Sky Glass review: Could be the future of TV, but don’t ditch your Sky Q box just yet

Sky Glass review (Image: SKY)

Unless you’ve been living inside a cave for the past two months, you’ve probably seen the posters for Sky Glass plastered across every billboard in Britain. For those who have missed the barrage of marketing, Sky Glass is a custom-designed 4K TV that streams live television, on-demand boxsets and streaming apps over your broadband connection. This is a seismic move from the company as this is the first product they have launched that doesn’t require a dish stuck to your walls and it’s been a long time coming with Sky first announcing that it was working on a dish-free device all the way back in 2017.

In a nutshell, Sky Glass is a Sky Q box and soundbar baked into a flatscreen telly. In all of its glossy new adverts and posters, Sky promises this ground-breaking new gadget is the future of its television service, but are they right?

Is it finally time to ditch your trusted Samsung or Sony television in favour of a set designed by Sky, and has Sky Glass really been worth the four-year wait? Express.co.uk has had this TV plugged into our wall for over two weeks and here’s what we think…

Sky Glass review

Sky Glass is so simple to setup with one plug connecting everything (Image: SKY)

SKY GLASS REVIEW: THE SET-UP

One of the biggest hurdles when setting up Sky Q for the first time is the nightmare of having a dish drilled and screwed to the outside of your home. There’s the inconvenience of organising an appointment with the engineers, the drilling and noise, and that’s if you’re one of the lucky ones! After all, there are some instances when it’s simply not possible to have one of these receivers affixed to the property.

Sky Glass ditches the need for an intrusive and noisy installation. Instead, the 4K TV arrives in a box and customers only need to plug-in a single cable (the power cord) to get up and running.

Sky even preloads your account on Sky Glass before it arrives on your doorstep. So all you have to do is type in your Wi-Fi code and settle down for an evening of entertainment, sports, or blockbuster movies.

In fact, the only minor annoyance we found with Sky Glass is building the stand that the TV sits on. Sky includes some pretty basic instructions, which left us fitting one piece the wrong way round on our first attempt. Luckily, if your DIY skills aren’t up to scratch, Sky has promised that its Glass delivery drivers will set up the stand for you making things incredibly hassle-free.

We really can’t fault Sky when it comes to installation and we’re confident that even the biggest technophobe should have no problems plugging in and watching TV in a matter of minutes.

SKY GLASS REVIEW: YOUR BROADBAND

Since there’s no satellite dish, you’ll need some speedy broadband to watch live television, on-demand boxsets, and sports and movies broadcast in 4K Ultra HD quality on the big screen. If your connection at home is slower than a snail through treacle, you might want to think twice before you buy. We’re lucky enough to have 200Mbps full-fibre broadband in our property, which is comfortably enough to deal with Sky Glass and we’ve had no issues tuning into our favourite boxsets, live sport games, or streaming apps such Netflix and Disney+.

If your street hasn’t been upgraded to superfast fibre yet, then don’t panic as Sky is confident that Glass should be fine as long as your speeds are above 10Mbps for standard definition. Start viewing in glorious 4K and you’ll need around 25Mbps to make sure things don’t begin to buffer.

Of course, if you’re going to place this TV in the corner of your loft conversion or outside in your man cave, it’s also worth making sure your Wi-Fi connection is strong enough to reach these rooms. There is an ethernet cable for those who want a hardwired connection and you can connect an aerial cable into the back of Sky Glass – so that, should the worse happen and you lose broadband one night, you’ll still be able to tune-in to Freeview. But one of the biggest draws of Sky Glass is the no-clutter, one cable set-up… so it’s not something we opted to do.

One final thing to note is the issue of your broadband going down. The UK’s infrastructure is getting better but if your street has a massive outage you will be left without any telly which is going to be pretty frustrating.

Sky Glass review

Sky Glass features a QLED screen which isn’t anything special (Image: SKY)

SKY GLASS REVIEW: THE HARDWARE

Once you’re all connected to the internet, it’s time to start those boxset binges. Sky Glass comes fitted with a 4K Ultra HD Quantum Dot display. You can buy it in 43-, 55-, and 65-inch screen sizes and each of these is available in numerous colour options including Ocean Blue, Racing Green, Dusky Pink, Ceramic White, and Anthracite Black to fit your décor.

For our review, we took delivery of the 55-inch version in Anthracite Black, which is probably the least dynamic of the bunch but a safe bet if you’re not trying to make an interior design statement.

From the front, Sky Glass has an expansive screen that pushes right to the very edge of the case, plus and there’s the Dolby Atmos-compatible soundbar that sits in the chin neatly under the panel.

Unfortunately, squeezing a soundbar into a telly means you’ll lose the “flat” part of the flatscreen with this device looking pretty chunky. All the tech inside makes Sky Glass incredibly thick – around two inches – which might not suit everyone’s tastes, especially those wanting who want to mount the screen to their living room walls.

So that’s how it looks on the outside but what about the all-important visuals?

Switch on Sky Glass and you’ll get a decent image with content looking crisp and sharp which – this is a 4K screen after all. However, since Sky Glass relies on a QLED panel, don’t expect anything like the vibrant colour-packed visuals found on more premium OLED TVs as this all-in-one 4K TV doesn’t come close to matching those visuals.

Sky Glass review

Sky Glass review (Image: SKY)

Sky Glass Playlists

Sky Glass comes in numerous colours including Pink (Image: SKY)

Even compared to other QLED TVs within the same price range, we’d say that most things watched on Sky Glass look a bit dull …no matter how much we tweaked the settings. It almost feels as if a subtle grey wash is being smeared over every image on-screen. This is something that might be solved with a software update (even in our short time with Sky Glass, we’ve already seen a major update to boost visuals and iron-out some bugs) but there’s no guarantee that things are going to get better on that front.

Sadly, Sky Glass just doesn’t offer eye-popping visuals and if that’s important to you, we’d properly recommend saving your money and buying a QLED or, even better, OLED from the likes of Samsung, Sony, or Panasonic in the Black Friday sales. And if you already have a pricey telly in your living room, you really don’t want to swap it out for Sky Glass as that’s probably going to look like a downgrade on your next movie night.

As we’ve mentioned, Sky Glass arrives with a soundbar built-in and it certainly makes the audio from this TV far better than anything else you’ll get from a modern flatscreen telly out-of-the-box.

Dialogue cuts through clearly and there’s enough rumble from explosions to make action movies feel a little more epic, and ominous rattles in horror films send a shiver down your spine. Of course, it doesn’t compare to standalone products from the likes Sony or Sonos, but these alone cost almost as much as the Sky Glass, so that’s no surprise.

Sky Glass is basically both good and bad. We love the all-in-one design, thin borders around the display, not to mention the fruity colour options and the fact there’s just one cable that will end the usual spaghetti of leads that usually end up behind the screen.

However, the fact it’s so thick and the visuals lack the punch of other TVs on the market means it’s difficult to give Sky Glass the full thumbs up.

Sky Glass Playlists

Sky Glass is a pretty thick TV which might not suit those wanting to wall mount it (Image: SKY)

Sky Glass review

Sky Glass comes in three sizes (Image: SKY)

SKY GLASS REVIEW: PLAYLISTS

So far, we’ve spoken about the simplicity of Sky Glass, but here’s where things start to get complicated. Unlike Sky Q, there’s no hard disk tucked inside Glass. That means you can’t physically record your favourite shows or movies to watch whenever you fancy.

Sky is switching things up on Glass, which ditches the much-loved recordings feature for something called Playlists. Don’t panic – you can still view your favourite programmes after they have aired on live TV (most of the time), but you’ll need to change your habits. Shows added to your Playlist are viewed via catch-up services like BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, and All4, to name a few. These stream the shows and movies via the cloud, instead of storing them locally in your Sky Q, for example.

Playlist has its own menu, with shows appearing whenever they’re available to watch over your broadband connection. These shows and films can also be accessed from the main Sky Glass homepage too. You can also find shows, films or sports fixtures that you’ve missed with a voice search. On Sky Glass, this can be done hands-free by using the wake phrase “Hey Sky” (just like an Alexa-powered Echo) or with the remote control. You can also add something to your Playlist by pressing the red + button on the remote – this also acts like the Series Link feature on older Sky Q boxes.

Whenever you want to watch something stored in Playlists, Sky Glass streams it straight to the screen. Nothing is saved on your system.

Sky Glass Playlists

Sky Glass uses Playlists rather than recordings (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

For our money, there are good and bad aspects of this radical shake-up, so let’s start with what we like. Firstly, because everything you watch is stored on the cloud you’re never going to run out of disk space no matter how many movies and episodes of The Simpsons you add to the Playlist.

Since it’s drawing from on-demand services, movies and shows can show up in your Playlist before they’ve aired on telly. That’s perfect for anyone who can’t wait for the next episode. A good example of this was when we added Mamma Mia to our Playlist after we spotted it coming to ITV.

Sky Glass instantly checked and added the film straight to our Playlist as it’s currently available via Netflix, so we could watch hours earlier than originally planned – it’s all clever stuff.

Just like Sky Q, you can whizz through recordings, pause, rewind and restart shows with all this happening without a hint of stutter.

So, that’s what we like but sadly, there are also some highly annoying things about not having those physical recordings.

Firstly, when you add a show – such as Gogglebox – to your Playlist, Sky Glass assumes you want every single episode it can possibly find. That makes things massively complicated as you end up having to scroll through endless episodes, rather than just the one you fancied viewing. To be fair, the most recent episode is usually shown first but we’d still rather not be bombarded by content that in some cases can be years old.

Then there’s the problem of episodes vanishing from your Playlist before you’ve watched them whenever Sky or any other catch-up platform loses the rights to show them. Match of the Day is probably the best example of this nightmare as the BBC is only allowed to feature this show on catch up for a very limited time.

If you head on holiday for two weeks and have Sky Q you’d be able to watch Match of the Day on your return via your recordings but try and do the same thing on Glass and you’ll have no such luck. Grrrrrr.

We’ve also found instances of missing episodes from a number of series, which isn’t Sky’s fault as it can only stream what is available from All4, ITV Hub and others. However, that doesn’t mean it’s any less annoying.

And of course, there was nothing preventing Sky from including a small hard-drive as a back-up, to be used when viewers requested to ‘Keep’ a recording (a mainstay feature on Sky Q that doesn’t exist with the stream-only Sky Glass).

There’s no question that streaming is the future and Sky Glass’ new software features make it easier to jump between live telly, old episodes streamed from a catch-up service and the latest installation that aired a few hours ago.

That said, we just miss those physical recordings and think Sky needs to iron out some of the glitches before we’d be happy to ditch our Q box and move over to watching content from the cloud for good.

Sky Glass review

Sky Glass features a colour matched remote with backlit buttons (Image: SKY)

SKY GLASS REVIEW: THE REMOTE

Although the Sky Glass remote looks very familiar there are some big changes compared with the channel-changer that ships with Sky Q.

Firstly, the new model includes a soft-touch finish, which feels really nice in the hand and all the buttons are back-lit to make it easier to see things when the sun goes down.

Everything is in the right place and it’s really easy to use although it would be nice if Sky had included dedicated fast-forward and rewind buttons. These controls are all available via the click wheel instead.

It’s also a shame that you can’t refill it via USB-C and old-fashioned batteries will need to be replaced once things run flat.

Sky Glass review

Sky Glass owners can also buy Sky Stream Pucks for other rooms (Image: SKY)

SKY GLASS REVIEW: EXTRAS

Perhaps one of the greatest things about Glass is the new UI, which makes Sky Q look decidedly outdated. Glorious visuals from shows are displayed on the screen and scrolling through content feels really slick with glossy animations making feel like a very premium product.

Sky has also included some other bonus extras including the ability for the TV to turn itself on when you walk in the room. It’s nothing we wanted to use on a regular basis, but it’s a nice party trick that some owners will no doubt love.

Finally, there’s that simple access to content from other providers with Glass working far more efficiently when launching Disney+, Netflix or Prime Video. Apple TV+ is also launching soon.

If you have TVs in other rooms Sky will sell you a Stream Puck which is a device that’s only available to Glass customers. This streaming box brings all the features of Glass to non-Sky branded televisions. We’ve not tested the Puck so can’t give you our thoughts but it sounds like a neat way of getting Sky’s technology on any televisions you already own.

Sky Glass review

Sky starts from £13 but can get expensive (Image: SKY)

SKY GLASS: THE PRICE

Sky is being very clever with its pricing and offering Glass just like you’d buy a smartphone. That means you can take delivery of the 43-inch model for just £13 per month.

Before you start jumping for joy at thought of such a cheap price for a TV there are plenty of caveats. Firstly, that price is over fours years which means committing to Glass for a very long period of time.

Then there are all the added extras you’ll almost certainly need to bolt onto your contract. Start adding Sky’s Entertainment with Netflix bundle (£26) Sky Sports (£25) and Cinema channels (£11) and things can soon start heading past the £80 per month barrier and that doesn’t even include the £7.99 for Disney+ or similar price for Prime Video.

Then there are other extras including the ability to stream to other rooms in your home with Sky Stream Pucks (£10 a month and an upfront £50 fee per Puck) and the ability to watch in 4K (£5 a month).

One final thing to note is that after the first 12 months you’ll also need to pay an extra £5 per month to fast-forward through the adverts on any catch-up content streamed to Sky Glass, which really leaves an incredibly bitter taste in the mouth.

Here’s full pricing for each TV size:43-INCH • From £13 per month over 48 months • 55-INCH • From £17 per month over 48 months • 65-INCH • From £21 per month over 48 months

SKY GLASS: FINAL VERDICT

We’ve given Sky Glass three stars in this initial review. However, telly manufacturers like Sony, Samsung and LG will want to hold off popping open the champagne. That’s because, while this new TV from Sky isn’t anywhere close to perfect, the simplicity of Sky Glass and easy way to install and pay for it will be very appealing to a lot of people.

As we’ve listed in this review, Sky has got its work cut out to iron out a number of issues, including those Playlists filling up with hundreds of episodes of shows that we didn’t want and the annoyance of content disappearing. The £5 a month charge to fast-forward through adverts – a major selling point of all Sky boxes since the launch of Sky+ – is likely to be a slap to the face for thousands of new Sky Glass customers when it comes into force next year.

But despite the niggles, this is the first telly we’ve ever used where all of the most popular streaming platforms work seamlessly together and that makes finding content and things to watch far less stressful.

Yes, the picture quality could be improved, plus it is thicker and heavier than your average flatscreen, but this is Sky’s first attempt at Glass and we can only see things getting better and better.

When Sky Q launched back in 2016 it had its fair share of bugs too, but years later this set-top box has won every award going. Sky Glass is also far from perfect at launch, but there’s some amazing potential here. We’re not prepared to write off Sky Glass quite yet as this really could be the future of television.

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