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Sky+HD what’s the fuss?

What is Sky+HD?

Latest news for Sky+HDIt’s more than a decade since the first version of Sky+ was launched in the UK, and many of the key features are still recognisable today, but careful evolution has turned it into a sophisticated hub for high-definition, 3D and on-demand entertainment used in more than five million British homes.

Sky+HD was the original UK consumer digital TV recorder and the first high definition recorder, and even the premium 2TB model still has two satellite TV tuners, while the award-winning Sky+ remote control has changed little more than its colour scheme over the years.

The current model has built-in WiFi for easy connection to Sky On Demand via your broadband connection, with a choice of 500GB or 2TB internal storage.

Sky+HD 2TB

The flagship Sky+HD 2TB box

The buttons are very comfortably arranged for one-handed operation and the most important – play/pause, channel control, back up and Home – are large and easy-to-find. You’ll find lesser remotes very frustrating after Sky+.

Like most DVRs, Sky+HD can record two channels while you watch a recording, or record in the background while you watch a live channel. It’s usually installed with a quad-output dish, so you can also feed signals to another Sky+, or to two other single-tuner satellite receivers around the home. We would like to see a triple-tuner model, but Sky says there are no plans for a new box, even though Virgin’s TiVo has three tuners.

Today there are two flavours of Sky+HD: the free box with 250GB of user space (185 hours of standard definition TV or 60 hours of HD) and the premium model with 2TB of user space (1,180 hours of SD /350 hours of HD). That’s right – even if you don’t pay for the HD channels, the basic box is ready for HD if you decide to upgrade.

The 2TB model is currently £249, but is often discounted with certain packages. Both models are 3D-ready if your subscription gives you the Sky 3D channel.

In our humble opinion, the current Sky+HD design is one of the most elegant of digital TV receivers you can buy, in particular the 2TB model. Every so often, Sky produces limited edition Sky+ boxes decorated by artists and celebrities, but they’re usually garish in comparison to the subtle understatement of the basic design, with its simple grey panels and rotating blue playback LEDs.

Sky+HD Guide: simple vs smart

The onscreen Sky HD Guide is functional rather than elaborate, but it’s reasonably fast and very easy to navigate, with a sliding toolbar you’ll very rarely use, a thumbnail-sized window for watching TV while you browse, and half the screen reserved for browsing the TV listings.

The remote’s four coloured buttons offer up navigation shortcuts such as jumping forward and back 24 hours, going to your recordings, searching for shows by title, looking at Sky On Demand, setting series links or locking and deleting recordings.

The Guide is broken down into different genres, with a special HD & 3D list for Sky’s 50+ hi-def channels, where programmes made in HD are highlighted (you’d be surprised how much of what’s on the HD channels isn’t in HD, especially in the daytime). Sky+HD actually does a pretty good job of upscaling standard-definition TV to something like HD, although you can always tell the difference on a decent TV.

Setting a recording is very simple: just highlight a programme in the Sky Guide and press the Record button. You’ll usually be asked if you want a series link to record every new episode, although it doesn’t remember when the next season starts.

Recordings are kept in the Planner, where you can review them by date of recording, alphabetical order, genre, and look at a list of unwatched shows if you’ve a digital hoarder. Ongoing series are grouped together to reduce clutter, which is easy to build up when you have a 2TB disc filling up.

You can even un-delete recordings (though they won’t be around forever), and check on your downloads to Sky On Demand.

You can also set up recordings via the Sky+ app for iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry and on the web, which lets you register your box, browse and search the listings and send a remote record command, including series links. When you’re at home, the app can connect to your Sky+HD via your home network, replacing your remote control and allowing you to manage your recordings and start On Demand downloads in the background. 

Another handy online companion is Sky Never Miss, which lets you set up a list of your favourite shows and films, then sends you an email a week before they’re on, which includes a link to the Sky+ app so you can set up a recording.

Sky On Demand: Sky, anytime

The final bonus of Sky+HD is Sky On Demand. Although there’s no automatic broadband connection with Sky+HD, there is a ‘secret’ portion of your hard disc reserved for th Sky On Demand Showcase – either 250GB for the basic model or 500GB for the 2TB model.

This reserved space may seem like you’re being cheated out of recording capacity, but it also means there’s a library of instantly-accessible films and TV shows: up to 60 hours of HD on the standard Sky+HD, or up to 120 hours on the Sky+HD 2TB box.

When you’re not using both tuners, Sky will download a selection of films and TV shows into this space that you can watch instantly, although what you get depends on your subscription package. It’s far from the huge libraries offered by Virgin or BT Vision, but Sky often pushes episodes of new shows a week before they’re on air.

If you have a broadband connection of 2Mbps or better, you can connect your Sky+HD and stream video from Sky On Demand. Sky doesn’t have Virgin’s broadband speed, but it uses a ‘progressive download’ system so you can watch HD TV and films with only a short wait while part of the content downloads, and some things will stay on your hard disc to watch again like any other download.

There’s an extensive library with whole ‘box sets’ of TV series for those on the Entertainment Extra+ pack that you can watch instantly, so be careful if you’re on Sky’s Broadband Lite tier because it has a 2GB download limit that will easily fill up.

You don’t have to be on Sky’s broadband to use Sky On Demand, but the same warning applies to other limited-usage broadband packages.

Sky On Demand already has catch-up TV from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, along with catch-up from Sky’s own channels and others.

Sky+HD Guide 2012

Sky+HD isn’t a smart TV recorder like Virgin’s TiVo – you have to know what you want to watch – but it is very simple to use and has the support of some good apps. One thing you can be sure of with Sky is that they won’t be left behind and the experience will continue to develop.

Latest news for Sky+HD

Catch-up TV, 2TB box and Sky+ iPad app upgrade 

Sky’s revamp of the Sky+ experience continues as the Catch-Up TV section arrives, along with a 2TB flagship Sky+HD box and an enhanced Sky+ iPad app with built-in Twitter interaction for Sky’s shows.

Catch-up in Sky On Demand (formerly Anytime+) includes ITV Player, Demand 5, all of Sky’s own-brand entertainment channels and Sky Sports, with programmes sorted by genre and by day. BBC iPlayer has a placeholder, with its arrival expected later this autumn.

Sky+HD 2TB replaces Sky+HD 1TB as the flagship £249 model of Sky+, with 1.5TB for your own recordings and downloads from Sky On Demand, plus 500GB (0.5TB) for ‘push’ downloads to Sky On Demand Showcase via satellite.

The Sky+ app for iPad is live on the iTunes store, with built-in Twitter feeds for shows on Sky’s channels, and extra background information such as actor biographies and soundtrack playlists.

September 26, 2012

Sky+ Undelete lets you rescue lost recordings 

Sky has introduced an ‘undelete’ function to the Sky+HD Planner so that recently-deleted shows can be recovered, and is changing the name of Anytime+ to On Demand.

Deleted shows can now be found under a Deleted tab in the planner, and are only deleted when there’s no room left on your hard disc.

Anytime+, the on-demand TV via broadband service, is being renamed On Demand, ahead of the launch of a new catch-up TV section this autumn, featuring the last seven days from the BBC, ITV, Channel 5, and Sky’s own-brand channels.

The updates will be phased in across different models of Sky+HD, starting with the DRX890 and the Sky+HD 1TB box.

September 6, 2012

Sky+HD Planner with Undelete

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