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Sky Stream review: Finally time to ditch the dish?

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Sky Stream review

Sky Stream review (Image: SKY • GETTY)

The end of the satellite dish has never been closer

What we love

  • Simple DIY set-up 
  • Seamless viewing across all TV platforms
  • Compact size looks neat under the telly
  • Premium remote with backlit keys
  • Sky Stream is very affordable 

What we don’t

  • Whizzing through menus can stutter
  • Silly power light placement
  • Needs a strong broadband connection
  • £5 for skipping adverts!

If you’re looking for a hassle-free way to watch Sky TV channels and exclusive boxsets, the new Stream set-top box doesn’t disappoint.

This diddy device offers access to 100 paid-for channels you won’t find on Freeview, as well as all of the most popular terrestrial ones. Everything is beamed to your television in High Definition as standard – something Sky Q customers need to pay extra for – without a satellite dish drilled into your walls or engineers trudging through your home.

Once ordered, Sky Stream arrives in the post with a step-by-step guide to get set-up and streaming in seconds. Trust us, even the biggest technophobe should cope with this simple DIY set-up: Just plug it in, connect to your Wi-Fi and the binge-watching begins!

Once you’ve installed Sky Stream, you’ll be treated a gorgeous new menu design that looks stunning on-screen and makes navigating around your TV menu incredibly easy. The traditional TV Guide, with access to all live channels, is present as well as a new “Continue Watching” rail that brings together all of your in-progress shows from Sky boxsets as well as platforms like Prime Video, Netflix, and Disney+.

The Sky Stream box ships with the same rebooted remote control that launched alongside Sky Glass, with the backlit keys – which glow in the dark so you can easily see what you’re doing during movie night – a particularly clever addition compared to older Sky remotes.

Sky Stream starts from £23 per month, with access to 100 live channels, 500 on-demand boxsets from HBO Max, Sky Originals, and Peacock, as well as a fully-fledged Netflix subscription to watch on your new box (and anywhere else with a Netflix app!). That price is one of the best Sky deals available right now (in comparison, Glass costs £36 per month).

And unlike Sky Glass, where everything is combined into an all-in-one QLED TV with Dolby Atmos soundbar and the circuitry needed to stream Sky TV channels – Sky Stream can be paired with any television. As such, you can design your own set-up from scratch.

There’s no doubt, Sky Stream is a brilliant little device. However, there are still a few niggles with this new hardware.

First up, while the menus look slick …the chipset inside the Sky Stream can struggle with the flash graphics. At times, whizzing through the menus can begin to feel a little stuttery.

While the starting price is very appealing, extras like 4K Ultra HD, Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, and the £5 premium to skip adverts from catch-up services like ITV X and All4 can start to add-up fast.

For those who couldn’t install a satellite dish (perhaps because you live in rented accommodation, your home is out of the line-of-sight of Sky satellites, or you’re in a block of flats without a communal dish) Sky Stream will finally unlock the brilliant exclusive boxsets, live sport fixtures, and blockbusters you can watch on Sky TV.

If you can choose between Sky Q and Sky Stream, the decision is a little tougher. We still prefer recording shows directly to a hard-drive inside the Sky Q set-top box. In comparison, Sky Stream aggregates on-demand content from services like BBC iPlayer, ITV X, All4, Disney+, Discovery+, and UKTV Play for its Playlists feature. That said, the user interface and features on Sky Q are quickly being left behind as Sky Stream gets the full focus of the Sky R&D teams.

The end of the satellite dish has never been closer, we just hope Sky irons-out the final few quirks with its new Sky Stream box before it hammers the nail into its coffin.

Sky Stream review

When Sky Glass launched last year, customers were able to add a Sky Stream box to their plan for multi-room viewing around the house. However, the diddy box wasn’t offered to anyone else.

As you can read in our full Sky Glass review, we criticised the firm for not dishing out this set-top box to more customers. Thankfully, Sky has reversed its decision. Starting from £23 per month, anyone can buy Sky Stream to plug into any existing television and stream live television without the need for a satellite dish.

This is what many of us have been waiting for …so, does this standalone box live up to expectations? Is it time to upgrade from the ageing Sky Q?

Sky Stream

Sky Stream is simple to set-up with the process taking minutes (Image: SKY)

Installation and setting up Sky Stream

Buying and installing Sky Stream is a total breeze. There’s only one size and colour option for Sky Stream available, but you will need to pick the channels included in your package online – or on the phone – when you place that initial order.

Unlike Sky Q, Sky Stream viewers can choose between an 18-month minimum contract or a 31-day rolling contract, like Netflix and Disney+. The latter is a little pricier but does mean you can add or drop extras like Sky Cinema and Sky Sports each month, a bit like NOW (formerly NOW TV, which is also owned and operated by Sky).

Once that’s done, Sky Stream will arrive in the post the very next day at no additional cost. Then it’s simply a question of plugging the power cable into the wall, connecting the box to your television with the included HDMI cable, switching on the box, and connecting Sky Stream to your home Wi-Fi network.

Once ordered, Sky Stream will arrive in the post the very next day

From start to finish, the process takes a matter of minutes and this DIY installation is a huge bonus of opting for Stream over Sky Q. The latter requires an engineer to be booked weeks in advance so the satellite dish can be affixed to your home, with holes drilled to run wires through your walls. It’s undoubtedly a faff waiting in for the day so the Sky team can trudge around the house and clamber over the roof.

For anyone who hates the thought of a dish or simply can’t have one, Stream is the perfect solution as, thanks to that Wi-Fi connection, there’s just one power lead to plug in and you’re good to go (if your wireless connection is a little patchy, it is possible to use an ethernet cable to stream your favourite shows).

If you’re after a hassle-free way of watching exclusive Sky TV channels and on-demand shows, Stream is a seriously tempting proposition.

Sky Stream review

Check your broadband speeds to make sure they can cope with Stream (Image: SKY)

Your broadband speeds and connection

Without a dish to rely upon, Sky Stream needs a pretty decent broadband connection. Everything you watch, including live television, is beamed via the internet, so you’ll need to check your Wi-Fi can take the strain before you place an order with Sky.

Sky recommends speeds of at least 10/15Mbps for a stutter-free experience, but that minimum requirement increases to around 25Mbps if you want to watch boxsets and blockbuster movies in stunning 4K.

If you’ve only got entry-level 38Mbps broadband available in your property, you might struggle to get a decent experience with Sky Stream – especially if you live in a busy house with lots of connected devices.

Sky customers can fit up to five Sky Stream boxes for the home for multi-room viewing, and we’d definitely recommend broadband of at least 100Mbps before considering that option as each device will munch into your total bandwidth and things will soon start to stumble.

If you’re fortunate to live in a property that has been upgraded to the latest full-fibre connections, you won’t have an issue streaming boxsets, pausing and rewinding live television channels, or watching in multiple rooms at the same time.

Sky Stream

Sky Stream fits in your hand (Image: SKY)

Sky Stream design and remote

Sky Stream is a very neat little device that fits in the palm of your hand. Because there’s no hard disk inside for recordings (more on that later) Sky has managed to create a device that’s just 10cm square and 1.5cm tall. In fact, it’s so small you’ll hardly notice it tucked under your telly and it’s also totally silent so you won’t be annoyed by the whirl of a fan or hard drive working away.

On the rear of the device you’ll find an HDMI and Ethernet socket, plus a digital aerial port so you can link up your existing TV aerial (this isn’t necessary, but does mean that you’ll still be able to watch Freeview channels even if you suffer a broadband outage).

If you’re looking for a set-top box that won’t clutter up your living room it’s almost impossible to fault Sky Stream as it offers a truly tiny way of watching some of the best television channels around.

However, if we had one criticism it would be the power light. Bizarrely, the designers at Sky decided to place this crucial light on the underside of the case – making it tough to check whether the box is on or off.

Along with the neat set-top box, there’s also nice remote control which features a soft touch finish and curved edges making it comfy to hold.

All of the buttons are in the right place and it even features backlit keys so you can see what you’re tapping on even when the lights are low.

The Sky Stream remote doesn’t come in any of the stylish pastel colours that we praised in our Sky Glass review, but it does support voice commands to avoid tedious typing with the alpha-numeric keypad.

Sky Stream review

The visuals on the screen look stunning (Image: SKY)

Streaming TV

Switch on Sky Stream and you’ll be treated to that striking new user interface, which is packed with information on all the latest shows. Everywhere you look, you’ll find high-resolution artwork for the latest blockbusters, sports and TV shows. Sky has done a great job making the menus looks visually rich and exciting, while also cramming in useful details like programme descriptions and and age ratings.

It would be nice to see Rotten Tomatoes scores arrive in a future update, like the integration in Chromecast with Google TV.

A few simple swipes on the remote and you’ll get access to live television listings as well as specific sub-menus dedicated to movies and sports.

There’s a useful “Continue Watching” carousel of thumbnails on the main homepage that makes it simple to pick-up where you left off, and this even includes shows and films from other platforms like Disney+ and Netflix. It’s a nice touch from Sky and ends the hassle of whizzing through endless menus – and remembering what streamer has the rights to what shows – just to finish a binge-watch started on another device.

Although Sky Stream still has to launch dedicated apps to load-up content from Disney+, BBC iPlayer, ITV X, Prime Video and more, the broadcaster has clearly tried hard to make the user interface across Stream feel consistent. It’s easily the best way to watch TV shows, movies and documentaries from multiple platforms.

As long as you are happy to pay a bit extra (£6 per month), Stream also offers 4K Ultra HD quality streaming with Dolby Atmos audio support. Although, as we mentioned earlier, you will need to make sure your broadband can cope with this improved quality.

The only slight annoyance is that Sky has now started charging £5 per month if you are watching content via cloud recordings and on-demand apps, such as ITVX or All4, and want to skip through adverts. It’s almost certainly something everyone will want to add to your monthly bill, so it’s a bit of a shame it’s not factored into the base subscription cost.

Sky Stream review

Sky Stream offers rich visuals on the screen (Image: SKY)

Playlists and apps

Since Sky Stream doesn’t have a hard drive inside its tiny frame, there’s no way to record shows onto the device itself. Instead, Sky has created a new Playlist feature, which uses cloud recordings on Sky’s servers and pulls shows from catch-up services like ITVX and BBC iPlayer to offer TV shows after they’ve aired.

Sky debuted this feature with its Sky Glass television last year – as that all-in-one 4K TV doesn’t have a spinning disk inside either! Since the launch, Sky has steadily improved its functionality and there’s very little that it now misses or that you won’t be able to find.

There are also some advantages to this new approach – you’ll never be told that Sky cannot record a new series or movie because you’ve run out of space, since everything is stored on servers far away from your living room. Poor signal won’t ruin any recordings either, since it’s not your box physically recording the content. So power cuts, stormy nights, and broadband outages (all potential nightmares for Sky Q owners) won’t stop everything appearing as expected in your Playlists menu.

If there’s a problem with your box, you won’t lose any shows or movies when Sky ships out a replacement… that’s not the case for Sky Q owners who will lose all of their recordings if anything goes awry with the hard drive, the rest of the circuitry in the box, or want to upgrade to a newer model.

However, in our opinion, Sky Playlists still can’t quite match the simplicity of a built-in hard drive as there are some things this clever replacement still misses. For example, Match of the Day is only available on iPlayer for a limited time and once it’s gone …it’s gone! That’s not the case with Sky Q which will keep recordings for as long as you want.

Sky Playlists still can’t quite match the simplicity of a built-in hard drive

It’s a compromise, but Sky clearly thinks its all-new Playlists feature is the future, so expect more improvements in the coming months.

If you love watching shows from across a variety of different streaming platforms, Stream offers a pretty seamless way to jump from services such as Disney+, Netflix, Prime Video and Apple TV+.

During the set-up process, you will need to sign into each service individually, but once that’s done you’ll see recommendations and top picks right from the home screen. Everything is synchronised across your devices – from Sky Go, other Sky Stream boxes, and even the Netflix app on your iPad or phone.

Since Sky Playlists is drawing from these on-demand services, movies and shows can show up in your Playlist before they’ve aired on telly. That’s perfect for anyone who can’t wait for the next episode. A good example of this was when we added Mamma Mia to our Playlist after we spotted it coming to ITV. Sky Glass instantly checked and added the film straight to our Playlist as it’s currently available via Netflix, so we could watch hours earlier than originally planned – it’s all clever stuff.

Sky Stream review

Sky has improved the Playlists feature over the past year (Image: SKY)

UK price and availability

Stream offers a pretty cheap way to tune into Sky TV.

If you’re happy to sign up for a 18-month contract, you can currently pick up this device for as little as £23 per month (was £26) which includes channels such as Sky Atlantic, Sky Max, MTV, Sky Comedy and more, there’s a Netflix Basic subscription bundled too.

If you don’t want to commit, you can opt for the option to go contract-free and pay £26 per month (was £29). That’s a little more expensive but does allow you to leave the service at any time.

Of course, the more things you want to watch on Sky Stream, the more expensive things’ll get. For example, add Sky Sports and you’ll face an extra £20 on your bill or include Sky Cinema and things will go up by £9.

And then, there’s 4K Ultra HD and Dolby Atmos support, which is £6 and advert skipping for an extra £5 per month.

If you include everything Sky offers the total bill is over £95 per month. Ouch! And on top of that, you’ll need a pretty speedy fibre broadband connection to watch everything in your pricey order.

Here’s a full breakdown of pricing based on a long-term contract.

Sky Stream box • £23 per month

Sky Sports • £20 per month extra

Sky Cinema • £9 per month extra

BT Sport • £27 per month extra

Sky Kids • £6 per month extra

Advert skipping • £5 per month extra

4K and Dolby Atmos • £6 per month extra

TOTAL PRICE: £96

Sky Stream

Sky Stream review (Image: SKY)

Final verdict

If you’ve been patiently waiting to get the slick, modern, satellite dish-free experience that Sky Glass owners have been enjoying for the last year without switching to the custom-designed telly – Sky Stream is everything you could hope for.

This palm-sized box packs some mighty features into its mini design, offering a seamless way to switch between live television channels and streamers like Netflix and Prime Video.

The fact you can install Sky Stream yourself in minutes is a huge bonus and, other than the lack of a built-in hard drive for those shows that don’t play nicely with catch-up services like BBC iPlayer and ITV X, this diddy box stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the award-winning Sky Q.

The redesigned remote feels premium and even gets those backlit keys – something you won’t find on the ageing Sky Q channel changer.

And then, the price. At £23 per month, this feels like a total bargain especially as that includes a Netflix Basic subscription too.

Yes, your quickly bill rises if you start adding extras, but if you go for that entry-level telly package, this really is an affordable and easy way to get the best exclusive shows, sports and films from Sky TV.

If we had a choice we’d possibly still pick Sky Q as its in-built hard drive has the slight edge over cloud recordings.

However, Stream definitely feels like the future and it really could be the end of the dish.



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