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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.

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April 23, 2009, 5:34 am

I absolutely love sky HD, the picture quality is great, movies and football look its a doddle to use!

But...i cannot get my sound in sync, am outputting optical via toslink to a bose entertainment system for 5.1 but it always seems out. I have tried messing via the manual delay setting but cannot get it right :( any suggestions?


April 23, 2009, 5:40 am

Thanks for the interesting article. It seems that Sky+ HD's the only choice if you want a good variety of HD material, especially linear TV channels. The monthly cost has always put me off though - &#16355 (though less without Sky Movies) - ouch!

Anyway, looking forward to the Virgin V+ piece. Don't know what you'll make of the one linear HD channel (BBC HD) and limited Video on Demand, in HD.


April 23, 2009, 1:25 pm

Just a quickie but I think your costs are slightly off on the first page. Looking through the Sky web site the cheapest I can get a movie package is &#16333.50 for one entertainment pack and the movie channels, plus a tenner for the HD subscription. Still shockingly expensive but thought it worth mentioning.


April 23, 2009, 1:30 pm

@Dev - I've run into this problem with playing DVDs back through my X360 into my amp and Samsung LCD TV. My A/V receiver is a bit too old to be able to build a long enough delay in to make the sound in sync with the picture processing. This seems to be the cheapest way to remove the problem and there are more sophisticated versions available that can be adjusted via IR in sub 1ms increments. I thought that the manual delay adjust on the HD+ boxes was supposed to eliminate this problem?

Niraj Goyal

April 23, 2009, 1:59 pm

You have the blu ray of Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Why?


April 23, 2009, 4:44 pm

@Dev - I think this sounds like a common problem where the video processing of your TV delays the display of video by a few milliseconds, but its enough to produce noticeable lip sync errors. I had this problem with my AV system.

If you turn the sound up on you TV speakers as well as the Bose system you should notice a slight 'echo' effect caused by the delay. If you hit the 'Services' button on the remote, there should be an audio setup menu with an 'Optical output delay' option. Adjust this until the sound from your TV and the sound from your AV unit are in sync, then turn off the TV speakers and enjoy your Bose goodness.


April 23, 2009, 5:07 pm

Missing from this piece but referenced by Dev is that not only the films are part of the top tier subs package but also the football with three HD Sports channels, though some events on them are only transmitted in SD on occassion, like snooker, (sods).

Another aspect though not neccessarily HD specific (save for the fact that HD revived my interest in TV viewing) is that the subs are easily regained on money you no longer spend in pubs and eateries, though I am finding that my pub abstinence is waning, perhaps due to more flexible ash tray policies by publicans these days :-)


April 23, 2009, 5:58 pm

I suppose if your a massive Movie fan who watches movies nearly every day, then SKY's not a bad deal. For me though, I'm more of a max of 3 movies a month, and for &#16350 you could get higher quality keep forever blueray.

Rant Mode -> I know Sky don't have adverts between movies etc, but the fact you still get adverts on SKY for a subscription service is bonkers.

On a side note, I'm finding whats on TV less interesting everyday, very tempted to ditch my TV licence, de-tune my TV, and just watch BlueRay, catch up on news and other stuff on the NET, here comes another rant, if your a SKY user you still have to pay for a TV lic, how wrong is that.


April 23, 2009, 6:24 pm

@Keith - You still get all BBC channels for 'free' from Sky, but you can only legally view those if you've paid your TV licence. It's not as if you're paying twice.


April 23, 2009, 6:34 pm

@Chris, I think I didn't explain what I meant properly, yes I know you still get BBC channels etc, but by using SKY your also forced to pay for a TV license, but say for example I only watched BlueRay movies and browsed the internet on my TV I wouldn't need a TV license. IOW: Say I had sky and only watched Sky+ and none BBC channels I still have to pay for a LIC, I just find the unique way the BBC is funded criminal.


April 23, 2009, 6:54 pm

@Keith - Very true. Not really Sky's fault though, just the larger issue of how the BBC is funded. You'd have the same problem if you bought a Tesco Value TV for &#16329.99.

I do agree though - the way the BBC is funded is completely out of step with modern digital TV packages. It needs to be reviewed.


April 24, 2009, 2:09 am


Thanks very much, i will try it next time i'm home from uni :)


April 25, 2009, 7:26 pm

@Keith - not sure you 100% right on the not needing a licence just cos you've de-tuned your tv. I thought it was having equipment capable of receiving tv broadcasts that meant you had to pay, even if you steadfastly refused to ever tune in any bbc channel.

I thinking watching just blu-ray on a monitor would be ok, watching blu-ray on a tv would mean you should have a licence. (I use 'should' in a legal sense, not any sort of moral or fairness sense!)

I also suspect that watching BBC services on t'internet means that technically you should be paying a licence, but really not sure on that and the legislation may not have caught up with iPlayer yet...


April 25, 2009, 7:59 pm

Well, I was almost entirely wrong. proving to myself how bored I am, I looked this up and keith was right, not watching live tv means no license, but watching any tv broadcast means you have to cough up the license fee, even if you never use or tune in BBC. Apparently it's the broadcast bit that's important - watching recorded stuff is ok (copyright issues aside...)

As for internet, it seems the same logic applies - so if you're watching something at the same time as it's broadcast, tv license is needed.

Using iplayer to watch BBC stuff broadcast a few days ago would seem to be ok, even without a license - go figure??


April 27, 2009, 6:52 pm

@GaryRW: hehe yeah, I wondered if someone would bring that up, as you have found out it's the broadcasting part. The biggest problem I've heard on the NET with doing this, the BBC would make you out to be a criminal, and you get hounded. I'm surprised they hasn't been a court case against the BBC for this type of behavior, or maybe a EU case to get this sort of license banned.

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