If this sounds familiar it’s because it is – Sky has been beating the satellite-ditching drum since 2017 when it announced its ambitions for a cable-free future, but has taken years to finally finesse the concept into a streaming TV.
Unfortunately, Sky Glass is in desperate need of further refining. After using it daily since October, and several updates later, it remains a brilliant idea crippled by its own poor execution.
First impressions: Looks stylish but a nightmare to use
Let’s start with the positive – Sky Glass’s irrefutable key selling point is its lack of cables. Free from the considerable burden of having to either install a satellite dish or tap into your building’s existing Sky infrastructure, all the TV needs is a power cable and a broadband connection – spelling an end to negotiating access to your neighbour’s gardens and wrangling with landlords or councils.
The premise is simple enough: choose between a 43-inch, 55-inch and 65-inch TV set in a black, blue, green, pink or white aluminium finish priced at £649, £849 or £1,049 respectively. There’s an option of paying back the cost of the set over a phone-style 48-month or 24-month contract or buying it upfront on top of the cost of Sky, which starts at £26 a month with the option to add on various sports, cinema, kids or Netflix packages. Thankfully, it works with any broadband, not just Sky’s own.
While TV sets have dramatically slimmed down in the past 15 years, Sky has created one that’s not only incredibly thick (just under two inches) but spectacularly heavy. The 55-inch model weighs 28kg and rests just millimetres from its stand, making it virtually impossible to pick up without assistance.
Unweildiness aside, Sky’s decision to position its six decent speakers (they Dolby Atmos virtual surround sound) along the upper and bottom edge looks stylish, and it can be installed on a sturdy wall if you’re feeling brave.
Sky has also created small Puck streaming devices to bring Sky Glass capabilities to existing TVs, but I didn’t test them as part of this review.
What’s it like to use?
Sky Glass relies upon its QLED (quantum dot LED) panel, meaning it’s backlit by LED backlights, unlike OLED sets which are powered by independently-lit pixels. Comparatively, the picture quality is relatively patchy given its price. I noticed a slight screen flickering during the first few weeks of testing, which has subsequently been fixed via an update from Sky, but the dim picture itself can appear more grey than black.
If you’re familiar with Sky Q, the company’s (excellent) previous service, what was a logical and ordered interface has been replaced with something altogether more confused.
One major benefit of the redesigned interface is how much easier it is to access Netflix, iPlayer, Prime Video, Disney+ et al, by virtue of the home screen. It’s also much more obvious what you’ve connected to the TV’s rear by virtue of a clearer port list – Apple TV, PS5 etc. But otherwise, I found it frustrating and muddled to navigate, dumping features that worked brilliantly in favour of making the whole experience less user friendly (it also has fewer channels than Sky Q).
No more recordings
One of the biggest departures is the decision to ditch the ability to record and download programmes and films to the Sky box’s hard drive. Sky Glass instead streams its content directly from the cloud, leaving you reliant on a decent broadband connection to watch what you want at any given time.
This dependence is particularly precarious when you consider the TV is rendered practically useless if your internet goes down. It has an aerial socket to connect a DTT antenna to receive Freeview channels in this scenario, but a dodgy connection means you’ll be severely limited in what you can watch.
It can also mean that watching something like live press conferences or football matches will be around 25 seconds slower than a Sky Q connection. Sky chalks this down to the difference between satellite speed and streaming services, claiming that other streaming services can experience delays of up to two minutes or more.
Voice (loss of) control
Sky is very keen to push you towards using voice commands to search for your desired title, meaning that while the audio button is easily accessible on your remote (you can also just say “Hello Sky” to trigger it), the manual search feature is buried at the bottom of the home screen.
This would be fine if its voice recognition was more consistent. It takes the system several seconds to recognise what you’re asking it, while asking it to play certain programmes ends in confusion.
For example, asking aloud for (Sky Atlantic show) Yellowjackets sometimes works, but sometimes returns the message “Sorry, there are currently no programmes of this type available”. Similarly, asking for “Gossip Girl 2021” sometimes works perfectly, but on other occasions prompts the missive “Sorry, I can’t find what you wanted.” While all forms of voice recognition have teething problems, it becomes a significantly bigger issue when it’s not immediately obvious to the discerning user how else to search for programming.
It’s niggles like this that make the UI so unintuitive. The home screen is divided up into sections: starting with a list of “top picks” of new shows and films drawn from a range of inputs, including Netflix, Sky, BBC iPlayer and Channel 4.
The second section lists TV shows, movies, sport, kids, news, audio and music, fitness and international, above a TV guide (live channels), Sky collections and playlist. The playlist is designed to replace your recorded content, allowing you to add films and programmes to watch later.
This is nowhere near as convenient as Sky Q’s download system, as some (largely BBC) shows are only available for a limited time. Also, content can only be added to your playlist from the Sky homepage and not within the third-party apps themselves.
Motion sensing frustration
One feature that makes sense on paper but is wretchedly irritating in reality is glance motion technology, during which the TV turns itself on when it senses someone sitting down in front of it. While this makes a degree of sense in theory, I found it was overly sensitive, turning on every time a human (or animal) walked past it. Even when I turned motion sensing off in the features menu, it still occasionally turns on in the middle of the night. Sky says it’s aware of a small number of customers experiencing sets turning on randomly overnight and that it’s continuing to investigate.
Another unwelcome feature isn’t so much a feature as a bleak opportunity to turn your TV set into an advertising billboard. Leaving Sky Glass idle for 10 minutes or so prompts it to start playing a series of scrolling, glossy adverts for various films and programmes. While some might welcome these suggestions, I found them intrusive and grating.
Conclusion: Stick to Sky Q
Ultimately, it’s difficult to recommend Sky Glass on any basis other than its satellite emancipation. It’s far more expensive than other sets of comparable sound and picture quality, the interface is a pain to navigate, and months after starting testing, I’m still encountering bugs. While it looks stylish from face-on, its sheer bulk dates it.
The most frustrating thing about Sky Glass is that Sky as a service is exceptional. It’s a great platform with a strong selection of films and programming that pioneered accessibility via recording, which means it’s an even bigger shame that Sky Glass is as muddled as it is.
As a piece of hardware, the TV is decent if expensive for what it is and, on the whole, delivers exactly what it promises, but the vast majority of the changes to Sky Q’s system and interface are less efficient, less user-friendly and less effective than its predecessor. Considering we know that Sky’s been working towards a satellite-free product for years, it’s baffling that the final product feels as unfinished as it does.
The upside is that I believe Sky Glass only has room to improve. I’ve got no doubt the company is already frantically beavering away on corrective updates, and it does deliver on its fundamental promise of providing Sky TV without a satellite dish. But given the convenience of Now’s (formerly Now TV’s) subscription service, and the fact that Sky Q remains available to buy, I imagine either would be a more cost-effective and functional purchase than Sky Glass for the majority of customers.
If you’re desperate for a decent TV, to avoid installing a satellite dish and to have a high-quality, reliable internet connection, Sky Glass will probably tick most if not all of your boxes. Everyone else, I’d suggest holding tight for now. Sky deserves better.