(Pocket-lint) – Sky has finally taken the plunge and announced a way to get the full Sky service without needing a satellite dish.
However, rather than an expected internet-connected box, it has introduced its own TV: Sky Glass.
We were at the swanky London launch event to hear all about it and also get a demo of the TV itself. Here are our initial thoughts.
Sky Glass is a complete all-in-one TV system for UK customers. It comes in 43-, 55- and 65-inch screen sizes and has the entire Sky service built-in – albeit streamed over broadband rather than by satellite.
The TV is a Quantum Dot LED TV (a bit like Samsung’s QLED models), with a 4K Ultra HD resolution and high dynamic range support (in HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision form). It also has a full Dolby Atmos sound system incorporated, with six speakers including two upfiring Atmos drivers built into the casing, plus an integrated woofer for handling bass.
It comes with its own far-field microphones for voice support, so you can command the service without needing the voice button on the remote. That’s still available too, but you can just say “Hello Sky” and the TV itself will respond. Voice commands can wake up the TV and even turn it off when you head to bed – just say “Hello Sky, goodnight”. Think of it like an Amazon Echo but in TV form.
Everything is integrated into a single software experience, including live TV, third-party apps, and all the on-demand content you could ever likely want. It uses a selection of Sky curated suggestions, your own favourites and even a trusty old TV guide to present a great way to access content from Sky, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, BBC iPlayer and more.
But, for the first time in a Sky TV device, there is no recording functionality.
What does Sky Glass look like?
Sky clearly wanted to make a major impression with its first TV, so it looks like few others on the market.
It is very angular, with a fairly deep footprint required to house the Dolby Atmos sound system. In many respects, it looks like an Apple iMac, with the screen sited above a speaker grille. And, continuing that theme, there are different coloured options to choose from: white, black, blue, green and pink.
They can each be customised through a separate speaker grille cover, which attaches magnetically. Pocket-lint was also told there might be further colour variants released down the line.
You get a desktop stand with Glass, which matches the colour of the set. Alternatively, we’re told an integrated wall mount solution makes it a doddle to place higher up. Either way, it’s a handsome TV that reminds us a lot of Bang & Olufsen and Loewe designs of yore.
Switching it on
Although our demo was brief, we got a good idea of the functionality and performance of Sky Glass, We’ll have to wait until we got one in our test labs before we can say for sure, but picture performance is very reasonable, especially for its price.
Considering you can buy the 43-inch model for £649 (or from £13 a month over 48-months), the 55-incher for £849 and the 65-inch TV for £1,049, it ticks a lot of boxes in that bracket. And that’s not including the Dolby Atmos sound.
We were treated to a clip from Mad Max: Fury Road in a small testing area, plus a larger demo reel of F1 footage in a “Sound Box” experience. The latter was especially impressive, considering the room was fairly large, the exterior noise (of fellow journalists and other attendees) was loud, and just the TV was providing the audio. It gave us a great impression of spacing, with F1 cars genuinely sounding like they were traveling from our far left to the far right. There was height, but we’d rather reserve judgement until we get it into a more typical setting.
Of course, as an LED-backlit set, you shouldn’t expect OLED level performance in terms of black levels. But when viewed front on, there is decent colour saturation and contrast. We found the Glass’ viewing angle to be a little shallow, but that’s also par for the course with similarly priced peers.
And those peers don’t have the wealth of added extras afforded by the Sky TV experience.
The hardware is only a small part of the overall package. What makes Sky Glass extra special is its software. It will feel familiar to those who use Sky Q currently, but has been redesigned to make content even easier to find.
Even before you enter the menu system you will be faced with Glance – Sky’s rolling images that are designed to make the set look good even when you’re not using it. Eventually, these will include artwork and your own pictures, should you choose, but we saw mainly adverts for Sky, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video shows.
Glass is not designed to be a black screen in the corner of a room. It is always meant to be “on”, even when sleeping. You can then just enter the homepage by either moving in front of a built-in motion sensor, picking up the remote (which also houses a motion sensor) or by voice command.
The remote has been redesigned to be as simple to use as possible. It also has no record button (naturally) but does include a dedicated button to build your playlist.
Perhaps the biggest new feature on the front end is the ability to build a dedicated playlist of content from Sky and its third-party partners. This effectively replaces the need to record shows, as you can just tap the playlist button when on a show description and it’ll store ready for later viewing anyway.
Cunningly, unlike many other smart TVs, everything you’d want is within the Sky menu experience, be that live TV channels, on demand content, or other content available through streaming apps. You don’t have to switch from live viewing to a dedicated app screen, for example, everything is merged into one big content hub.
Even the rear ports are included in the UI once something is plugged in. For example, connect an Xbox via HDMI and the home screen will have Xbox available as an option in the top rail (alongside half-viewed programmes, favourite channels and more).
Incidentally, there are three HDMI 2.1 ports in total – one with eARC. Bluteooth and Wi-Fi 6 are on board too.
We will be reviewing Sky Glass in full fairly soon – after all, it will be available from 18 October. For now, we feel this is a bold and interesting move that will undoubtedly shake up the AV industry.
By offering the TV set along with Sky programming and Netflix for one monthly fee – no dish, no box, no install required – it moves TV buying to a mobile phone-style business model and we wholly approve.
It’s also a good-looking set, with a designer feel about it. Yes, it’s beefy thanks to the six speakers hidden in the chassis, but the colour options are clever and we love the idea of customisaton to suit our abodes. Colour us impressed for now.
Writing by Rik Henderson. Originally published on .