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Sound and Vision: New Sky Glass update is a big boost to picture quality

When Sky Glass launched in October 2021, reviews were not necessarily raving about it and most issues centred on one aspect: its picture quality.

Glass set out to be an ambitious TV, marrying Sky’s content library with a 4K HDR panel and built-in Dolby Atmos system at a price that was cheaper than competing all-in-one models such as the (at the time) Panasonic JZ2000.

But the picture quality hampered its ability to be one of the best TVs within its price category. For the price it wasn’t unreasonable to expect better, and while image quality was fine, Sky Glass was bereft of brightness with HDR content, and produced an image that looked on the drab side.

Over at their (humongous) base in Osterley, Sky set about putting things straight, and the performance boost I saw positioned it in a much better state than it currently is. While the update is not expected to go live until towards the end of the year, the effect it had was, in places, transformative.

There are some caveats in that the comparison between two 65-inch Sky Glass sets was performed in a dark room to better compare and was done with clips of Sky’s choosing. Even so, the performance this time around was much more convincing, and while there were still some issues to iron out and some won’t be completely rectified, I think those who were initially disappointed with Sky Glass’ performance may re-evaluate that position.

Sky Glass is beginning to realise more of its potential

Fraser Stirling Sky TV Unboxed event
Fraser Stirling, Global Chief Product Officer at Sky

The brightness was much higher in clips from Spider-Man: No Way Home and Gangs of London season one, with highlights more noticeable and white tones more effectively conveyed. Black levels were better – the ‘older’ software had more of a greyer tone, while in the update they were more consistent and solid. These weren’t true blacks, with blooming still evident in the content I saw and in the black bars, but the local dimming system – which has been revised from the ground up – combated blooming more confidently.

Colour volume – that’s the range of colours a TV can show at different brightness levels – was improved too, and even in Vivid mode (an update that’s already out) the TV displayed colour hues and tones more naturally rather than overcooking them. From the strength of this demonstration, Sky Glass’ shaky first steps are becoming more confident strides.

The update is an admission mistakes were made, but with over-the-air updates, it also means the TV’s performance will continuously be refined over time and Sky has leaped at that opportunity. Sky Glass has received a massive 200 updates since it launched – most small, some big – but arguably none will be quite as effective as what’s coming.

It won’t necessarily fix everything about the picture quality I found to be underwhelming, such as the set’s upscaling skills, but the biggest takeaway is that Sky is listening to criticism and aiming to make things better. By doing so, Sky Glass is on the path to realising much more of its undoubted potential.

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