Want Sky TV but can't install a satellite dish? This Sky Stream review is exactly where you need to be - it’s an alternative to Sky Q that's similar to an amped-up version of a media streamer like the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K which means it's super simple to set up, you get a huge library of content and there are lots of extra smarts like voice search.
Sky Stream could be a game-changer, giving you the Sky Glass experience without needing to buy a whole new TV - it’s a tiny little device that plugs directly into your current set. All you'll need is a solid Wi-Fi connection and a spare power socket. It’ll be ideal for anyone who can’t get Sky Q because they can't put up a satellite dish. Renters are going to love it. Although if you do want the full physical TV experience then read our Sky Stream versus Sky Glass comparison feature.
You’ll be able to use this straightforward system to watch Sky’s on-demand content, live TV and it’ll give you easy access to streaming services including Netflix, Apple TV+, BBC iPlayer and even some music apps like Spotify or BBC Sounds. What’s more, is that the whole thing can be controlled by voice thanks to the microphone inside the remote, and the system is actually improving all the time thanks to regular updates rolled out by out by Sky.
Sky Stream review: price and what’s new
There are two ways to pay for the Sky Stream - you can buy it on a 31-day rolling contract with a setup fee of £39.95 and a monthly price starting from £29 a month, or on an 18-month contract with a setup fee of £20 and a monthly cost starting from £26 a month. You can order it today and be using it as soon as tomorrow because Sky ships the devices with next-day delivery.
Those prices give you Sky Ultimate TV and Netflix Basic, but if you want more than that you can add extras like Sky Sports, Sky Kids, BT Sport and Sky Cinema. To get all the content Sky has to offer you’ll be looking at paying a minimum of £104 a month.
Got a few TVs dotted around your home? For an extra £12 a month you can have up to six Sky Stream devices in total, the second device is free but after that, you'll have to pay another £40 each per puck as well. Is Sky Stream it worth it? That's discussed in T3's separate feature.
What makes this device so exciting is that you don’t need a satellite dish to get Sky on your TV at home, just a Wi-Fi connection. But it’s not necessarily new, the Sky Stream puck has actually been available to Sky Glass customers since that was launched last year.
Sky Stream review: design and setup
The Sky Stream puck is the smallest and simplest way to get set up with Sky TV. The tiny square black box only measures 10.8 x 10.8 x 1.8cm, and it weighs just 200g, so it’ll easily fit just about anywhere and won’t be an eye sore in your front room either.
You’ll only need two wires to get it working, that being the power cable and an HDMI, both are included in the box. If you want a more stable connection then there’s also a port on the back to connect it directly to your broadband network using an ethernet cable.
Controlling the box is totally painless thanks to the included remote and a small power button on the underside of the device. It’s exactly the same voice remote as you get with the Sky Glass, and to make things even easier, it can be used to control the TV’s power and volume as well.
Because of the rubber-like coating, the remote is grippy and each button illuminates which makes it easy to use in the dark. All the controls are very self-explanatory with the standard volume rocker and number pad as well as the button that takes you to the homepage and the microphone button to activate voice search, both of which are framed by a raised ridge making them easier to find by touch alone. My only qualm was that the remote didn't always work when there were objects between it and the box, or if I was using it from some more indirect angles.
Getting started with the Sky Stream takes a matter of minutes - you plug it in, connect it to your Wi-Fi network, enter your PIN and that’s literally it. After that, you’ll be ready to watch Sky TV.
Admittedly, I had a couple of activation issues when I first received the puck but Sky was very quick to solve the problem for me and quickly sent me a new one which worked almost instantly.
Sky Stream review: performance and features
What Sky does really well is user experience - both the Sky Stream and Sky Glass use their Entertainment OS which is laid out and organised in a way that makes it incredibly easy to navigate and discover new content.
You can divide things up by format, and by that, I mean TV shows, movies, news, sports etc. Under each, there are recommendations personalised to you and what's on your playlist from that category, as well as the most popular shows and everything playing on live TV right now.
Suggestions are categorised in all sorts of ways which are always chopping and changing, at the time of writing they included sections for 'must-see family movies' and 'big stars on the small screen' amongst others.
Most streaming apps you can think of are available on the OS including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Channel 4, Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, Prime Video, Paramount+, Spotify, YouTube, STV Player, Lionsgate+ and so on.
One thing I really like is that you see recommendations from every streaming service together in one place which means you don’t need to trawl through each app to find something new to watch. The only annoying thing about it is that you'll be recommended shows even if you don't subscribe to that service, it'd be even better if Sky only showed you what you can actually watch.
Also worth shouting about is the playlist feature which is perhaps one of the most useful on the whole system, it serves to replace the recordings section that you'd usually find on Sky Q.
What that means is your shows are saved onto a cloud, not on a hard drive inside the box itself. There are pros and cons to that: it's great because all of your Sky Stream pucks and Sky Glass devices will sync your playlists with one another, but in the same breath, that means you won't be able to watch shows without an internet connection or if they're no longer available.
You can quickly add or remove content to the playlist using the '+' button on the remote. The most recent will be visible in the playlist rail on the home screen or you can click on the first tile to see what else you have saved there.
By the end of 2022, a new update will be rolled out to all users that will actually allow for personalised playlists as well, so each family member can build their own without it being clogged up with stuff they’re not interested in.
Sky Stream is updated regularly which makes it better to use over time, whether that's to add new channels, pop in some new features or fix software-based issues. The fact that it's always improving is a massive plus point.
Not only can you watch live TV and on-demand content using the Sky Stream but it will actually let you start shows being aired right now from the beginning. A rail at the top of the TV guide gives you this option or you can do it by pressing the middle button while the programme is playing. I love this feature because it meant that if I were to come in a little late, I wouldn't need to miss the start of a programme or wait for it to appear on a catch-up service.
Voice search is yet another big win for the Sky Stream. You activate it by pressing the microphone button on the remote and speak into it to find what you're looking for. It can be used to find certain shows, apps or even YouTube videos. Unlike Sky Glass, Sky Stream doesn’t have far-field microphones built-in that can be triggered hands-free by a simple wake word. Leaving that out undoubtedly saves money but it’s a feature that some will certainly miss.
In terms of channel choice, you won't have any complaints because there are over 150 live channels to choose from. Granted there are fewer than if you got Sky Q which has over 500, but that's largely down to the fact that there aren't any +1 channels and Sky has left out some of the more niche ones that don't attract as many viewers.
Something that could be more problematic is the fact that streaming over the internet could lead to a slight delay in comparison to satellite, which will be annoying for watching sporting events in particular where you might hear about what's happened before you've seen it.
Depending on which TV you’re using it with, the Sky Stream can play shows in up to UHD resolution and it’s HDR-ready. For those with a compatible soundbar, it supports Dolby Atmos surround sound as well. Ultimately that means if you've forked out for a top-of-the-range set, you won't need to downgrade to the Sky Glass to stream Sky over Wi-Fi and you'll still be able to make the most out of stunning 4K with a good amount of contrast and vivid viewing as long as you have enough bandwidth, that is.
All sounds pretty good, right? The Sky Stream is really well thought out, but there were a couple of little problems I noticed in the UI, though. For example, sometimes when I turned on my TV, the image resolution was off and I saw the message "video format not supported" so I had to go into the device settings, switch it over to HD and then back to 4K to get it working. It’s a minor issue which I'm sure could be fixed by a tweak to the software on Sky's part, which again, is where the over-air updates will actually be really good.
Sky Stream review: verdict
The Sky Stream could well be the future for Sky - it’s the first truly hassle-free way to watch their content because there’s no tricky installation or waiting times, and it’s also Sky's cheapest option yet. It's already been getting great free upgrades too.
Day-to-day I was for the most part impressed. Picture quality was great, the layout of the interface was excellent and there are literally tonnes and tonnes of shows and movies to keep you entertained. Granted I did come across a couple of small issues that slowed me down for a while, but I soon managed to get back to streaming and it didn't put me off in any way.
I can imagine the Sky Stream will better suit some people than others. For instance, it’ll undoubtedly be more convenient for city dwellers than for those living in the countryside, mostly because you’ll need a very reliable internet connection for it to work.
There are certain things Sky Q users might miss as well, like the ability to record programmes onto the box itself. And if the internet were to go down then you wouldn’t be able to watch any TV at all where you would if you had a satellite dish. But even so, I still think the Sky Stream puck is likely to be the most popular option for Sky customers going forwards simply down to how quick and easy it is to get and then use.
If it’s Sky you’re after then you’ll only have the Sky Glass as an alternative, or Sky Q if you don’t mind installing a satellite dish. But if you’re not set on Sky and actually you’d like something a bit cheaper then you might be better off considering the Virgin Media Stream instead, there’s just a one-off fee to get it although it is only available to Virgin Media broadband customers.
Also worth considering is an Amazon Fire device which is a quick and affordable way to get all of the best streaming services on your TV and they do actually have Now TV available if you just can’t live without Sky’s original content. Take a look at Amazon Fire TV Cube vs Fire TV Stick 4K to find out which one will the best choice for you.