Sky’s long-rumored dishless service has arrived in the form of Sky Glass – but perhaps not in the form factor that many people were expecting. Rather than launching an internet-powered set-top box, Sky has gone the whole hog, and put its class-leading entertainment interface into a television set.
Sold as both a standalone device and through a subsidised mobile-phone-style contract option, Sky Glass is an intriguing new concept in the TV space, making the latest screen and sound technologies available at a price most will find attainable.
But is Sky Glass the best TV for the most enthusiastic of home cinema lovers? Read on for our initial thoughts on this exciting new launch.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? An internet-powered TV set that offers Sky TV programming without a satellite dish
- How much will it cost? It’ll be available both as a standalone product and via subscription, with prices starting at £649 /£13 per month
- What size is it? 43-inch, 55-inch and 65-inch models will be available
- What resolution is it? All sets are 4K, with HLG, HDR-10 and Dolby Vision support, and Dolby Atmos sound
- When will it launch? October 18 in the UK, with further regional availability TBC
Sky Glass: pricing and availability
The Sky Glass TV range will launch on October 18, with further regional availability to be announced next year.
Sky’s new television can be brought outright, or on a phone-style contract along with Sky’s content packages. It’s available in three sizes: 43-inch, which if you buy it outright will cost you £649, 55-inch (£849) and 65-inch (£1,049). When you go to buy a Sky Glass screen, these sizes will be sold as Small, Medium and Large.
Subscription pricing starts at £13 per month for the 43-inch version, £17 for the 55-inch and £21 for the 65-inch set, over a 48-month period. Higher monthly costs can also be negotiated for a shorter contract.
As with Sky’s existing set-top box subscriptions, you can bolt on additional packages of content for additional cash. For instance, Sky’s Ultimate TV Package – which includes Sky Entertainment and Netflix (but omits the popular Sky Sports and Cinema content) – costs an additional £26 per month, which would bring that 43-inch package price up to £39 per month.
If you want to bring the Sky Glass features to another screen in your house, that’s available as a further option. The Sky Glass ‘Puck’ plugs into a second TV over HDMI, and will cost a further £10 a month as part of the new Sky Whole Home package.
Over time, should Sky introduce new and improved Sky Glass TV models – which we’d expect it to – you’ll be able to upgrade your set through subscription options too.
Note, however that the majority of the Sky Glass TV experience is reliant on a broadband internet connection. While its 11mbps minimum requirement is very attainable, do factor that into the overall monthly commitment – you’re not restricted to Sky’s broadband though, with the TV supporting any provider.
Note too that you can’t have both Sky Q or Sky HD alongside Sky Glass – if you go for the new TV, you have to ‘upgrade’ your service from the existing set-top box packages to the TV service.
As we’ve mentioned, Sky Glass TVs are being sold in 43-inch (Small), 55-inch (Medium) and 65-inch (Large) sizes.
Making use of quantum dot panel technology, all Sky Glass screens have a 4K resolution, and come with support for three leading HDR formats – HLG, HDR10 and Dolby Vision, with the screens offering 10-bit colour depth. A quad-core ARM A55 processor is running the show, and based on our brief hands-on time it seems speedy enough to handle the over-the-internet interface zippily enough.
The TVs are also a bit chunkier than your average 4K screen, but for good reason. Each screen includes a full five-channel Dolby Atmos setup. Two upfiring speakers sit on the top of the screen and two sit on the sides at the front, and there’s a centre channel (with sub) at the lower-central part of the TV. While built-in soundbars are becoming more common in TVs (see Philips’ partnership with Bowers & Wilkins, for instance), it’s much rarer to see upward-firing speakers in a TV, rather than in a separate soundbar – especially at the prices Sky is working to.
The TV is being sold in five different colours – the anodized aluminium casing comes in blue, green, pink, white and black, and there will also be a number of sold-separately magnetic faceplates, in a range of designs, that connect to the bottom of the TV, adding a splash of color to the Sky Glass screens’ casings. A colour-matched stand is included, while fittings for wall-mounting the set are pre-installed on the back of the screen element. Though their soundbar element necessitates a boxier build size, these are attractive-looking sets, heavily reminiscent of Apple’s recent iMac launches.
With the Sky TV interface built in, and the soundbar already onboard, there’s just a single power cable powering the show. Through the use of renewable energy sources, recyclable packaging and the fact that this is a soundbar/TV/set-top box combo, Sky’s claiming that this is the first carbon-neutral TV as well.
There are three onboard HDMI ports, with each listed as the HDMI 2.1 standard, but interestingly, though eARC audio passthrough is included, they don’t seem to support the 120Hz super-fast refresh rates that the technology allows for, with all literature concerning the Sky Glass TV listing 60Hz as the upper limit. Bluetooth 5.0 is onboard, as is a single USB-C port (which is for charging only at present). The latest Wi-Fi 6 standard is onboard too, as well as the option for a hardwired Ethernet port. And while the full experience is very much dependent on broadband connectivity, there is a DTT DVB-T/T2 connection for an aerial should your internet fail, allowing you to still watch terrestrial stations.
A new remote control, distinct from that sold with Sky’s set-top boxes, is also on the way. It’s similar to the Sky Q remote, with a built-in mic and circular control button, but the record button is now replaced with a ‘Plus’ button that adds content to a user’s playlist in the cloud, rather than triggering a locally stored download. Available in colours that match the TV set, the remote also has a backlight that activates when it detects that it’s been picked up.
This is a smart TV range, no question, with enough out-of-the-box connected features to make competitors blush.
First off, there’s the Sky interface. Building upon and adapting the superb work Sky has already put into its Sky Q boxes, the Sky Glass TV will collate shows and movies from hundreds of channels and dozens of catch-up and streaming services into one interface. Over time it will learn your preferences and make recommendations, and it looks to be admirably agnostic in the content it suggests to you – the pane-like interface is not just one long stream of Sky production adverts, but a meaningful mix of content from the full gamut of providers on board.
As well as Sky’s own programming, that provider list is an extensive one, including Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney+, BBC iPlayer and many more. While you can use the remote to navigate these in a traditional scrolling interface, there’s the option to go completely hands-free with Sky Glass. Both the remote and the TV itself have built-in microphones, and can trigger a search assistant with the ‘Hello Sky’ wake phrase. The Sky Glass interface is smart enough to understand everything from vague searches for actors and genres to searches for specific shows, series and movies. For the privacy-conscious, a physical button on the side of the screen disables the built-in mic.
The assistant can also be used to change HDMI sources. Sky Glass will recognise the majority of devices connected to it – so, if for instance you have an Xbox connected to the TV, you’ll be able to say “Hello Sky, change to Xbox”, and see the TV automatically jump to that input source.
Sky also wants its Sky Glass TV sets to do away with the need for tweaking picture and audio settings. While deeper customisation options are available for the tinkerers out there, a number of preset modes have been tailored to the exact content Sky provides, from TV and movies to sports, with Sky’s engineers working with directors to make sure the presets seamlessly activate when the appropriate content is onscreen, and are tuned to make that content look and sound as good as possible. This customisation extends beyond settings for movies and TV shows to audio-only output – while ‘Music’ will give your Spotify playlists a warm stereo performance, a ‘Party’ option will activate the upfiring speakers for room-filling sound. We were a bit miffed to find that there’s no dedicated ‘Gaming’ mode option here though, which is usually used to reduce latency for more responsive gameplay.
Much like the Samsung Frame series of TVs, the Sky Glass sets will also have standby options that won’t see the screen fully power down. Instead, Sky Glass will have a ‘Glance’ mode, activated when no user input has been recognised for a while, that will suggest show recommendations, news headlines, weather reports and more. Over time these options will expand to include custom wallpapers and smart home device management, we’ve been told. In addition, a motion sensor in the screen will allow it to automatically turn on when you pass it, ready and waiting for your next binge session.
Sky also revealed a ‘Smart Camera’ accessory that will work exclusively with Sky Glass TVs. Precise details are scarce at this stage, but Sky says this will offer Zoom calls through the TV, Kinect-like skeletal tracking for fitness apps, motion-controlled gaming, and picture-in-picture viewing options for watching movies and sports alongside your friends remotely, allowing you to enjoy their reactions in real time.
For those stepping up from a HD TV, or an early 4K set that didn’t have access to the prime HDR technologies, Sky Glass will certainly feel like a more premium offering than they’ve been used to.
With 4K and a good selection of HDR formats supported, Sky’s ticking all the boxes for what you’d want from a cinematic display, and for the most part, the results are good. While our eyes-on time with the sets was limited, and we weren’t able to dig deep into the image presets or adjustment options, the TVs look to be punching above their price points.
HDR content looked impressive, with deep blacks and good contrast against harsh light sources in a moody scene from Sky’s Britannia TV show, and there was what appeared to be smart motion management during high-speed race-car footage. Vibrancy in viewing angles seems to drop off if you’re not relatively central to the display though, and the overall image appeared softer than we’d like from a 4K set – to what extent that’s down to the compressed nature of an over-the-air stream remains to be seen.
If you’re expecting something to match the best high-end screens on the market, Sky Glass won’t be for you – there isn’t quite the same pop of colour as you’d see in a high-end Samsung QLED, nor the richness of a high-end LG OLED. That’s to be expected at this price point though, and the Sky Glass sets have so far put on a good show.
Where the TV is inarguably superior to your average TV is in its out-of-the-box sound performance. Its Atmos sound system really does punch, and is capable of outputting up to 215W.
We were treated to a number of Sky Glass Atmos demos during the TV’s preview event. The most impressive of all was a clip showing the ferocious engines of Formula One racing. While, as expected, it was difficult to get a sense of rear audio channels, the overhead beam-forming sound was convincing, and the left and right channel separation well realised, and dialogue and central-channel audio was clear and defined too. And though we’d have appreciated even more low-end bass, it easily outperforms a regular flat-screen TV in this respect too.
Can the Sky Glass compete with a dedicated Atmos surround sound setup, or a high-end OLED? No, but that’s not what it’s designed for – this is an all-in-one unit that’s designed to be approachable to everyone. It may not be the last word in picture quality, or a match for giant discrete speaker setups, but for the majority of Sky’s customer base this will be an immersive and cinematic experience.
We’re more than sold on Sky’s interface, and the ability to collate premium content from myriad sources to one central UI – it’s what makes the Sky Q box so appealing, and to have it all in a simple-to-use, easy-to-set up Sky Glass TV, complete with a very punchy Dolby Atmos sound system, is a very attractive proposition.
The potential to tap into all that content, and all that TV tech, on a subscription basis similar to that of a phone contract is also very welcome. Sky Glass brings with it flexibility in the way you approach buying a television that hasn’t been offered before, from one of the best, if not the best, TV service providers in Europe.
Sky is aiming to make a TV for everybody here – offering the sort of specs usually unreachable to the average consumer in a range of purchase options that make it attainable to almost anyone.
But although it’s accessible to everybody, depending on your existing home setup… will you actually want or need it? If you’ve splashed out on a high-end QLED TV or OLED TV, you might find the picture quality of the Sky Glass TV will leave you wanting more; it’s not bad by any means – it’s rather good in fact – but early viewing suggests it won’t beat the class-leaders.
And with Sky Q already such an attractive proposition, with its local recording flexibility, for many it’s likely to remain the premium partner of choice for a high-end home cinema setup.
Sky Glass is an absolutely fascinating option though, and a genuine game-changer in the TV market. Here’s everything you need in one box, ready to go, at a price you can (probably) afford. Don’t be surprised if you see loads of these sets in homes in the coming years.
- Sky Q review: the best TV subscription service in the business