Should you buy… Sky Glass?

Sky’s new take on TV does away with the dish and the box.

Sky Glass
Sky Glass

The idea of getting the very best from Sky, but without having to have a dish installed or find a place under your TV for a Sky box, is a compelling one, and is exactly what Sky Glass is aiming for.

In the most basic terms, Sky Glass is full Sky built into a TV and run over your home internet.

It’s an intriguing prospect on paper, but how does it measure up in reality?

– Design

As a television, Sky Glass is attractive enough, if a bit chunky compared to the other top-end TV sets of today.

The thin bezel framing the screen and speaker bar at the base of the display are both neat and minimal, and there are plenty of HDMI ports on the rear of the TV for plugging in games consoles or other devices as needed.

There’s also a physical button on the side of the TV to disable the voice activation feature.

As a result, the neat and tidy design of the TV is also good enough that Sky Glass looks good on the stand on a TV cabinet or on the wall.

The Sky Glass remote
(Martyn Landi/PA)

The Sky Glass remote is also brand new, with a more simplistic design than its predecessors. It also lights up when picked up, making it easier to use if you’re watching TV – and searching for the volume button – in a darkened room.

As an overall package then, Sky Glass looks the part.

It is not a TV design to top the flagship models of the major TV manufacturers, but it’s still an impressive piece of engineering.

– Experience

One of the key benefits of Sky Glass is meant to be the set-up experience and the dramatic contrast from previous generations of Sky devices.

Normally, a Sky engineer needs to come and fit your Sky box and, if your home has never been linked to Sky before, install a satellite dish – but no dish or box is needed here.

If you happen to be a Sky Broadband customer as well, the set-up process is even more simplified because Glass will automatically find and connect to your Sky network.

However, there is a downside to this dependence on an internet connection. It means that, if your internet connection drops or slows, it can and does impact your ability to not just watch the on-demand aspects of Sky Glass but also live TV.

That’s a problem if you’re engrossed in anything live – a football game, for example – and is a disconcerting experience to have when you’re not watching a streaming service but traditional television.

Sky Glass does come with an aerial socket that can allow users to access Freeview as a back-up, but this only brings with it a limited number of channels.

The new voice control feature is an impressive new addition too – being able to say “Hello Sky” and a channel or programme name to turn on the TV and instantly jump to that content – as is the motion activation which can turn on the TV when it senses you walk into the room.

On the motion-sensing, though – a warning to pet owners, Sky Glass can’t tell the difference between you and your cat or dog, for example, so beware of sudden, late-night TV turn-ons.

Fortunately, the feature – and voice control – can be turned off in the settings.

And in terms of the sheer range of content, you will be hard-pressed to find a set-up with more to offer, thanks to not only the extensive Sky portfolio but apps such as Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ and Apple TV+.

Sky Glass
(Martyn Landi/PA)

As for the Sky Glass interface, that too still feels like a work in progress – simply because there is so much available content, it is hard to fit it all into a neat menu screen without it getting a little overwhelming.

As a result, at times there is a lot on screen – too much in fact – ranging from large preview tiles of featured content to the playlist of favourite shows, the Sky TV guide and app tiles for third-party streaming platforms and other services.

This is the downside to Sky’s bold idea of having all the content you could ever want in one place – it’s a brilliant idea but not quite executed to perfection yet.

A way of trying to streamline all this content is the new playlist tool, which replaces Sky’s traditional recording tool and sees users add shows to their playlist that they wish to save for later.

In general, it works well as a way of organising what you enjoy watching, but long-term Sky TV users will feel a little lost to begin with without their faithful record button.

There’s a similar feel too around how the TV guide is buried down the home screen now. Having been the main navigation point for years, it has been demoted to an afterthought.

Although Glass compensates by placing the live shows it thinks you might be interested in at the top of the home screen, demoting the familiar, comfortable process of looking through the TV guide to find what to watch doesn’t feel quite right.

It feels like the traditional TV viewing habits of many potential Sky Glass users have been sacrificed for the sake of creating a Netflix-style streaming service experience.

On a similar note, the fast-forward feature feels a lot less controllable or comfortable on Glass – this could be because more content is being streamed than played back from a hard drive – but starting-and-stopping is far less predictable and often skips several frames from where you think you’ve stopped.

– Verdict

As an idea, Sky Glass is a really interesting proposition – streamlining all the benefits of Sky but without the awkward extras like the dish and box, combined with access to all the modern streaming services and platforms an entertainment lover could want or need.

In practice, however, it’s just not ready. The hardware is OK but not a patch on modern top-of-the-range TVs, while the software is a mess; the UI is badly laid out, uncomfortable to move through and frankly ugly.

And the dependence on an internet connection, combined with a number of bugs, mean it’s not even reliable as a TV source all of the time, and that can be downright infuriating.

The premise of Sky Glass is a promising idea, but right now, it’s just not ready.

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