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NOW TV box (2015)

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Introduction and features

The NOW TV box has had an update this year, giving it a bit of a facelift, some new innards and improved connectivity. But given the stiff competition from the likes of Amazon and Netflix on the content side, and Fire TV, Apple TV and SHIELD on the hardware side, is there still a place for Sky’s little media maestro? Outside of the murky mobile phone world, contracts are becoming a bit of sticking point for the consumer. With Netflix pioneering the way for non-contract on-demand services, and the likes of Disney now following suit, Sky has found another way to get the contract-phobic signed into its ecosystem.

Review: Updated: NOW TV box (2015)

The NOW TV service offers practically no-strings access to Sky content for an incredibly reasonable price. And in a pretty darned simple way too. The NOW TV box echoes that, delivering simple, cheap hardware that will instantly make your dumb telly just that little bit smarter. There are other ways to get the NOW TV service into your home – some smart TVs, like LG’s, carry the app, and you can also access it via a tablet or mobile and Chromecast it onto your screen. But for that plug-and-play aesthetic, the £15 NOW TV box is the one to go for.

Roku-lite

The original box was a subsidised, cut-down version of Roku’s own player, and Sky has partnered up with Roku again, using what is essentially the Roku 3 box, with a few key differentiators that explain the much lower cost. The OS has been locked down to avoid giving too much access to Sky’s content-providing rivals. You won’t, therefore, be seeing Netflix on a vanilla NOW TV box, although as the underlying hardware’s still the same I doubt it would be a particularly tricky thing to change with a little light hackery…

Review: Updated: NOW TV box (2015)

And while there are USB and microSD slots, on the side and rear respectively, you won’t actually be able to do anything with them on the standard NOW TV box – I guess that with such a bargain-priced box there wasn’t the budget for a new housing which covered them. But there are new hardware goodies compared with the original NOW TV box, the main one being a hard-wired ethernet connection, enabling you to plug the box directly into your home network. The original box relied upon the vagaries of Wi-Fi for its connection, but the ethernet port should put paid to any stuttering, buffering performance from the box. There is still a Wi-Fi connection, however, of the 802.11ac variety, which should also help alleviate any wireless woes. The improved internal components of the NOW TV box also enable you to stream purchased content up to 1080p, over the HDMI connection – that’s a welcome improvement over the 720p limit of the original. The remote is pretty much identical – but the simple little device doesn’t really need more than the direct NOW TV or Sky Store buttons.

Review: Updated: NOW TV box (2015)

Service, please

Content really is the name of the game for the NOW TV box. Its aim is to get Sky into as many homes as possible, and this versatile wee thing gives you myriad options for doing so. The first is the bundle. When you pick up a box you can add another tenner onto the price of the box – pushing it up to £24.99 – and choose one of the three basic content packs to accompany the hardware.

Review: Updated: NOW TV box (2015)

There’s the Movie pack, the Entertainment pack and the Sports pack. With the £24.99 bundle you get two days of sports (big whoop), two months of movies or a full three months on the entertainment side. Picking up subsequent passes when those run dry will cost £9.99 for a month of the movies package, and £6.99 for a month’s worth of the entertainment package. On the sporting side though things are a little more complex, and far more expensive. Considering that this is the only way, outside of a lengthy Sky TV contract, to get access to Sky’s sporting crown jewels that’s probably not much of a surprise. You can pay by the day if you simply have to watch what is known in the parlance of our times as ‘the big match’. That will run to £6.99 per day, but if you go for a week it’s a more reasonable(ish) £10.99. And for a month? Well, that’s a pricey £31.99.

Review: Updated: NOW TV box (2015)

What’s different about the NOW TV service compared with other streaming options is that it’s not just offering on-demand or catch-up content. The movie pass does give you that, but you also get 11 Sky Movies channels, the entertainment pass gives you 13 live channels, and the sport option nets you all seven Sky Sports channels. You can go fully on-demand and rent/buy movies from the Sky Store if you wish. Finally, the NOW TV box will also give you access to the main catch-up services, featuring iPlayer, All 4, ITV Player and Demand 5.

User interface

Sky has opted for an app centric home screen. On the left-hand side of the screen are a number of default apps, including Now TV itself and BBC iPlayer. To add more to the home screen, I had to go into the Roku channel store. Here there were will around 50 apps available, the pick of the bunch being: Sky Store, Sky Sports News HQ, BBC News, Demand 5, TED, Spotify, Sky News, BBC Sport, ITV Player and All 4.

Review: Updated: NOW TV box (2015)

Anyone familiar with Roku’s lineup will know that this is an extremely cut-down version of what is available through the official channel store. Notable apps that are absent are Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video. Although I would have loved the Now TV box to come with those sorts of options, I can understand why Sky would want to ring-fence its own box from direct rivals. This is definitely a closed Roku box. There’s no Plex on board, so media streaming isn’t available through the box (although a quick Google reveals that you may be able to side-load the app) and gaming is also non-existent, but the cut-down price does reflect this.

Review: Updated: NOW TV box (2015)

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XXXThere is an option to get rid of modifying the apps selection. To do this I pressed the Star option on the Now TV remote and found I could remove as many apps as I wanted. There is also a choice to move them around to suit preference. I could also rate content this way. With apps on the left, on the right of the screen was a constant reminder of the content I could have. XXXThis is the beauty of Now TV: you only pay for what section you want. So if you just want movies, that’s all you pay for; if you want entertainment then you’ll get those channels; if you want sport – well there are a options but this is by far the most expensive part of the package.

Review: Updated: NOW TV box (2015)

It’s worth noting, however, that you can watch Sky Sports News HQ with any of the Now TV packs that you choose, not just the sports one. This is a good move by Sky, as the channel is an essential addition to any package for sports lovers. Regardless of the package you have, the UI is the same. At the bottom of the screen are the following options: Sports, Movies, Entertainment, My TV Search, Help and My Account.

Review: Updated: NOW TV box (2015)

To make sure that Now TV isn’t just seen as an on-demand platform, Sky has also added a Live section to Movies and Entertainment. With Movies, this doesn’t really make much sense – all it does is give you a list of what movies are playing on Sky at any given moment. Click into the one you want, and if you missed the beginning then tough – you have to watch it from that point. It makes much more sense to go and find that movie on-demand and watch it that way.

Review: Updated: NOW TV box (2015)

Live works better on the Entertainment side of things. Here you can channel-hop between Sky Living, Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts, Sky 1, MTV, Gold, Fox, Disney, Discovery, Comedy Central, Nick, Nick Jr and ITV Encore. Again, you have to watch from whatever the live point is, but it does mean that you can watch shows such as the Simpsons on Sky 1 – something that isn’t in Sky’s on-demand catalogue.

Review: Updated: NOW TV box (2015)

Quality-wise, it all really depends on your internet connection. The Sky box can do surround sound, which is a bonus, and video quality is no longer capped at 720p – you can pick up Full HD 1080p content now as well. I tried the box with an 8Mbps and a 100Mbps connection, and it worked great. There was very little buffering and startup was extremely quick. One good thing is that there are no adverts to sit through – as you would expect in return for paying a premium – but you still have to put up with the Sky indents that appear throughout programmes. I didn’t find them that distracting, but it’s strange that these are still in place when they aren’t followed by any advertising.

Verdict

The new NOW TV box retains the charm and simplicity of the original, while offering some genuinely useful upgrades to the hardware. And the NOW TV service itself is still an impressive foil to the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video. The option for live viewing is one of the biggest feathers in its cap – although on the movie side I guess that’s debatable. Its simplicity, price and lack of contract are the other features which make NOW TV such an impressive product. The base price is almost throwaway money, and even if you let your passes lapse for a few months over the summer you can always pick up a pass or two to while away those long, dark winter nights. And it’s smart. Not necessarily in terms of the technology, but in terms of Sky seeing a way to supplement its Sky TV customer base in the face of a contract-less, on-demand revolution.

Review: Updated: NOW TV box (2015)

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We liked

NOW TV comes at a bargain price. The initial bundles are good value, and the one-month passes are a decent price once the first purchases run dry – apart, perhaps, from the sports programming that’s so lucrative for Sky. It’s also super-simple to use. The setup and navigation are easy and enable you to get going with the minimum of fuss. I also love the fact that NOW TV gives you access to live channels, and not just on-demand content. In terms of picture quality and stream I had no issues. Granted, I do have the luxury of a speedy city connection, but there were no dropouts.

We disliked

Those sports passes are still seriously expensive, especially compared with even the movie pass – the day pass, at £6.99, is particularly brutal. You’ll also find box sets coming and going with relative regularity from the service. I also struggled a little with the remote – sometimes it required a few jabs to get it to respond to what I was hitting.

Verdict

NOW TV is still a superb service. It will give you hassle-free access to whatever Sky content you want whenever you want it, for a great price – mostly. Sky is understandably holding back its HD content for its contract customers, or for direct purchases from the Sky Store, but given the general low price of the box and service that’s not a huge issue. If it only supported the Netflix and Amazon Video apps then we’d be hopelessly in love with it; however, we can understand why they’re not available. Given the £15 base price, and the fact you can pick up month-long free trials easily as a new user, there’s almost no reason not to give NOW TV a go.

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29 thoughts on “NOW TV box (2015)

  1. The box does allow media streaming from an android device using the play to lite app on the box and your phone/tablet. Also it has i player, ITV player, 4od and demand 5! Not bad for 00a310!

  2. This is actually a total bait and switch scam. It only works if you take out a contract/subscription for SkyTV – otherwise it won’t even allow you to access the iplayer… nada – nothing – 00a319.99 for abolutely nothing at all. AVOID

  3. I just got one easy to set up but its 6.99 aday to watch any kind of sport know phone no to chat to them just alive chat help line which is never working no matter what time of the day you try to chat to them its a rip of

  4. looks good, but if they could licence Google chromecast tech and put it on it, you’d have an amazing device, very close to Apple TV (probably better) for and tiny fraction of the price (I imagine it would cost a bit more than 00a310 though)

  5. It looks like at least you need a subscription but it’s not clear whether iPlayer etc.. will continue to work after the initial 30 day free trial of Now TV:

  6. Marc, thanks for the article. For those who live outside UK and want to access NowTV you can use UnoTelly as I do to get around the geo block.

  7. Does TR have an editor? how did this article get published with all the typos and duplicated paragraphs?

  8. Bought one of these from the Now TV website purely to use with the free On Demand/Catch-Up services. It’s not well publicised but it is only able to display at 720p, not full HD, despite having an HDMI port. I knew this when I ordered the box but I must admit I am disappointed in the picture quality using the free On Demand apps such as BBC iPlayer. It is very much inferior to the picture quality I get using iPlayer through my Humax box. It’s nowhere near as clear (even when streaming standard definition) and it is a noticeably less smooth, especially when watching fast movement e.g. football. I had to register and give my credit card details by opting for the free Sky Movies 30 day trial, which is then automatically charged every month if not cancelled. Otherwise you have to buy one of the other passes before it will allow you to complete the registration process and use the box. So you do have to register and give your credit card details before you can start using the free On Demand/Catch-Up apps, despite what it says in one of the earlier comments. Of course you can cancel the free trial and then continue using the free On Demand/Catch-up apps free of charge. Surprisingly, when I tried one of the Sky Movies the quality of the stream was quite good, not HD quality but much clearer and smoother than the iPlayer stream. No idea why there would be a difference in quality between the two. It’s a shame that the box doesn’t display at full HD or have a LAN port for greater stability than WiFi. but for 00a39.99 you can’t really complain. The included HDMI lead and remote batteries are nearly worth that themselves. Nevertheless I personally would have rather paid more for the inclusion of HD and LAN ports. Afraid mine will be going back in the box as the picture quality just isn’t good enough for my liking.

  9. You do have to register with a credit card to get a login, you then cancell the subscription.

  10. Yes, it is easy to cancel. Unfortunately once they have your card details they periodically take unauthorised payments. This is a very disturbing situation. This is not uncommon.

  11. As an alternative to paying for a TV licence, the NowTV box is perfect. It offers a simple way to access CatchUP tv on all the main channels, and it works every time – free of charge! There are also lots of Pay2View options, but none of them is compulsory. You’ll need unlimited wifi, and if you want to watch live news channels, you’ll need to buy a TV licence.

  12. Just setting up the Now TV box, as I should have expected another piece of useless Sky junk! Advertises ITV Player as a function but only gives a fraction of the ITV Players functionality, seems you can only get the last few days not the 30 days ITV Player provides – waste of time. One item that doesn’t quite do what it say’s on the tin but close enough that they can get away with it.

  13. Ridiculous statement , What you claim in either factually not accurate or user error . For a start Spotify never has been anywhere near 00a319.99 . Its as simple as allowing the box search for available wifi connections and once found , putting in your router password and its done . The box does turn off after a certain period of inactivity and when on uses less than a light bulb.The only thing that is a waste of time is infact your comments as they are simply not true in any regard.

  14. ‘They don’t tell you you have to register on the Now TV website’ – Yes they do, though I grant you, they make no mention of requiring your card details…but this is not something that should actually surprise anyone in my opinion…as you have also mentioned, simply cancel the subscription prior to your end date, thus it is not actually a problem is it. #1 you have to go on line to type a code so it activates the box. – And this is an issue how? It states on the box you need WiFi…and that you need a NOW TV account… #2 you find that you have to get the wireless connection with your router type in exactly or you will find it will not accept the connection. – Most routers will connect without issue as long as you follow the instructions, the most problematic router it would seem is the Virgin box…there are however very clear instructions on the internet on how to resolve issues with this box…Most boxes work without the need for additional workarounds and some allow the box to connect with WPS if you have it enabled, without issue, and of course your statement is true of any wireless device connecting to a wireless network, you are required to input the type and passkey otherwise your connection will fail. #3 now you are set and browse their is very little to choose from – It clearly states on the box, and on the site what is available for what pricing. Consider this, if you have no smart TV, then this is a VERY VERY cheap way to get yourself onto the platform without the need to go upgrading your TV. I agree compared to some options it is limited but then as I have said, this is real cheap, currently 00a314.99 with a 3 month Entertainment subscription, is a crazy price to give you a chance to figure out whether its for you or not. #4 You can go on Facebook … Agree with you on this point but then I cant really see why people would want to use Facebook through their smart TV anyway, but then that’s just me, its a PITA to post through media without at least a decent virtual keyboard anyway, try writing a few sentences with a tv remote…its horrible…Saying that, I also doubt that anyone on the planet would purchase any Smart device for TV just to post on FB and would not miss the facility if it were not there as i suspect most would never use it anyway. #5 In all it is a waste of time all it does is make you purchase Sky features – No it isn’t, and no it doesn’t…utter nonsense… So ok it doesn’t suit you, fair enough, that doesn’t mean its unsuitable for everyone and no one forced you into purchasing anything from Sky did they…AND The box does not switch off you will have to disconnect it by unplugging it – no but it does go to a kind of standby, and uses very little power anyway and apparently uses no less power in ‘standby’, and just for the record, if you are not using it, after a certain time it cuts the connection or at least you are logged out of NOW TV anyway, you can test this by the fact it needs to log in to your NOW TV account the next time you fire up the box with the remote. Though I will conceded it does check for updates once a day, whether it does this while the box is not being used by the user I cannot confirm as I have not checked. Anyway, whats wrong with unplugging/powering off? Most items like TV, Blu Ray etc are not really turned off, just on standby, If it bothers folks that much then get an auto switch or put all your devices on an easily accessible electrical block and just turn off the block when you go to bed or go out. Though I accept a power button would be nice, the only issue I can really see with no power on/off is that it can cause problems with auto switching for things like HDMI switches when you have multiple devices go into the TV/Monitor, but while not always convenient, there are ways around this. #6 You would be better off with Freeview box at least you can record the stations and wind on the adverts and the monthly payments for top up is or was 00a37.99 a month no contract. – Agreed to an extent, but again, this box is currently 00a314.99 with a 3 month sub, cancel before the 3 months and you can still use it to watch BBCi etc…limited yes as agreed but nonetheless useful if you don’t have any catch-up ability on your TV. A standard free-view box is relatively cheap, and one with with stop/start/record is gonna cost you at least 3-4 times this price just for basic one and you may be unlucky enough to not have an aerial capable of receiving any signals, which means you need to try an indoor or upgrade your aerial, more outlay, and of course the indoor may not even work as in some areas the signals are just too weak. Of course you could do one better than free view if you have an old satellite dish,and get freesat if you can afford a box. The fact is, this NOW TV box with or without sub will suit some folks, other folks will be good with Free View, others FreeSat, others will have Sky and some have a combo of all of the above in one form or another. #7 If you do decide to go ahead and purchase the box. Once you have activated the account check

  15. ******BE WARNED****** The box is good it works no problems. They don’t tell you you have to register on the Now TV website and enter you payment card details first months a trail. After which you pay 00a39.99. A con say at the least. Once you you connect it to your TV the fun begins. #1 you have to go on line to type a code so it activates the box. #2 you find that you have to get the wireless connection with your router type in exactly or you will find it will not accept the connection. #3 now you are set and browse their is very little to choose from …Iplayer ITVplayer, 4oD, 5oD, BBC News, Sky News and a various online media YouTube, Vimeo. Please don’t get your hopes up most have adverts that interrupt every 10-15 minutes, You can get sky movies nothing special and you will have seen these on TV at some point. Price range from the classic 00a32-3 and the up to date ones 00a36-7. #4 You can go on Facebook here again you have to get a code and tell your account online that the Now TV box is now accessing your Facebook account, this is very limited don’t think you can post because you CAN’T. Spotify you have to up grade to the premium account last time I checked that was 00a319.99. Same with the rest of the stuff. #5 In all it is a waste of time all it does is make you purchase Sky features that nothing like what’s on a sky box. The box does not switch off you will have to disconnect it by unplugging it #6 You would be better off with Freeview box at least you can record the stations and wind on the adverts and the monthly payments for top up is or was 00a37.99 a month no contract. #7 If you do decide to go ahead and purchase the box. Once you have activated the account check

  16. Yes cheap start up price – currently advertising that to access Sky Sports Channel(s) its just 00a310 a day for one channel… so to watch the rest of the Ashes series possibly 00a3150 pounds (gulp) or your Premiership team if they are live 6 or 7 times on Sky over the season; there’s a reason why it’s cheap, to get premium content you need a fat wallet.

  17. @ BobM: Now TV isn’t intended for regular users. Regular users already have Sky.

  18. None of the plex solutions work unless you’re already subscribed to SkyTV though

  19. Plex is available and works very well. I’ll not supply any links, but a quick Google will provide links to YouTube videos giving a step by step guide. We’ve a couple in our house. Cheap and inexpensive solution.

  20. I love the Now TV box. I did get by with the App available on pc and console, but numerous issues with software and buffering led me to take the plunge and get the dedicated box for 00a39.99. I’ve had it for months with excellent performance and no issues. I like the fact that it’s a very low power device, yet provides pretty much flawless performance, in contrast to having a power hungry pc or console running, with various issues affecting the stream. The best thing about Now TV is that it’s introduced me to channels such as the Anime channel Crunchyroll which has anime and live action drama (with English subtitles), which I might never have come across otherwise. It’s actually inspired me to start learning Japanese. The main reason for subscribing to Now TV however is for the 00a34.99 / month access to Sky entertainment: Sky One, Atlantic etc. meaning I can watch the latest episodes of True Blood, Hannibal etc. It really is excellent value for money.

  21. If I don’t need to pay monthly this looks ideal for me. My LCD TV is ancient but offers me a perfectly good HD Ready picture. I have no real reason to upgrade it. My Humax Freeview+ box is solid. I want to replace it for a YouView box but those cost nearly 00a3300 and I’m not in a position to do that right now. I’ve wanted iPlayer on my TV for ages, pity 4OD isn’t on board too.

  22. It requires the use of either broadband/fibre optic or whichever other internet connection type you use, such a mobile/3g/4g/satellite…irrelevant of whether you watch via smart tv, now tv box or computer, connected to either your tv or monitor…As far I am aware the now tv box states a minimum of 2.5Mbps to function at its fullest capacity.

  23. Wait…so does this mean that I should watch it on a tv to prevent this? Not sure I understand this

  24. Errrm. Surely this is just common sense. Sky shouldn’t need to tell you that a streaming device will increase your Data usage!

  25. Sky NOW TV box – a Warning ! Great little piece of gear, watch Sky on TV instead of the computer screen ! EXCEPT SKY DON’T TELL YOU – it drains your Broadband usage.

  26. What channels are in the store? Do we know if sky will be added? Better than a Apple tv box?

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