After more than 30 years of delivering content to British TV screens, Sky is cutting out the middleman and venturing into TV hardware itself, in the form of Sky Glass.
If you’re reading this outside of the U.K., you might not know what Sky is — which is fair enough, as it’s mainly a player in the U.K. and Europe. Sky provides broadband, mobile and cable TV services, makes streaming boxes and has dozens of its own channels. It also offers original programs, and broadcasts most big sporting fixtures in the U.K.”
And it's something of a revolutionary product: Sky Glass is an all-in-one 4K TV, with the full Sky Q television package built in, plus a Dolby Atmos soundbar. What's more, there’s no need for a satellite dish or set-top box — instead, Sky’s TV service is delivered over Wi-Fi, with an updated user interface that aims to bring you more of the content you love, no matter where it comes from.
That means Sky programmes sit nicely alongside your favorites from the best streaming services. Netflix, iPlayer, Disney+ and many more are here, meaning no dipping in and out of different apps to get to what you want to watch. It could spell the end of the satellite dish as we know it.
So, is this the ultimate all-in-one home cinema package? We got a closer look at it at Sky’s London launch event to find out. Read on for our Sky Glass hands-on review.
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Sky Glass review: Price and availability
Sky Glass will be available to buy in the U.K. from October 18 and will be available in three screen sizes: 43in (S), 55in (M) and 65in (L). They will all have the same specification, so you’ll get the same experience no matter the screen size you choose.
Sky Glass S will retail at £649, M will be £849 and L will be £1,049. However, in another revolutionary approach, Sky will offer customers the option of paying for their TV as part of their monthly Sky subscription, in the same way as you would a mobile phone contract.
You can pay for your TV over a 24 or 48 month contract, meaning it starts at £13 per month for the 43in, £17 per month for the 55in and £21 for the 65in. The price of your chosen Sky packages go on top of that, with the cost of the Sky Ultimate TV package coming in at £26 a month — which includes your subscription to Netflix.
You’ll have to pay an extra £5 per month for Sky Ultra HDR and Dolby Atmos, plus further uplifts for Sky Sports (£25p/m), BT Sports (£24p/m), Sky Cinema (£11p/m) and Sky Kids (£5p/m).
The good news is these are all on rolling 31-day contracts, so you can adjust your contract to suit your needs every month, if needs be. Not to mention you’ll be able to upgrade your TV as and when a new set becomes available, just as you would your mobile phone.
Interested? You can pre-register for Sky Glass now.
Sky Glass review: Design
Compared with the super-slim TVs that make up our best TVs guide, Sky Glass looks pretty bulky, to say the least.
That’s because there’s a lot more going on here than just a 4K screen. It holds six speakers for handling Dolby Atmos sound, which are positioned below the TV (for the center channel and sub), either side of it, and along the top.
There’s also a built-in wall mount and a discreet, color-matched stand that makes the TV look like it’s simply balanced on its bottom edge.
Thankfully, it manages to pull off the chunkier look with considerable confidence, and is available in a choice of five colors to suit your decor, with a brushed anodised aluminum finish.
The grille along the bottom is customisable, too. It comes in a standard gray speaker mesh, but you can change the fascia to match the TV, or even opt for one of the more bold limited-edition designs.
As far as connectivity goes, everything offered as part of Sky Glass requires just the power cord and Wi-Fi. There are three e-ARC HDMI ports should you wish to connect devices, such as a games console or Blu-ray player, but otherwise Sky reckons you’ll be ready to go within 10 minutes out of the box.
Sky Glass review: User interface
At the heart of Sky Glass is Sky’s new user interface, which takes a lot of what we love about Sky Q but simplifies it, so finding the content you want to watch is a lot easier.
While we've become used to dipping in and out of different apps to get to all the content we love, that doesn’t mean it’s not annoying. Sky wants to tackle that by placing its content alongside that from partners including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and YouTube, to name a few.
That means you’ll be able to access programmes from these partners within Sky Glass, in a single experience, without having to open another app.
On the new homescreen, you’ll find a carousel of personalized recommended content from all partners, based on your viewing experiences. Scroll through all of this to the right, or scroll left and access recently watched content, apps, channels and even inputs.
Scroll down and you’ll find separate tabs for genres, as well as the TV guide, which has also had a tweak. To help you get to the content you want, Sky has produced a simplified 'Now and Next' carousel for your most-watched channels, or you can customize this if you prefer.
Of course, the full TV guide is there too, just as Sky users will remember it, with a scroll wheel for separating it out into genres as before.
Another key new feature is something called Playlist, which replaces traditional recording. There is no hard drive in Sky Glass — instead, there's a “+” button on the remote, which will place content you want to watch into a hub, which is then stored in the cloud. This means no recording limits due to a limited number of tuners, and no hard-drive limits either.
Once you choose to place something in your Playlist, Sky Glass will pull other episodes from that same programme into it too, so it’s always ready to go. That might involve tapping into different series on different platforms, depending on availability, but you’d never know the difference — it’s all presented as a Sky Glass experience, badged up with the core provider on the thumbnail.
The only annoying part? Sky will surface content whether you’re subscribed to that service or not. So you might find yourself clicking into things that you can’t actually watch, without a further subscription (though remember, Netflix is included in Sky Glass’ basic package). Sky says its algorithm will learn what you can and can’t access over time and prioritize the content that’s free to you, but time will tell as to how effective this is.
Playlist is also currently unpersonalized, so everyone in the household’s Playlist content will appear in the same space, and can’t be separated out. Sky has said it is working on this, though, with profiles or similar likely to arrive later, so expect that to change in the not-so-distant future.
Sky Glass review: Features
Sky Glass features a number of handy smart features to make the user experience even smoother.
This includes far-field voice search, which means you won’t need to press a button on your remote to use voice functionality (though this remains available if you prefer).
Simply say “Hello Sky” and a command — be that a channel, a genre, actor or a specific show — and Sky Glass will jump into action to find it. You can even control the TV with your voice, including navigating to HDMI ports based on what’s plugged in. Saying “Hello Sky, Xbox,” for example, will take you to the relevant HDMI for your Xbox Series X or Series S.
A further smart feature is called Glance, which uses motion-detection technology to wake the TV when you enter the room and displays personalized content on the screen based on your TV habits — almost like a screensaver. All you need to do to start watching is pick up the remote and it will dive straight into the home screen, without you needing to press a button.
There are further plans for this in terms of on-screen content, with talk of weather, news and artwork, that will help ensure your TV is not just a black screen in the middle of the most sociable room of the house.
As for other rooms in the house, Sky has announced the Sky Puck, which gives you the Sky Glass experience on other screens you might already have, at an extra cost of £10
Sky Glass review: Performance and first impressions
Sky Glass uses a 10-bit 4K TV panel with quantum dot technology, which is the tech found in the best Samsung TVs. However, Sky has been quick to confirm that it has sourced and produced all of the hardware itself, so there are no other parties involved on that front.
In terms of HDR, the TV supports HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision and features Intelligent Zonal Technology for its backlighting, promising “darker darks and brights that look brighter.” This is supported by an auto mode for picture and audio — aimed at delivering the most appropriate picture and sound settings for what you’re watching at the time.
That’s nothing new, but is handy if you often feel confused by TV settings and want to leave those complexities in the hands of AI. TV tweakers can override this and will have access to some custom picture settings, but don’t expect to be able to adjust it much beyond the top-level stuff.
In terms of how it looks, from our brief demo, it’s arguably not going to bother the high end of the market — but then we don’t expect that was the goal. This is about, as Sky told us, getting the “best experience to the most people.” So, if you expect a mid-range cinematic performance, with a top-notch user interface, you’ve got it about right.
That means colors are a little more muted than we’ve seen elsewhere, and the opening scene of Mad Max in Dolby Vision lacks the punch that we’re used to seeing in the very best. But outlines are crisp, there’s a good amount of detail there and contrast, from initial impressions, looks good too.
However, it’s the sound that really steals the show. The Dolby Atmos performance from the built-in soundbar goes loud, wide and sounds very solid indeed. From a TV that costs £849 at its middle (and likely most popular) offer, it’s got to be one of the most confident audio performances we’ve heard at this price.
But what happens if your Wi-Fi goes down?
Although the bulk of the service is delivered wirelessly, Sky Glass has a back-up TV aerial input that can access standard over-the-air channels should your broadband connection go down.
Sky has confirmed that 98% of Wi-Fi users in the U.K. should be fine to have Sky Glass installed with their connection as it stands, and it also won’t hog your network in a way that would impact anything else you want to do online while viewing.
Sky Glass review: Outlook
There’s no doubt that Sky Glass offers a revolutionary take on TV as we know it. With no need for a dish or a box, and the simplicity of a one-wire setup, it takes all the complexity of buying a new TV away and blends it with a seamless content experience that hasn’t really been available until now, in the U.K. at least.
Its performance may not bother the best in the market, but we suspect that won’t matter. This is about bringing the experience of 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos to people who may have been scared off by the idea of cutting the cord before — whether from a tech or cost perspective.
Sky says Sky Glass offers approximately a 30 percent cost saving based on buying a similarly specced TV and Atmos soundbar separately, but it’s the convenience of it that we suspect is really going to land with consumers more than anything.
Being able to pay for the cost of your TV with your TV subscription is a real game changer and will help to bring better hardware to more people, so the content they’re watching can be enjoyed and experienced as it should be.
We’re looking forward to taking a full look at Sky Glass when it launches in the U.K. on October 18. Check back for our full review then.