NOW TV – Review

The weekend before Christmas we were sent a family set of Christmas onsies, a fabulous hamper of goodies and a NOW TV box with a month long Sky Movies subscription so that we could join in with the #myonsieland watch-along of Muppets Most Wanted.  

A photo posted by Colette B (@goingonanadventureblog) on Dec 12, 2014 at 7:27am PST

 

We’ve been using the Now TV box for a couple of weeks now as so in his role as resident family geek here’s Dave’s review: 

The NOW TV box is Sky’s attempt at a streaming box.  It’s a re branded Roku1 box with reduced functionality and a more controlled app store.  It does without a USB input for connecting an external hard drive or USB stick (a real shame for me as I really wanted networked attached storage for our house) and there’s no Ethernet port.  I always prefer a hard wired connection if possible as buffering is the stuff of Satan in my opinion!  How much does Sky want for this box I hear you ask? £10! That’s cheap.  Really cheap!  Consider me intrigued.

So can Sky’s streaming box free me from the monthly subscription to Sky? Read on to find out.

In the box you get the tiny NOW TV box, a remote control plus some batteries, an instruction book, a power cable and a HDMI cable.

Setting up is a bit of a pain.  Connect box to TV.  Connect box to socket.  Turn it on.  It scans for WiFi signals then gives you a list of networks you can connect to.  So far so good.  Next, pop in your password and you’re on your way.  It’s slightly bizarre to use a remote to input text for the password, it felt like stepping back in time!  The is the first time you can see where Sky have saved their money.  The remote is terrible.  Really cheap and not nearly as responsive as you need.  I found that you had to have the remote pointed precisely, and I mean Swiss watch maker precisely, for it to work.  There is a work around but I’ll come to that later.

After we’d connected to the network it immediately found an update.  A good thing in my opinion, as this means the manufacturer hasn’t forgotten about the device as soon as they’ve sold it and are trying to improve their product.

Once you’ve updated then you can set up an account.  As a Sky customer I already have a Sky account.  Fine and dandy.  Put in the details using the remote (boo!) and the box says you’ve got to go online to activate your account.  Right, bit of a pain but fair enough.  Go to the site and put in the details.  You’ve got to put in a credit / debit card to go further.  Now I’m not a fan of this.  Why do they need my card details?  If I want to buy something through the box that’s the point it should ask for my details.  Not before.  It should be a choice.  Not a requirement.  Even if I never ever buy anything through NOW TV they’ve got my card details stored on a system somewhere.  I shouldn’t have to hand over my card details to anyone unless I’m purchasing something.  Anyway, rant over.  You can’t continue without giving them details so I had to.  Back to the setup.  At this point you can choose a pin number for purchases, and one for parental control.  Any films or programs that have a rating above what you’ve chosen require the pin before they will start playing.  Good.  I like that.

Now you can set up your channels.  There are some pre-selected on your home screen.  You’ve got all the normal catch up services for BBC, ITV, Ch4 and Ch5.  These all work in pretty much the same way as they do online so I’ll assume you’re familiar.  Also there is the NOW TV app which is where Sky hopes you’ll be spending most of your time.  Warning!  Everything in this app costs money.  You’ve got three types of programme: sports, movies and entertainment.

The sports pass costs £7 for a day’s pass!!!!! Or £11 for a week!  This gives you access to Sky’s many sports channels for whatever period of time you’ve paid through the nose for.

The entertainment pass costs £7 for a month.  This gets you a curated selection of the many channels that Sky considers entertainment.  Channels like Sky1, Sky Atlantic, Discovery and many, many more.  To be honest I don’t think there’s much missing from the channels and you get to watch what you want when you want, not to a channel’s schedule, although I imagine programs won’t become available until after they’ve aired.

The movies pass costs you £10 for a month and works similarly to the entertainment pass. (This has been great for the kids over Christmas – they’ve watched loads of new films)

With the box we were given a month’s free pass to the movie channels.  Might as well try that then.  When setting it up we found there was a concurrent offer running on the website for a month’s free movies.  So lucky us, we’ve got 2 months free movies.  We’ve just got to remember to cancel after that period, which Sky is obviously hoping we’ll forget!  Reminder already set.

Other channels are YouTube, Spotify, BBC news, BBC sport, TuneIn radio, and the more obscure but still interesting crunchyroll (anime), there’s plenty more but they get progressively less bearable if you ask me.  A full list can be found here.

I mentioned before about the remote being awful.  Well a tip for anyone who takes a dip in the NOW TV waters is to download the Roku remote app from your app store.  Even though the box says “NOW TV” the app still picks up the box and allows you to control it from your phone or tablet.  Which works like a dream, and means that because it’s working through WiFi rather than infrared you can stash the NOW TV remote out of view behind your TV! This stops 1 year olds from pulling it out and trying to eat it!  Maybe that’s a niche problem.  To be honest I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t someone trying to destroy my TV or Xbox any more!  “No dear, the Xbox doesn’t need to eat any more biscuits!”.  Regardless the app works brilliantly and transformed using the NOW TV from a nightmare to . . . well, not a pleasure, but not a problem anymore.

For me having the YouTube app / channel is great as you can use the YouTube app on your phone or tablet to find videos and then ‘cast’ them to your TV through the NOW TV!  You can set up playlists and control is all on your phone then watch on the big screen.  Pretty good.  If you watch videos on YouTube.  Which I do.

The overall performance is ok.  You get stutters and pauses while navigating menus and apps / channels can take a while to open once you’ve chosen them, but considering the cost of this box it’s really not that bad.  Once you get to watching whatever you’ve chosen the experience is good, depending on your broadband speed that is.  A poor connection will give you a spinning wheel in the middle of the screen while it buffers!  Infuriating.

It’s also worth mentioning that everything you watch is using data, and if you’ve got a data cap you’ll have to be careful of how much data you’re getting through.  It outputs at 720p, which isn’t full HD, but matches what the Sky+HD box we’ve got outputs at so I can’t complain.  Pictures look good but if you’re a pixel junkie you’ll be able to tel the difference.

Going back to the home screen.  You can rearrange the order of the channels to the ones you use the most are nearer the top of the list.  However, you can’t put your most used channels on the top row.  Nope, that’s row is reserved for Sky’s channels.  NOW TV, Sky Store and SkySports News.  Really Sky? That’s petty I think.  If you want to watch those channels then you’ll have them near the top but if you don’t then you’re forced to look at them every time you use it.  Which is the point.  I get it.  I just don’t like it.

That’s pretty much it for the review.  In conclusion, much as I’ve grumbled about a few of the foibles of the NOW TV box, I like it.  It works well enough for what we need and adds functionality to your TV.  It makes your TV into a Smart TV for £10.  Which is far cheaper than buying a Smart TV,

So can it free me of the Sky subscription?  No.  Unfortunately not.  Colette has things on our Sky box that she recorded years ago, that she hasn’t got around to watching and yet can’t bear to have deleted! (He’s exaggerating!) However if you can get by with watching the programs you would have recorded within 30 days then it’s possible the NOW TV is good enough for you.  For us it’ll just be an add on to our existing set up.

*Disclaimer – We were sent the NOW TV box & a month’s Sky Movies subscription free of charge for the purposes of review how all thoughts and opinions remain our own – well mainly Dave’s!*

36 Comments

  1. January 6, 2015 / 8:07 am

    Interesting and really detailed review, we are with Virgin not Sky at the min, but they keep putting the prices up and so we are looking for alternatives, but I NEED things to be recorded and saved for a lot longer than 30 days, takes me months to get round to watching things! Hmmm my search continues =)

  2. Janine Dolan
    January 6, 2015 / 8:51 am

    Looks good. We actually have the roku from America which works the same way. You can play games on it too. It's amazing how many different gadgets are out there.
    At the moment we are using Netflix a lot.

  3. January 6, 2015 / 9:12 am

    Such a detailed review – the remote sounds like a pain so I'm glad that there is an app that takes away the need for it. I tend to take ages to get round to watching things though so our current system still works best for this.

  4. January 6, 2015 / 9:29 am

    Interesting review. I'll pass it on to my husband, as he deals with TV packages here. As long as I can get CBeebies and watch my fave shows, I'm happy!

  5. January 6, 2015 / 10:05 am

    This looks interesting. Not sure I would be able to sway Hubby away from his beloved Sky though.

  6. January 6, 2015 / 10:06 am

    We signed up to Now TV over christmas too, but we use it through the Apple TV and I think there is a big difference there by the sounds of this review as we don't have these problems.
    I was halfway through a film the other day and it stopped abruptly saying there was an error, it still isn't working now, which is super annoying as I really wanted to watch it!
    Overall tho its been a joy to have over christmas! 🙂

  7. January 6, 2015 / 10:07 am

    A topic I know nothing about. Thanks for sharing. We've just got the freeview channels. #TriedTested

  8. January 6, 2015 / 10:13 am

    An interesting review….I like the sound of this but at the moment I am happy with our Sky subscription…

  9. January 6, 2015 / 11:00 am

    Wow! What a review! Well done for handing that one over Colette! #triedtested

  10. Clare Nicholas
    January 6, 2015 / 11:00 am

    Perfect for students perhaps or for adding different viewing options into an older child's room.

    • January 6, 2015 / 9:22 pm

      Yes great idea!

  11. January 6, 2015 / 11:06 am

    Lovely detailed review – we have a free Now TV box but it's still sitting in the box. We have netfilx and lovefilm so not sure I can be bothered to set it up! #Tried Tested

  12. Mummy Melton
    January 6, 2015 / 12:13 pm

    Great and detailed review. £10 is definitely cheap!! I had seen them advertised but hadn't found out any more about them. To be honest we have stuff on our planner for months too so this is probably no good for us. Plus hubby has Sky Sports permanently on (I have asked sky whether they could just do a sky sports subscription and no other channels but they haven't taken me up on it!) #triedtested

  13. January 6, 2015 / 12:34 pm

    I love your reviews colette always so detailed. Might have to check this out as we never have time to watch tv when it's on so have to record most things. #triedtested

  14. January 6, 2015 / 12:47 pm

    We keep a lot of movies and things on our Tivo box (we are with virgin) for the kids to watch again and again so this would be useless to us. A great alternative to Sky or Virgin though #triedtested

  15. January 6, 2015 / 2:34 pm

    About to cancel Sky as it is just so expensive now…and don't get me started on the Sports channels…

    #Tried/Tested

    • January 6, 2015 / 9:18 pm

      It is a lot of money every month isn't it.

  16. gina caro
    January 6, 2015 / 2:40 pm

    Going to show this to the other half. He was looking at getting one of these. Think he will find this review really helpful 🙂 #TriedTested

  17. January 6, 2015 / 6:13 pm

    A very helpful Review, I've always wondered what this was like, although I am happy with Sky subscription at the moment, well, that is until they put the prices up again :-/. #TriedTested

  18. January 6, 2015 / 7:16 pm

    We are with Virgin media and to be honest all we watch is the disney channel, disney Jnr and Cbeebies haha.mkids eh! Looks good though!

  19. January 6, 2015 / 8:27 pm

    Really interesting review and so detailed (and I'm no techy but I did manage to follow it!)
    There are so many choices of service providers, but we're finding ourselves watching more and more of the children's channels and movies – not much general TV at all!! This looks good and one to consider
    #TriedandTested

  20. Catriona Stephen
    January 6, 2015 / 9:08 pm

    I think this is one of the most detailed review's I have ever read! I even got a bit lost as I'm not great with technology! I had a NowTv entertainment subscription last year so I could watch Game of Thrones, and I'm planning on purchasing again when the new season starts. I didn't know about this box though, I just used my laptop but may look into this to use instead! xx

    • January 6, 2015 / 9:18 pm

      My husband really is a massive geek bless him – he does tend to get very involved 😉 x

  21. emma lander
    January 6, 2015 / 9:33 pm

    Ooo what a cool thing and I like the way you've explained how to do it. If we get one I will be book marking this page 🙂

  22. January 6, 2015 / 10:50 pm

    We really enjoyed the onesieland experience and have been using the Now TV box regularly for the movies since but I doubt we'll be continuing with the subscripton x

  23. katefever
    January 7, 2015 / 9:39 am

    This is really interesting, and certainly ideal for times like Christmas when lots of film watching happens. Not sure I would buy one as we are pretty happy with our current set up, but will bear it in mind for future reference!
    Oh, and I also have loads of things stored on our box, from many months ago – I might watch them one day!

    • January 7, 2015 / 8:23 pm

      I'm glad it's not just me! I worry that if they weren't saved I'd end up forgetting to watch stuff!

  24. January 7, 2015 / 10:37 am

    great to see an indepth review. I still think the monthly costs if you want the extras turns something cheap into something expensive, maybe better to spend £6 a month on something like netflix? #triedtested

    • January 7, 2015 / 8:23 pm

      I totally agree!

  25. January 7, 2015 / 12:51 pm

    Although i wouldn't use it for my main room i have been looking at these to put into the bedrooms instead

    • January 7, 2015 / 8:24 pm

      Yes I think it would be great for that Jaime – certainly better value than a multiroom subscription x

  26. January 7, 2015 / 2:55 pm

    I'm not sure this would replace my Sky either but it sounds like it could be good for Eva's bedroom x

  27. January 7, 2015 / 8:01 pm

    I don't think I would have this replacing my Sky TV as I never watch things very quickly either, however, I do think it would be great for my son's room, particularly with the Movie package as he loves films. It does sound like a bit of a faff to set up though and I think I would need a stiff drink at the end!!

    • January 7, 2015 / 8:25 pm

      Have to admit I'm always glad to pass that kind of thing to Dave and leave him to it 😉

  28. Dave H
    January 10, 2015 / 10:59 pm

    Good review. I've seen a lot about Now TV and it sounds like a decent alternative to Virgin / Sky (even if it is owned by Sky!). It feels a bit pricey for things like a football day pass, but it is providing an option so obviously people can do it if they want or ignore it if they don't! #triedtested

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