A few weeks back we took an in-depth look at the Xbox 360 from the perspective of an HD movie fan, and promised that we'd be looking at a couple of rival HD movie platforms too in the coming weeks. So today, it's the turn of Sky's HD receiver and broadcasting service. How will this shape up against Microsoft's box in terms of affordability, ease of use and AV quality?
When it comes to affordability, it has to be said that Sky's box doesn't get off to the best of starts. The price of the HD receiver is pretty impressive, now that it's been slashed to a ridiculously reasonable £49. But of course, that up-front price is actually just the beginning of your expense with Sky, given that it only offers its channels on a subscription basis.
If you wanted the full channel package from Sky - which you probably will, given that this is the one that bags you Sky's movie channels - with your HD box, you'll be looking at a cool £55.75 a month. That's £669 a year. Ouch. With the Xbox 360, by comparison, you can download films with a free Xbox Live Silver subscription, paying for each film as you download it. So no annual subscription is necessary.
One way of reducing your monthly cost for Sky's HD movies is to take a lower subscription tier without the movie channels, and get your HD Movie fix by buying Box Office pay-per-view films as and when you want to watch them. Ditching the film and sports channels from your Sky package means you can get a Sky HD box for £49, plus the necessary HD subscription and single entertainment channel package for £26.25 a month.
Of course, though, this approach will only work if you don't watch many films each month; if you DO watch a lot, you could end up spending more by renting Sky Box Office HD movies than you'd have spent by signing up for the non-Box Office movie channels and sticking to watching stuff on those instead.
Turning to the price you have to pay for Box Office HD films rather than HD films covered within the Sky HD top-tier subscription, you're looking at £2 per film. This figure, so far as I can see, is the same for every film; there's no difference in rates, for the simple reason that unlike the HD movies on the Xbox 360 platform, all the movies on Sky Box Office are recent releases. There's no back-catalogue stuff being offered on the cheap, with older films instead being offered 'free' within the top-tier subscription package. The £2 Box Office figure doesn't seem too bad to me - bearing mind, though, that you're paying it on top of a monthly subscription.