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New Now TV Box: Hands-on and first impressions

The new Now TV Box is out later this week. We’ve just got hold of one and thought we’d share a few quick shots before cracking on with our full review. 

First impressions; it looks a lot like a Roku box. Quite a lot in fact. This really shouldn’t be surprising, considering that Sky has invested over £7 million in Roku and owns a stake in the TV streaming company, but its resemblance to the old Roku 3 and newer Roku 2 are still a little striking. 

It’s a squat, squashed cuboid with a bunch of ports round the back – HDMI, Ethernet, power and a microSD card slot – along with a USB port on the right hand side. 

The remote control is essentially the same as the original; home and back keys sit above a d-pad and media controls. Perhaps taking cues from the new Roku 2, the remote control comes with two shortcut buttons built in – one for the Now TV services themselves and the Sky Store.

It’s got a matt finish which feels a little nicer in the hand than the stickier, glossier remote of the original. And it’s black. Other than that, there’s really no difference. 

OK, so how about the specs? We’re disappointed to learn that the new Now TV Box doesn’t improve on its predecessor in terms of video quality; the most you’re going to get out of this is 720p HD. 

We’d heard some rumours that Sky might have upped the ante here to at least 1080p Full HD or even 4K Ultra HD, possibly to take some of the jam out of BT’s doughnut, but sadly this isn’t to be. 

New Now TV Box: New-look user interface

The new Now TV Box comes with the new-look user interface that’s currenlty rolling out the older Now TV boxes. If you’ve not seen this yet or haven’t had an update, here’s some screengrabs. Design-wise, it borrows a lot from the look and feel of the Now TV desktop player. 

Once you’re logged in you’ve got three main tabs for Movies, Entertainment and Sports content scrolling down a left-hand column. Roughly three quarters of the screen is dominated by content select;ions. The layouts differ between the three sub-menus, with the live sports streams racked up against one another in a manner similar to traditional TV EPGs. Click the thumbnails above to get a closer look. 

One area where the new Now TV Box improves on the original is that you get support for 7.1 surround sound (pass-through and stereo) whereas previously, you could only get 5.1 surround. 

Another plus this has over the original is that you’ll also be able to play and view some of your own media on this, which wasn’t impossible to do before, but wasn’t exactly easy either. It required enabling developer mode and faffing around with Plex – not something everyone can or will want to do. 

The official spec sheet says that the new Now TV Box can play MP4s, MKVs, AACs, MP3, JPGs and PNGs over USB. It’ll be interesting to see if it’ll play anything else and how much it can take in the microSD slot – no maximum card size is specified. 

Here’s the specifications as they’re listed in the box. Full review coming soon. 

New Now TV Box specifications

  • Size: 89x89x25mm
  • Weight: 141 grams
  • Networking: 801.11 dual band (a/b/g/n compatible) with WEP, WPA and WPA2 support
  • 10/100 Ethernet Base-T Ethernet
  • Video outputs: 720p
  • Video modes: 720p 16:9 anamorphic 4:3 standard
  • Audio output: Digital over HDMI (7.1 and 5.1 surround pass through)
  • Video: MP4 (H.264), MKV (H.264),
  • Audio: AAC, MP3
  • Image: JPG, PNG
  • Remote: Infra Red, compatible with various universal remotes
  • Ports: HDMI (cable included), Ethernet, microSD card slot, USB
  • Power consumption: Less than 3.5W (typical) when streaming HD video
  • Power input: 5.99V – 2A power adapter

 

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