For just a tenner, this Sky Now TV player brings video on demand movies and iPlayer catch-up to any telly, no contract required
Skyí's Now TV platform is turning up the heat against rival non-contract Video on Demand services Netflix and Lovefilm Instant by all but giving away this dedicated streaming box. Priced at just £9.99 (which includes P&P and a decent HDMI cable), the diminutive device delivers a range of TV services to any screen, including new release movies and sports.
Now TV is positioned as an alternative to subscription content, with on-demand access to eleven Sky Movie channels available for £15 a month (after a 30 day free trial, and then three months at just £8.99). Sky Sports is sold on a £9.99 day pass basis.
The latter could be a good deal if you only want to watch certain fixtures or events - get your mates round, chuck in a few quid each, and you'll probably still have enough for crisps.
However, you don't need to pay anything to use the box. You can just hook it up for BBC iPlayer and other gratis content if you want. It's a cut price way to take any TV online, all that's required is some Wi-Fi.
Now TV box: Size and build
Made by Roku, the coaster-like Now TV box is a trim 84 x 84 x 24mm and finished in glossy white. There's no Power On/Off button, it's designed to be left connected so that it can download firmware updates as and when required. It comes with a matching remote control.
Now TV box: Features
This box opens the door to a surprisingly wide variety of content. Not only do you get eleven channels of Sky Movies, plus Sky Sports, there's also catch-up from the BBC and C5, a variety of online channels and music services from the likes of Spotify and Deezer. Social media clients include Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and Twitter.
Now TV box: Interface
The Now TV box outputs at 720p output and the UI looks suitably crisp. Setup takes just a few minutes. You'll need to open a Now TV account before you start though, as this is part of the process.
The Now TV movie interface is slick, with movie art and descriptions for each title. When watched, they accumulate in your My Movies area. Watch half a film on one device and then log in via another and you'll be able to pick up where you left off.
Now TV box: Content
Significantly, the Now TV box isn't just a home for Sky services and catch-up. You can add more channels from the Roku Channel Store. Esoteric options available for download include content from Fitness magazine, Bollywood Central, Blinkx, music channel Havoc television, the Aliens and UFO channel, NHL Gamecentre, Musiclouds (for content from Soundcloud, 8tracks, Jamendo), Fox news and TED.
Now TV box: Performance
The quality of the video delivered by this box is largely dependant on your own broadband connection and the source, but is potentially very good. Using a fast fibre connection, we experienced no stuttering and exceptionally high levels of picture clarity from the Sky Movies streams.
Definition was comparable with good DVD. The BBC iPlayer offers HD streams. The audio available from the Now TV channels is stereo only.
Now TV box: Verdict
The arrival of the Now TV box is clear evidence that Sky is getting very serious about the rapidly evolving non-contract VoD market. It obviously doesn't believe that it's cannibalising its own pay TV services either. Now TV is, by its own admission, intended for a different crowd, "dip-in, dip-out" viewers.
The Now TV box is somewhat limited in what it can do - there's no Netflix (or Lovefilm) and you only get access to a ring-fenced selection of apps from the Roku Channel Store. It's lack of features means that it doesn't quite get five stars from us. However, what you do get is a no-fuss streamer able to add BBC iPlayer, VoD movies and sports to any TV for a tenner. Weíll have some of that, thank you very much.
Now TV release date: Available now
Now TV price: £9.99