OPINION: A few months ago, Sky announced it was launching Stream – a way to finally get the benefits of the brand’s TV service without a pesky dish.
Following on from the Sky Glass TV in late 2021, Sky Stream takes the software elements of that television set and bungs them in a dinky streaming box ideal for those who don’t need, or want, Sky’s actual TV.
Dishless Sky is something I have been longing for many years and while it has been teased before, it was getting to the point where I didn’t think it would ever actually arrive. As someone who has mainly lived in rented flats for the past decade, the faff and expense of getting a Sky dish installed made it impossible, so I ended up trying, and being disappointed, by all the alternatives.
So when Sky Stream was announced I immediately signed up, paid the questionable ‘Set up’ fee (I am not sure what they’re setting up?) and cancelled all my Now passes.
Now, this is by no means our in-depth review of the product – that is coming from our TV/AV editor Kob and this will delve far deeper into the Stream. Instead, this is just my general view of the product from a less technical viewpoint, and how it has turned into one of my favourite tech purchases of the last few years.
There are a number of reasons why Sky Stream stood out to me and why I picked it up over something like a Fire Stick 4K Max or Apple TV 4K. First off is the access to traditional channels. See, my flat gets absolutely no TV reception from an aerial so we’ve never been able to watch live TV in a reliable way.
With the World Cup on the horizon, I was keen to not have to rely on the awful ITV Hub and its terrible quality streaming again for those big matches. Sky Stream streams channels over the internet in a way I have never seen before and, so far, it has worked perfectly well. The image quality on HD channels is, to my eye, excellent and most importantly it is reliable.
Another notable benefit is 4K HDR streaming. I previously paid for Now TV for sports, movies and entertainment and had to pay extra for the Boost service just to get 1080p. To have a 4K TV and not be able to watch Premier League, F1 and shows like House of the Dragon in 4K HDR felt like a waste. Sky Stream offers the same 4K HDR services as Sky Q and Sky Glass and the picture quality has impressed me a lot on my Sony A80J OLED TV. I even started rewatching Game of Thrones, now that the entire series is available in 4K HDR.
I didn’t go for Sky Stream for its streaming app integration, but the software powering the box is mostly very good. It feels like one of the few devices that pushes content from all services together and combines recommendations from Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV Plus and iPlayer.
My experience hasn’t been completely without issues though. My first unit arrived with a defective remote that only worked sporadically for the first few weeks, churning through multiple sets of batteries and eventually conking out completely. The software is also a tad buggy – sometimes shows playback without HDR, sometimes the audio falls out of sync and sometimes content takes an age to load. None of these issues have been constant though, and for the most part it’s been a smooth experience.
As with anything Sky-related, the pricing is also a little on the high side. But, considering I was paying for multiple Now services before, switching over hasn’t seen my monthly bill increase too much. The basic subscription also includes Netflix, something I was paying for previously.
For the first attempt at dishless streaming, I think Sky Stream has been a massive success so far – at least for what I wanted out of it. And the fact I didn’t need to sign up to a long 18-month contract was just the icing on the cake.