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Sky Q vs Virgin Media: Should you get ready to switch?



Sky Q vs Virgin Media: Should you get ready to switch?

Sky has just announced the pricing details for its upcoming Sky Q box. So what better time to compare it to Virgin Media.

Sky Q threatens to be one of the most compelling UK tech releases of 2016. It's a next-generation set-top-box and media service that goes big on 4K, multiroom, and mobile viewing.

One of the big choices anyone looking to sign up to a major TV service in the UK will have is between Sky Q and Virgin Media. So, how do they stack up?

Sky Q vs Virgin Media: 4K output

One of the big plus points of the fresh Sky Q service over the old Virgin Media one will be 4K support. Virgin still outputs at 1080p or Full HD.

The precise nature of Sky's UHD content is a little vague, but Sky insists you'll be playing 4K video on your Sky Q box soon after launch. Sky told us we can expect sport and movies to provide the main 4K content, so it's not quite ready for the mainstream just yet.

Related: 10 reasons why you should get Sky Q

WATCH: Sky Q hands-on

Sky Q vs Virgin Media: Storage

The Sky Q box will come with a generous 2TB of storage for your recorded programmes. Virgin Media's TiVo box has half that amount at 1TB. It's a clear and straight-forward advantage, but note that as 4K content increases in popularity and availability, that 2TB is likely to look less and less roomy.

Sky Q vs Virgin Media: Simultaneous recording

Virgin lets you record three channels simultaneously on its TiVo box. The Sky Q box trumps that by allowing you to record four. What's more, Sky's forthcoming service allows you to watch two different channels simultaneously through its Sky Q Mini boxes or the Sky Q app on your tablet or smartphone.

Related: Sky Q vs Sky+ HD


Sky Q vs Virgin Media: Connectivity

The Sky Q box has built in support for 2.4GHZ and 5GHz Wi-Fi. Virgin's TiVo offering, on the other hand, requires a physical connection to the internet, pretty much demanding that you set it up near your Virgin Wi-Fi hub.

Sky will also be supplying its new box with Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, which assists in setting up the remote control, and will also enable quick and easy pairing and content streaming from mobile devices.

In addition, Sky is supplying Apple AirPlay support, which means you'll be able to stream content (like Spotify) from your iPhone to your Sky Q box.

As for physical connections, the Sky Q box has one notable addition over the Virgin TiVo box - HDMI in. This second HDMI port could be used to plug in a Blu-ray or DVD player in the future, but Sky has kept schtum on its true purpose for now.

Related: Here's everything you can do with the Sky Q remote

Sky Q

Sky Q vs Virgin Media: Remote control

You're probably sensing trend here, but Sky Q's remote control looks set to be a nice advance over the Virgin Media effort. Rather than the line-of-sight IR neediness of Virgin's current offering, the Sky remote now uses Bluetooth 4.0.

The Sky Q remote also has an interesting touchpad input for more fluid UI navigation, as well as a microphone for Apple TV-like voice input - though it seems that will be added later.

One final handy feature the Sky Q remote has and the Virgin remote doesn't is a 'find my remote' button on the box itself. No more losing it down the side of the sofa.

Buy or upgrade now at Sky.com

Sky Q vs Virgin Media: Content

Virgin has always been one of the best boxes for range of content, offering up Sky and BT channels if you're willing to pay for them.

Elsewhere, while Sky is boasting that the Sky Q service will embrace YouTube, it will continue to omit Netflix. This is quite an oversight. Virgin, for its part, supports box popular online streaming services through its TiVo box - and has done for ages.

Sky Q

Sky Q vs Virgin Media: User-Interface

Sky is completely revamping its UI for Sky Q. Out goes the clunky, outdated, text-heavy interface of old, and in comes a slick, modern, and image-rich replacement. It's arguably more reminiscent of modern streaming boxes like the new Apple TV, the Roku, or the Amazon Fire TV than traditional TV box UIs.

The Virgin Media UI, for its part, is starting to look its age. It's gaudy, text-heavy, and sluggish compared to modern streaming boxes and smart TVs.

Both services claim to intelligently surface content you might be interested in. We'll have to wait and see, but the new Sky Q attempt at this seems more transparent and visually alluring.

Watch our hands-on video with Sky Q's new UI


Sky Q vs Virgin Media: Apps

Both services have accompanying apps for your mobile devices in the Sky Q app and Virgin TV Anywhere.

Both allow you to check out TV listings and set recording schedules remotely, and both have the facility for streaming live TV content onto your mobile device. However, Virgin TV Anywhere only offers a limited selection of channels on two registered devices.

Meanwhile the Sky Q app will allow you to download shows for later offline viewing. You'll also be able to use your phone or tablet to activate voice search, pause viewing on your Sky Q box and resume on a Sky Q app-running device.

Sky Q vs Virgin Media: Early verdict

There's no doubting that Sky Q has the potential to be a great next generation TV box. We'll have to spend some quality time with finished hardware to be sure, but it's already looking likely to outshine Virgin's offering in most core areas.

Of course, the two aren't from the same generation, and you can bet that Virgin is working on its own Sky Q rival for some time in 2016. We sincerely hope so anyway, for the sake of Virgin and its customers.

There's also a question mark over the price of Sky Q. You can have all the fancy features in the world, but if it's priced beyond the reach of a large swathe of people, it'll have limited appeal.

Buy or upgrade now at Sky.com

Would you switch from Virgin to Sky? Let us know in the comments section below

Alex Walsh

January 29, 2016, 12:23 pm

You've missed the thing about cost? Got a 4K telly but it's not hooked up to my Tivo box. All the 4K content I get is on Netflix or Amazon Prime and I can't see that changing for a while yet. Price gouging for HD on Sky is still bad enough that I can only begin to guess what it'll be like for 4K...


January 29, 2016, 12:56 pm

Virgin have recently asked it's customer s what they want from their new TV box and I suspect it will hit later in the year. I don't think it's worth jumping now to Sky Q as the virgin offering could be excellent.
Plus if you don't have sky you aren't funding that Aussie a*hole


January 29, 2016, 1:59 pm

but you can watch tv via "tv anywhere" on a pc/smartphone/tablet at the same time... so why was that seemingly a score to sky but no mention of vm feature? and the only reason you would plug your tivo into the internet would be to use the android/ios tv tv anywhere app as a remote... so again, what was that "need to put it next to your wifi router bit about" - this is a half baked comparison i have no faith in it's accuracy at all.


January 29, 2016, 2:01 pm

expect sky to deliberately "clash" 4 first run hot shows on 1st & 2nd party channels at the same time to "sell" the Q feature - especially as it now trumps tivo's 3 channel ability.


January 29, 2016, 3:46 pm

"Sky has just announced the pricing details for its upcoming Sky Q box. So what better time to compare it to Virgin Media."
"There's also a question mark over the price of Sky Q. You can have all the fancy features in the world, but if it's priced beyond the reach of a large swathe of people, it'll have limited appeal."

Something tells me the beginning of the article was written after the end.


January 29, 2016, 4:06 pm

"Sky has just announced the pricing details for its upcoming Sky Q box. So what better time to compare it to Virgin Media."

Because of course comparing the next gen Sky box with the previous generation Virgin box makes tons of sense. It's like comparing a Blue-ray player to a DVD player.


January 29, 2016, 4:07 pm

Next week we'll be comparing the Xbox One to the Playstation 3...

robert whitaker

January 29, 2016, 5:31 pm

i have virgin. why? because it comes with 200mb broadband.........and the tele is free


January 29, 2016, 5:36 pm

lucky you many areas have 200mb broadband but never get those speeds infact many areas are overutilised and get less then 10MB during peak times

Jonathan Boldy

January 29, 2016, 8:48 pm

How can you compare a NEW box to a Virginmedia box that has been out for some time, its like comparing ps4 to xbox 360.

Only time to compare is when or if Virginmedia decide to launch a new box, then do a comparison.

Then decide to leave or not, box isnt even out from sky but no doubt it will be over £250 for the box and high subscription, no doubt they will add on a 4k fee like they did for HD.

Oh wait, 4k is outdated 8k tvs are coming out and no uk channel provider aires in 4k only streaming providers.

Jonathan Boldy

January 29, 2016, 8:49 pm

i get 208 meg on virginmedia and that's WiFi


January 29, 2016, 9:04 pm

wifi has nothing todo with it thats internal

go on the virgin media forums there are countless postcode areas where virgin say there is a fault, lol the faults have been going on for 1 or 2 years, its simply after virgin dropped the capping certain parts of their system cant cope and the pathetic thing is they keep signing people up in the said areas.

It was so bad in my area WA7 that i cancelled my 120MB VM and went on 6MB sky broadband,

Jonathan Boldy

January 29, 2016, 9:20 pm

have you reported the issue to Virgin to get network guys out to look at it, maybe a look at the cabinet.

when i got 50meg i got a shocking 5.6kbps thats right kbps, had network at my house 2 hours.

in the end needed recabling from one box to another, and new cards in the cabinet which cost over a grand to sort.


January 29, 2016, 9:24 pm

LOL they have been dealing with the issue for years, its nothing to do with faults, its Greed, to fix it they would need to recable or kick thousands off their network in certain areas, but they cant be bothered because they know plenty of areas dont have a fibre alternative yet.


January 29, 2016, 11:32 pm

Yeah, Looking on forum. Of course your going to see countless customer faults, thats what the forum is for. Its another outlet to do so.


January 30, 2016, 7:12 am

there are faults and then theres watching your towns broadband drop back to the 90s at peak times for the last 2 years.


January 30, 2016, 11:08 am

well, if he can get 208 meg over wifi he isn't going to get any less over a wired connection. If anything, he might get more.


January 30, 2016, 11:10 am

The comparison TR is making here is the customer's choice at the moment, so why not evaluate it? Sure, some may to choose to wait until VM responds, but here and now it is a valid comparison from a customer perspective. I'm happy that TR should look at things from a customer point of view.


January 30, 2016, 11:15 am

I think you missed the point. The playstation 4 is available, the Virgin-Q (or whatever they might call it) is not. TR is evaluating the choice of current-generation services open to customers.


January 30, 2016, 11:18 am

Suppose you are the Virginmedia customer. What are you going to be comparing it against, right now?
It is not like comparing a PS4 to an x-box 360, it is like comparing what the market has to offer today.


January 30, 2016, 11:42 am

There is only one reason why I will never own Sky. Rupert Murdoch.


January 30, 2016, 2:50 pm

what comes to his house is wired, the fact hes using wifi to distribute it is nothing todo with virgin media's quality


January 30, 2016, 3:26 pm

yup but the fanboyz wont have it.


January 30, 2016, 3:33 pm

Yes, and the point he is making, I believe, is that he gets 208meg, to his house, on Virginmedia.The wifi part does not detract from that point.


January 30, 2016, 3:42 pm

its missleading.

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