Sky Stream review

This 4K HDR-enabled media player blurs the line between premium pay TV set-top boxes and plug-and-play streaming sticks, says Steve May

Sky Stream is increasingly looking like a game-changer in the world of pay TV. This diminutive device delivers the latest movies and premium shows from the Sky stable straight to your living room via broadband, in 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos. No messy cables or satellite dishes are required.

As its heart is the latest iteration of the Sky Entertainment OS, meaning it's effectively Sky Glass without the bundled screen – ideal for those already happy with their TV.

Head in the clouds
The box itself is compact enough to park below or behind your AV stack or telly. It features a single HDMI output, plus Ethernet for those that would prefer to hardwire to their home network rather than stream over Wi-Fi. There's also a legacy aerial input, provided as contingency should the internet go down.

You can couple the Stream to any TV or AV receiver, and it works with any internet provider. You will need a fair turn of speed, though, as the recommended minimum broadband requirement is 25Mbps, or 30Mbps if you want 4K.

Unlike a traditional Sky set-top box, there's no hard drive here for local recording – one of the reasons the Stream is so small. Instead, usability centres around the concept of the cloud DVR.


The Stream remote is bigger than the box, and supports voice control

If there's a show you want to follow, or a movie you want to catch later, you add it to a Playlist. When you want to watch, scan your Playlist thumbnails and hit Play.

If your programme is on one of the main terrestrial channels it will be delivered via iPlayer, ITVX, etc. When it's a Sky show, or a programme from a channel like Legend, it plays immediately. This inelegant idiosyncrasy is something you get used to.

Most programmes also support Watch from Start, so you can stream a show from the beginning should you happen to come in half-way through.

The best thing about this system is that there's no such thing as channel clashes or recording capacity limits. To help manage the Playlist, you can create up to five user profiles.

Picture and sound quality can be exceptionally good. I watched principally on an OLED display, and the level of fine detail, colour vibrancy and contrast was a subjective match for what I was receiving via my Sky Q setup. And as the Stream hardware is so easy to plug and play, moving it around the house for viewing in different rooms is a doddle.

The interface is completely different from Now, the other Sky streaming platform, and image quality is definitely superior.

Now maxes out in SDR HD, but Sky Stream can deliver 4K HDR and immersive audio, provided you pay more (£6) for the UHD and Dolby Atmos monthly supplement.

Indeed, pricing reflects the premium nature of the Stream platform. With Now, you buy channel bundles when you need them; there's no contract. With Sky Stream, you have the option of contracting in, like a traditional premium pay service, with prices starting at £26 a month for the Sky Entertainment bundle (which includes basic HD Netflix) when you take out an 18-month contract.

A rolling contract, which you can cancel at 31 days' notice, begins at £29 per month. Moving to 4K Netflix adds another £8. Top up with Sports (£25/£29 per month) or Sky Cinema (£11/£13), and the overall package cost grows significantly. There's no upfront hardware fee, though.

Making a splash
Sky Stream opens the door to Sky's high-quality content library (plus a growing complement of SVOD services including Netflix, Disney+, AppleTV+, Prime Video and more) without the need for a dish or Sky Glass TV commitment. It's also intuitive to use, once you've come to terms with the Playlist cloud DVR, and matches top-tier streamers in AV terms.

For those after a slick new way to access premium pay TV, this Stream is well worth dipping into.

HCC Verdict: 5/5

Sky Stream
Price: From £26 (subscription)

We say: A great way to access Sky's premium pay TV content when a dish isn't an option, and the OS improves with every firmware update.


CONNECTIONS:1 x HDMI output; RF aerial; Ethernet KEY APPS: Netflix; Prime Video; Disney+; Apple TV+; Paramount+; BBC iPlayer; ITVX; YouTube; Spotify; Amazon Music; BBC Sounds AUDIO FORMAT SUPPORT: Dolby Digital Plus (incl. Dolby Atmos) VIDEO FORMAT SUPPORT: Up to 4K HDR DIMENSIONS: 18(h) x 108(w) x 108(d)mm WEIGHT: N/A FEATURES: Integrated Wi-Fi; Playlist; Watch from Start function; voice operation via supplied remote control; Whole Home (multiroom) support