An excellent premium streamer from Sky that puts content at the core of its offering. That content is pricey, but no other broadcaster offers a broad a church as Sky does with its entertainment options.
- Democratic approach to content discovery
- Accessible interface
- Dolby Vision and Atmos support
- Stable streaming performance
- Costs add up with add-ons
- Additional pucks eat up more bandwidth
- Interface is a little sluggish at times
- HDRHDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG
- Entertainment OSSky’s interface for curating content across services
- AudioDolby Atmos support
Sky has been manoeuvring its way into people’s homes for more than 20 years but not everyone in the UK has access to satellite coverage.
With Glass and now Stream, Sky’s entertainment ecosystem runs off Wi-Fi and, in a sense, has been liberated from the ties that bound it.
The Stream is arguably its most accessible device to date.
Sky Stream offers customers the choice of an 18-month contract with prices starting from £24/month. That gets you the puck, Sky TV and Netflix Basic as standard. Another option is the ‘flexible’ 31-day rolling contract that can be cancelled at any time. Prices start a £29/month.
You can choose from several bundles or choose one and modify it with add-on packs and services. For instance, the UHD/Dolby Atmos pack is £6/month, while BT Sport is £28/month.
For the Whole Home pack, it’s an extra £12/month that allows access to five additional Stream devices (the second puck is free). Some bundles have no set-up costs, others incur a £20 set-up fee on an 18-month contract.
- HDMI cable included
- HDMI 2.1 port
- Doesn’t require line of sight for remote
The Sky Stream puck doesn’t look like a puck as it’s not particularly round (or oval), but its black finish and square shape with rounded corners saves space and is discreet. It doesn’t require line-of-sight so you could happily put it behind a TV.
It looks not unlike the Mi Box S and Strong Leap-S1 in shape and size but has fewer connection options than either. Around the back is an HDMI 2.1 input (a cable is packaged), an Ethernet port and an aerial tuner, the only real use for the latter is as backup for a TV signal if the internet goes down.
Sky is a closed system and doesn’t offer the connectivity options that Android and (some) Fire TV streamers do. There’s no ability to hook directly to a sound system, connect a hard drive or plug a pair of wired headphones if you so choose. HDMI CEC support means control of volume on a soundbar/TV, and that can be done in the initial set-up process or later on in the Stream’s menus.
Interface and apps
- Smaller selection of apps compared to Fire TV, Roku
- Seamless resumption across multiple pucks
- Coherent and well-laid out interface
Sky calls the interface for both Stream and Glass the ‘Entertainment OS’, aggregating all of Sky’s content alongside other providers such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Disney+. It’s a much more democratic interface than Amazon’s Fire TV as it doesn’t outright favour Sky over others.
At the top of the screen are Top Picks, followed by a rail divided into sections (Playlist, TV Shows, Movies, Sport, Kids, Audio and Music, News, Fitness and International). Dive into each section and you’ll find content listed in rows and TV guides specific to each one. It’s all coherently laid out and easy to grasp with straightforward navigation.
An update around Christmas 2022 re-jigged the placement of a few areas to improve discovery. Playlist’s position has shifted to the first section on the Category rail and Continue Watching is a new rail on the homepage located a few rows down for resuming recently watched content.
Playlist is ordered by ‘most recent’, so new and current episodes/shows are up first. These are all sensible updates and if anything, I’d prefer the Continue Watching rail to be the next one down from Top picks and the content section rails rather than having to scroll further down.
Watch something and return to the home screen and content keeps playing in a pop-up video in the Top Pick rail, so you can return to it without pausing. If you have multiple pucks, content is synchronized so you can jump between screens, say from your living room to your bedroom, and resume where you left off.
In terms of apps, you won’t find as big a selection as on Android/Google, Roku or Fire TV, but you could make the argument about quality over quantity. Nevertheless, small apps like Mubi and Curzon aren’t present and My5 is still missing from the UK catch-up apps.
You can count on most of the big, popular apps to be there, as well as ITVX, All4, YouTube, and bulked up by Lionsgate+, Apple TV+, Spotify, Peloton and more. Paramount+, Peacock and Discovery+ are included for those with Sky Cinema and TV subscriptions.
If there’s an obvious area where Sky is missing apps, it’d be sports – no BT Sport, UFC, WWE, NFL, Eurosport, though a BT Sports sub would cover most of those in terms of live content. The other is music, with no Tidal, Deezer or Apple Music.
Unlike Fire TV and Google TV, Sky has opted not to have individual profiles. Personalised Playlists are in the pipeline that act as ‘profiles’ for family members, accessible from within the Playlist area.
- Playlist keeps track of your viewing habits
- Voice support well integrated
- Playlist ‘saves’ rather than records content
As with Sky Glass, Stream’s most notable feature is Playlist, the rug that nits Entertainment OS together. Sky refers to Playlist as cloud DVR, but you can’t record content only ‘save’ titles in the cloud by pressing the ‘+’ button on the remote.
This revelation might be troublesome to those who prefer to keep hold of recordings. For instance, if a title you’ve saved has left Prime Video, you’d lose access to it in Playlist. If it pops up elsewhere, you’d need to be a subscriber to that service to watch it again; or if it pops up in the Sky Store, you’ll have to pay for it. If content is subject to rights issues – say Match of the Day or live sports – it’ll eventually disappear too.
Despite that, I like how Playlist functions. It’s helpful if you have multiple subscriptions (not necessarily a given) and keeping track of titles you want to watch is straightforward, separated into TV and movies. If you’re a Netflix subscriber there’s also the ‘Continue watching’ row to jump back in. There’s no actual ‘recording’ in the conventional sense, but its simplicity works in the context of internet streaming.
You can’t add content to Playlist from within an app, so unless you happen upon it, you’ll have to search for it. Add a TV series and all seasons are collected, and if seasons are missing then the Sky Store can pick up the slack.
What methodology Sky uses to present results on titles available across multiple services is unclear. For instance, This Is Us is on Prime Video and Disney+, but search for it and it’ll initially come up as a Prime Video title. Scroll down and under each episode is a button where you can watch it on other services (in this case Disney+). Perhaps that’s an area to tweak to make it clearer in case viewers don’t have a subscription for the service.
Voice support is available for general search and has also been added to YouTube and Netflix (Sky has said voice search will be coming to more apps down the line).
Voice control understands what you’re saying more often than not, with results fetched quickly. Stress testing it with Andor (which seems to be a difficult word for voice support to recognize) it came up with ‘And or’ (in some cases ‘Ando’), with all sorts of results, including, amusingly, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Saying ‘Star Wars Andor’ finally sealed it.
The remote is the same as Sky Glass, although it appears it’s only available in a black finish. Backlit buttons help in darker rooms and ergonomically it’s fine – the D-pad offers decent responsiveness and it’s not too crowded with buttons. Some online forums have mentioned issues with its Bluetooth connection, but I haven’t experienced this.
- Very good picture across HD and 4K HDR
- Speedy buffering times
- Navigation not always the fastest
As ever with streaming devices, it’s getting difficult to tell much of a difference between them in picture quality terms. They’re all hitting a similar level of performance, and picture quality across HD and 4K resolutions with the Sky Stream is excellent – but the caveat here is that like all streamers, the performance depends on how good your TV is.
The Sky Stream supports HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision but leaves HDR10+ on the side-lines for now. Prime Video is the biggest app that supports HDR10+, but it does support Dolby Vision with several titles.
What does that mean for you? Mainly that for those with compatible Panasonic, Philips and Samsung TVs, you’ll be missing out on the extra refinement and tailoring to a display that HDR10+ can offer if the puck supported it.
In any case the Stream’s picture quality impresses. There are high levels of detail and sharpness where required, plus satisfying clarity and strong colours watching the likes of Girls (HD), Formula 1, House of the Dragon and Ambulance (4K HDR), though again that’s dependent on your TV’s performance and quality of the source.
What I think matters most is buffering, and the Sky Stream puck is robust in terms of signal stability over Wi-Fi. Stuttering was an issue after pausing content for a few minutes and resuming, but that appears to have been resolved. I haven’t encountered any static images mentioned online, though there was some audio distortion watching The Resort, NFL and streaming music through my sound system.
In terms of speed, I’d say Sky Glass is slightly quicker; whether scrolling through the menus or loading apps, the Stream seems a little slower with a few too many ‘please wait’ loading messages encountered (a secondary puck was actually a little faster than the main one). Compare it to the Fire TV Cube (2022) and whether it’s navigation or fetching results, Amazon’s streamer is absolutely rapid.
Scrubbing through TV episodes and films presents no issues, you can see the resolution and sharpness drop but it jumps back to normal when playback is resumed.
It should be noted that for the 4K UHD and Dolby Atmos pack the minimum download speed is 25Mbps. Minimum bandwidth required for a single puck is 10Mb/s, and for multiple pucks, you’ll need more bandwidth available.
On the audio front there’s support for Dolby Atmos and I can’t tell much of a difference between the puck and the Fire TV Cube (2022) watching The Tomorrow War on Prime Video. The scene where the conscripts jump into the future is presented with powerful bass, elevated sound effects (when the electricity field comes on), and plenty of activity in the surrounds. The performance on both streamers is pretty much the same.
With music there’s a difference. With The Preatures’ Is This How You Feel? Streaming from Spotify, the Stream puck gets stuck into the bass more than the Fire TV Cube, as well as producing a slightly echoey tone with vocals. The Stream puck sounds bolder and livelier with the track, but to my ears the Fire TV Cube is clearer, sharper at the top end of the frequency range and better balanced overall.
Should you buy it?
If you want TV and films served up to you on a platter: The Entertainment OS curates content in an excellent manner, treating all content from whatever service fairly.
The associated costs are too much: 4K, HDR and Dolby Atmos are add-ons and adding more bundles like sports sees things get quite expensive.
With the Stream puck, Sky has presented an accessible and easily navigable interface. Content discovery is excellent, putting the emphasis on corralling content from all services; a platform agnostic streamer in a similar mould to Roku. The more I use Playlist the more I think it’s a really good idea.
It’s an excellent streamer for Sky customers who don’t have a need for the Glass TV, and it’s a great entry-level path into the Sky ecosystem, but I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, if such a thing exists. For all the bells and whistles, the costs begin to rack up. For UHD, Atmos, Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, Netflix Premium and ad skipping, it’s £74/month for, and that’s before you add other streaming services.
Getting the best performance from Sky Stream requires a significant investment, but there’s plenty to sink your time into with the Stream. The content is the star of the show, but now you can plug it into whatever screen or sound system you prefer.
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Tested for two months
Tested with real world use
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The Stream is compatible with any broadband provider. All you need to make sure of is that you have a minimum speed of 10Mb/s. Add more pucks and you’ll need more bandwidth.
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