After a short stint in the rumour mill, Sky Glass has been unveiled, and it’s a… TV!
Not just any TV, though. Sky Glass is a TV with the Sky service built-in – and you don’t need a dish to use it. It’s also got an integrated Dolby Atmos sound system and support for Dolby Vision.
Enticingly of all, it can be yours for the eye-openingly low price of just £13 per month. Sort of.
So what is Sky Glass actually about? How much does it really cost? And, most of all, does it actually look and sound any good? We’ve attended the launch event, interviewed the people involved and seen/heard Sky Glass in action, so allow us to answer all of your many questions.
How much does Sky Glass cost?
The Sky Glass TV is available at three different sizes – Small, Medium and Large.
Small is a 43-inch set that costs £649 if paid for upfront. The Medium, 55-inch model is £849. Large measures 65 inches and will set you back £1049.
But Sky Glass can be paid for monthly, and here’s where things get interesting.
The eye-popping £13 per month figure is for the Small Sky Glass model, paid for over 48 months. Maths whizzkids might have noticed that £13 times 48 doesn’t equal £649. There is a £10 upfront payment but, even then, the total price paid is actually £634. That’s not a mistake: it’s actually cheaper in the long-run to pay monthly for the TV than to pay for it in one go.
If a four-year contract feels like too much of a commitment, you can instead opt to pay for your Sky Glass TV over two years, at a rate of £26 per month, with a £20 upfront payment. That will take the total price paid to £644.
The Medium and Large versions of Sky Glass can be bought over the same terms. So the Medium is £17 over 48 months (plus £10 upfront) or £34 over 24 months (plus £20 upfront), while the Large is £21 over 48 months (again, plus £10 upfront) or £42 over 48 months (£20 upfront).
Here’s the breakdown in a potentially more digestible format:
|Size||Upfront cost||48-month contract||24-month contract|
|Small (43 inches)||£649||£13 per month (+£10 upfront)||£26 per month (+£20 upfront)|
|Medium (55 inches)||£849||£17 per month (+£10 upfront)||£34 per month (+£20 upfront)|
|Large (65 inches)||£1049||£21 per month (+£10 upfront)||£42 per month (+£20 upfront)|
But that’s not the whole story, because those payments only cover the cost of the TV itself and not the Sky subscription. You need to also subscribe to at least Sky Ultimate, which will set you back £26 per month. So that means the cheapest Sky Glass is really £39 per month, rather than the £13 per month headline figure.
And while Sky Ultimate includes Sky TV channels such as Sky Atlantic and Sky Max, it doesn’t include Sports or Cinema, which will cost you an extra £25 and £11 respectively, should you want them. Sky Kids is £5 extra as well.
Finally, if you want to have Sky Glass in more than one room, you need to pay an extra £10 per month, plus a £50 one-off payment for each Sky Stream Puck – this is the device you need in order to add Sky Glass to a standard TV.
Can I get Sky Glass without the TV?
No. While each Sky Stream Puck connects directly to the cloud rather than a ‘master’ Sky Glass TV, it’s not being sold separately. One suspects this could change in the future, but Sky certainly isn’t letting on if that is indeed part of the plan.
For now, if you want Sky Glass but already have a fancy TV in your lounge, the most cost effective way to get it is to buy the Small Sky Glass TV for a bedroom or some other room, and get a Puck for your main TV.
Do I need a satellite dish for Sky Glass?
No. Finally, after years (yes, actual years) of promising Sky TV without the need for a satellite dish, Sky Glass is finally delivering on that, with the whole service being delivered over the internet.
It doesn’t need to be Sky Broadband, either. Any broadband connection will be fine as long as it’s fast enough – Sky is suggesting at least 11mbps for a single Glass device and 30mbps for multi-room.
Ok, so what is Sky Glass?
There are two parts to Sky Glass – the hardware (the TV and the Puck) and the software (the user experience). We’ll look at the hardware below, but what’s the user experience like?
Well, it’s largely similar to the Sky Q platform with which many are already familiar. Recommendations are still placed front and centre on the Home screen, and these are selected based on a number of factors, including general popularity, your viewing history and time of day. As you scroll down, you’re presented with more ‘rails’ for things such as ‘Now and Next’ (live TV broadcasts), ‘Continue Watching’, ‘TV Shows’, ‘Movies’ and ‘Sports’, and each of these has at least a degree of personalisation to it.
As with Sky Q, the recommendations thrown your way come not just from Sky itself, but also any and all of the apps you’ve got installed, be they Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer etc. The idea is that the provider of the content is irrelevant – you’re simply presented with something to watch and you can click on it to get cracking.
One new feature of particular interest is ‘Playlist’. If you find something you’re interested in, press the ‘+’ button on the remote and it will be added to a dedicated Playlist section for viewing at your leisure. If it’s a TV series, every episode will be gathered in one place – even if some of them are hosted on one service and the rest on another. It’s a neat feature but, let’s face it, one that should already be on Sky Q. It does sound as if it could actually be coming to the older Sky platform, and Fraser Stirling, the company’s Group Chief Product Officer, did confirm that it will certainly be added to the Sky Go app.
Sky Glass TV specs and features
As an object, the Sky Glass TV is really nice. Rather than go for a dramatically thin design, Sky has opted for a chunkier, more angular and more stylishly industrial chassis. The set was always going to be quite thick, thanks to its combination of direct-backlit LCD screen and six-speaker Dolby Atmos sound system (more on both below), but Sky has sensibly chosen to embrace that, producing a TV that has the look of a smart picture frame.
Wall-mounting will obviously further enhance the picture frame appearance, and the Sky Glass TV actually has an integrated mounting solution that holds the TV almost flush to the wall. Those placing the TV on furniture will appreciate the low-profile pedestal stand, which has a relatively compact footprint.
The chassis is constructed using anodised aluminium and is available in five different colours – white, black, green, blue and pink. The woven acoustic mesh that covers the speakers beneath the screen can be colour-matched to the metal frame or can be bought in more vibrant, contrasting colours and patterns, with a variety of bright designs shown during the launch event.
The panel itself is supplied by TP Vision, the company behind Philips TVs. It combines the quantum dot technology made famous by Samsung’s QLED TVs with a direct LED backlight. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sky isn’t getting into specifics such as the number of dimming zones Sky Glass has, or its peak brightness figures.
It has stated that the panel has a 60Hz refresh rate, so it won’t handle 4K at 120Hz gaming, even though the three HDMI ports are apparently HDMI 2.1-certified. There’s no news yet on whether the TV will support other gaming features such as VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) or HGiG, but one of the HDMIs can output sound via eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) – though the TV’s integrated speaker system is obviously designed to make connection to an external sound solution unnecessary.
That integrated sound system consists of six speakers – a forward-firing centre speaker, a forward-firing subwoofer, two side-firing speakers mounted towards the bottom of either edge, and two upward-firing speakers at the extremities of the top edge. Dolby Atmos support is baked-in.
By default, the Sky Glass TV will be set in an Auto picture mode, which is designed to automatically select the correct picture settings for the content being watched. This is by no means the first TV to offer such a feature, but Sky’s proposition is particularly compelling because the company is responsible for creating such a wide array of content.
The argument is that TV shows and movies are produced to different standards to sports, and that Sky is uniquely positioned to offer the best and most accurate settings for each. The company refers to this as a glass-to-glass approach – from the glass of the camera lens to the glass of the TV screen. The set has a light sensor as well, so that the screen’s brightness and contrast can be adjusted automatically based on ambient lighting conditions.
That sensor is also used to detect motion in the room, and the TV will in fact turn itself on when you enter the room, displaying fullscreen posters for recommended shows and movies. This is not a feature to which we’re particularly drawn – a living room is used for far more than only TV-watching, so the fact that the Sky Glass TV immediately demands your attention as you walk in seems rather unpleasant. Sky says that in the future this feature could be used for displaying artwork, photos and more, in the vein of Samsung’s Ambient Mode, and perhaps we’ll appreciate it more then. In the meantime it can at least be switched off.
As well as the sensors, there are also two far-field microphones built into the Sky Glass TV’s chassis. These allow for full hands-free operation of the TV. It will turn on to the ‘hello Sky’ wake phrase, and you can then perform all sorts of functions via voice, including pausing and rewinding content, searching for specific shows and movies, changing the volume and finding all of the matches involving your favourite football team. If you don’t like the idea of the TV always listening to you, you can switch the chassis-integrated microphones off and then simply use the button-operated one that’s built into the remote control.
If you’re looking for another non-traditional way to interact with the Sky Glass TV, an optional camera accessory will be released for it at some point in 2022. This is clearly still an in-development device – it doesn’t have a price or even a name yet – but we know that it will mount to the middle of the TV’s top edge and will enable a number of additional features, including Zoom video calls, Xbox Kinect-style gaming (Fruit Ninja was demoed at the launch event), motion-tracked workouts and social viewing of content such as football matches. It’s hard at this point to see the Sky Glass camera succeeding where the likes of Kinect failed, particularly post-lockdown, but time will tell.
Sky Glass picture quality
So, how does the Sky Glass TV look in action? That sort of depends on your expectations. There were phrases used during the launch event and that are in the promotional material that would lead you to believe that it’s offering a flagship TV performance – the kind that you might expect from an OLED or top Samsung QLED – but that’s marketing for you, and expectations should really be calibrated to the price.
Let’s remember that you’re essentially getting a TV and a Dolby Atmos soundbar in one package that, in the case of the 43-inch ‘Small’ size, costs just £649. Consider that the cheapest Dolby Atmos soundbar we recommend (the four-star Sony HT-G700) is £299 and you’re leaving just £350 for the TV. The Medium and Large Sky Glass TVs have the same sound system as the Small, so let’s also deduct £299 from their prices – that leaves you with £500 and £750 for a 55-inch and 65-inch respectively.
These are rough figures, of course, but they broadly represent the costs that would be involved in buying a TV and Dolby Atmos soundbar separately, and they help to set expectations.
With that in mind, the Sky Glass TV is actually quite impressive. It clearly can’t reproduce the deep blacks, vibrant colours and super-sharp edges of a top OLED or QLED, but it appears to put in a very solid performance compared to most budget and even mid-range TVs – at least based on a handful of very brief, event-based demonstrations.
First up is a clip from the third season of Britannia involving a dream sequence with brightly lit faces appearing in a pitch black space. It’s hard to be sure about black depth here on account of the ambient light in the room, but it’s clear that the backlight is consistent, with none of the clouding usually associated with affordable backlit TVs. The bright highlights are fairly bright and, crucially, there’s no obvious blooming around them.
The second clip is from one of David Attenborough’s Netflix documentaries. It’s clearly lacking the crispness and colour vibrancy we’d ideally like to see, with a general flatness that’s a bit disappointing, but there’s also a consistency and subtlety that’s fairly rare from affordable TVs. The performance isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s impressively well balanced.
Switching to Mad Max: Fury Road, the same, sensible approach is adopted – it seems Sky has decided to resist the spectacular in favour of balance, and that’s admirable. There is a general softness to this clip that’s a bit disappointing, though.
Sky Glass sound quality
There were two opportunities to properly hear the Sky Glass TV’s Dolby Atmos presentation during the launch event, and they suggested that what you’ll hear will depend relatively heavily on your room.
The first was the opening of Mad Max: Fury Road, which includes lots of disembodied dialogue that, in a full Dolby Atmos speaker system, appears from all around you. That’s not quite the case here, with the sound being restricted to the front of the demo room, but there is noticeable height and width to the delivery, with a good degree of spatial separation to effects. There’s good bass weight, too, although this is perhaps a bit exaggerated, with a slight boominess creeping in during the demo.
The second dedicated sound demo was far trickier to evaluate as it took place in a perfectly rectangular, windowless box with an Ambilight-like light show and involved a bespoke Formula 1 clip that had clearly been enhanced for demonstration purposes. That said, it was, we’re assured, the Sky Glass TV speakers doing all of the work, and here it delivered an extra degree of immersion.
It’s typical for the immersiveness of a Dolby Atmos soundbar to be fairly dependant on room shape, so it’s probably not surprising that this demo stretched into the room far more than the previous one, which took place in a glorified shed, but there was a fairly impressive degree of projection and envelopment here.
As ever, we need to get a sample in for a full review before we can pass any serious judgement, but that the size and shape of your room has an impact on the sort of sound you can expect should come as little surprise.
What’s happening to Sky Q?
According to Sky, it’s staying, but it seems hard to imagine the company being keen to maintain multiple services for very long, despite their obvious similarities.
Perhaps the Sky Glass TVs are essentially a soft launch for Sky Glass in general – a test of the Sky-over-internet theory. If it goes well, you have to imagine that Sky Q being replaced by Sky Glass in the long run.