virgin.

Once you have got to the EPG, it is easy to select “Record”. It defaults to “record series” but can be easily changed. Unfortunately it doesn’t alert you to potential recording clashes, which is a major FAIL.

The box seems to be stable and reasonably reliable and doesn’t seem to have many problems with Pixelation or stutter.

The voice commands on the remote controller do help to search for “shows” but results are variable.

Finally

Overall, I (and my wife) find the Sky Q box to be an annoying / irritating experience but we love talking to the remote, especially the skip “several minutes” so we don’t have to endure as many adverts ๐Ÿ™‚ We actually enjoy the challenge of deciding on skipping 3 minutes or 4 minutes to skip the adverts. Sky are obviously aware that people skip and have adverts of different time lengths.

I’m looking forward to trying Freeview or Freesat but I’m stuck with Sky for another 12 months ๐Ÿ™

From a cost point of view Sky TV (and Virgin TV) are over priced, compared to Freeview or FreeSat. I might even have a look at something like the Amazon Firestick or similar.

I / we rarely watch “live TV” and we are not “Film buffs”, we tend to be selective and don’t really watch much TV. There seems to be other alternatives to Sky and Virgin, which use “TV over broadband”.

If you use one of the alternatives, where you don’t view “Live TV”, you apparently don’t need a TV licence or need to subscribe to Sky or Virgin TV; WIN WIN ๐Ÿ™‚

FREESAT is now looking like a very good option as it it can now use the current “Wideband” Sky dishes to record 4 channels simultaneously. Unfortunately Humax appear to have withdrawn from the market so the set top boxes are of limited choice. The set top boxes I’ve looked at on paper seem to address many of the issues that the Sky Q boxes have but I have yet to do a hands on.

Disclaimer.

I’ve been using the Sky Q box (as a standard home user) for some 6 months and accept that some of my comments are purely my opinion. I accept others may have a difference of opinion and that is fine by me.

The “watching telly” arena is fast changing, Sky and Virgin need to get their act together if they want to retain their customer bases. “TV over Broadband” is fast becoming popular, no TV licence fee and no subscription fees are game changers as is ease of use and “Intelligent User Interfaces” that don’t spoon feed someone elses idea of what you need to watch.