Sky’s taken the wraps off of it’s latest TV service, Sky Q. It looks like a contender. How does it compare to BT Sport’s Ultra HD offering?
We’re big fans of BT Sport Ultra HD. Despite some initial misgivings about its ability to wow audiences (although to be honest, we’re still a little miffed about not being able to watch games in 4K in the pub) we’ve been won over; live 4K TV at 50 frames per second is eye-meltingly incredible. If you can get it and you can afford it, you should buy it.
Despite 50fps 4K TV looking amazing, BT’s not sitting on its laurels. While it’s currently the UK’s only 4K TV broadcaster, it’s planning to roll out 5.1.4 surround sound and one day high dynamic range, which we’ve been able to get an in-progress gander at recently.
So, how’s Sky Q going to top all that? When’s it coming out and will it be broadcasting Premier League football in 4K Ultra HD?
In the red corner: Sky Q Silver
What is Sky Q? Prices, release dates and specsSky Q Silver comes with a 2TB hard drive, 1.7TB of which is available for recordings. In practical terms, Sky says this lets you record up to 350 hours of HD content.
The Q Silver sits in the middle of an ecosystem of smart TV products including a hybrid WiFi and Powerline router and Roku-style mini streamers.
It’s capable of recording up to four TV shows at once while letting you watch a fifth, while supporting live TV streams to up to two tablets and two Sky Q Mini streamers.
On top of that, customers who take Sky Broadband can also feel an extra benefit; every Sky Q device can also double as a WiFi range extender, a feature that’ll be pretty useful when you want to stream TV on your tablet.
Andrew Olson, Sky’s director of new products said that Sky Q Silver is ‘Ultra HD ready,’ which means that it’s technically capable of delivering 4K content, however that almost certainly won’t be live from launch. The spec sheet reveals that support for 2160p video will be ‘added in a future update’ – whenever that is.
Currently, the jury’s also out on what frame rate Sky’s 4K content will be shot in. We’d assume 50fps (given that all of the test footage we’ve aware of has been 50fps) and for obvious reasons – the HDMI 2.0 spec can only handle 4K video at up to 60fps – it won’t be much higher than that.
We also don’t know when (or if) Sky’s planning on bringing HDR to the table or if it plans to add 5.1.4 or 7.1 surround sound.
In the blue corner: BT Sport Ultra HD
BT Sport Ultra HD: How much is it and how can I get it?BT’s Humax-made Ultra HD box comes with a 1TB hard drive that lets you record up to 600 hours of SD TV, 250 hours of HD TV and 60 hours of Ultra HD TV.
While the BT Sport Ultra HD hardware doesn’t sit in the same modular, inter-connected TV environment that Sky Q does, you can watch BT Sport games live through the iOS and Android apps and you can get an Extra Box for £5/month more, although you’ll need to pay for the set-top box and get a new TV aerial installed – Sky’s new TV system all works off of one satellite dish.
You also won’t be able to watch Sky Sports and Sky Movies channels on your second BT TV box either.
As BT Sport Ultra HD requires you to take BT Infinity FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) broadband, you’ll have the added benefit of having a superfast Internet service to boot. That said, unless you’re able to get a sufficiently fast line at your address, you might not even be able to order BT Sport Ultra HD.
This will become less of a problem over time; as BT continues to grow its FTTC footprint, which covers over 80 per cent of all UK addresses right now, more folks will be able to order this.
BT Sport Ultra HD vs Sky Q Silver: Verdict
At the moment it’s impossible to say – Sky Q’s literally only just been announced, it’s not out until next year and we don’t know how much it’ll cost, so we can’t say if it’s better value for money than BT Sport Ultra HD.
What we can take into consideration is the fact that BT’s been busy broadcasting live sporting events – Premier League football games, Champions League games, FA Women’s Super League, Rugby Union, even squash – since August this year. It’s making technical leaps and strides in venues, testing out things like wireless 4K TV cameras in stadiums and on racetracks.
While Sky’s been busy running its own 4K TV trials and is co-helming the DTG’s UK UHD Forum – a cross-industry panel that’s working on defining broadcast standards for 4K – it’s BT that’s got more real-world experience of delivering Ultra HD programmes to viewers.
The fruits of Sky’s tests of course have yet to be seen; we’re sure that Sky won’t launch a 4K TV service unless it’s as amazing as BT Sport Ultra HD.
One big advantage Sky Q has over BT Sport Ultra HD right now, even before it’s launched, is its broadcast mechanism. Satellite TV is available virtually everywhere in the UK, whereas delivery of BT Sport Ultra HD is dictated by the size of BT’s superfast broadband network.
While 95 per cent of UK premises should be able to order at least FTTC by the end of 2017, that still means there’ll be 5 per cent of customers who won’t be able to tune in. By then, prices of Ultra HD TVs, which are falling all the time, should have reached a level where 4K services are a mass market proposition.
Unless BT is able to make good on its plans for the last 5 per cent, it may be handing Sky something of an open goal.