Now TV Smart Box Review: dish-free Sky content material meets Freeview tuner

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What is the Now TV Smart Box?

Want to observe Sky’s Now TV service however don’t have a appropriate good TV or video games console? Plug in a Now TV Smart Box and also you’ll have the ability to signal as much as any mixture of its month-to-month passes, which supply subscription-free entry to Sky’s wonderful catalogue of movies and world-class TV exhibits.

For a little bit additional money you may get every day or weekly entry to the entire vary of sports activities channels, providing Premier League soccer, Formula 1, NFL and numerous different stay sports activities.

The Roku-made Now TV Smart Box even permits you to obtain catch-up apps for all the principle terrestrial channels. What units it aside from all the opposite streaming gadgets on the market, nevertheless, is that it has a Freeview tuner built-in – however on this age of on-demand every thing, does anyone actually need such a characteristic?

Related: Roku Express review

Now TV Smart Box – Design

About the scale of a small aspect plate, with a Now TV emblem plastered on high, the Smart Box’s shiny black end makes it seem like a Wi-Fi router. It’s pretty flat, too, and the highest is an absolute mud and fingerprint magnet – you’ll be reaching for the feather duster regularly.

Round the again are terminals on your HDMI cable, TV aerial, energy lead and Ethernet cable (though Wi-Fi is in-built), plus an inactive microSD card slot. There’s additionally a USB port on one aspect (extra on that later).

The bundled distant feels a light-weight and lacks quantity buttons. However, with a four-way D-pad, playback controls, plus devoted Now TV and Sky Store buttons, it has a lot of the main capabilities lined.

NOW TV Smart box

Now TV Smart Box – Setup

Setup isn’t fairly so simple as Now TV’s Smart Stick – which merely plugs into the HDMI port and stays in place – nevertheless it isn’t far behind.

The Smart Box comes with an HDMI cable and batteries for the distant, so when you’ve plugged within the energy and related it to your tv, you’re just about able to go.

Well, you may be when you’ve signed up for an account on-line first. Once you’ve completed that and chosen which Now TV passes you’d like to join (from a alternative of Movies, Entertainment, Kids and Sports), you need to join the field to your Wi-Fi community – or, you should utilize Ethernet in case you’re feeling old-school.

Using a distant management’s D-pad to enter your Wi-Fi particulars, e-mail addresses and passwords is irritating sufficient, however much more annoying is the truth that the unit provided with the Smart Box is only a bit too clicky, making a bothersome sound every time you enter a personality.

NOW TV Smart box

Fortunately, you’ll ought to need to undergo this course of solely as soon as; however getting into particulars to signal into your Now TV account, YouTube app and Sky Store can change into tedious. Ditto for scrolling by the licence settlement.

My field required a software program replace that took lower than a minute, and after routinely including all of the default apps, it additionally detected the kind of TV it which it was related.

All Now TV content material is restricted to 720p, however the field clocked that I had a 1080p-capable TV. At first I assumed it was simply rubbing it in, however Sky says assist for higher-resolution streaming is coming later this yr.

The closing piece of the setup puzzle is the built-in Freeview tuner. Plugging in an aerial and scanning for channels feels old style, nevertheless it solely took a couple of minute to tune in all 152 channels (that’s together with all of the radio channels that no person ever makes use of).

NOW TV Smart box

Now TV Smart Box – Apps and interface

The Smart Box’s important display screen exhibits a grid of Sky highlights, plus programmes you’ve just lately watched however not completed. If you might have an aerial plugged in, there’s additionally a bit displaying a preview of your most just lately watched stay channel, so you’ll be able to simply hop again in.

Scroll down by the menus on the left-hand aspect and also you’ll see a normal EPG for stay Freeview channels (aerial dependent, in fact). My Apps exhibits all of the apps you might have put in, whereas the App Store permits you to add extra.

The Smart Box has all the key ones lined: BBC iPlayer, All four, Demand 5 and ITV, plus  YouTube, Vevo, Vimeo and UKTV Play, which supply catch-up for channels equivalent to Dave and Yesterday – though contemplating what number of exhibits are repeated on Dave, this appears barely pointless.

Right now there’s no Netflix or Amazon, though with the previous coming to Sky packing containers later this yr, that would effectively change.

NOW TV Smart box

The Best of Catchup display screen provides a reasonably random choice of prompt apps and explicit TV exhibits from all providers, whereas the Settings menu is self-explanatory.

But the rationale for getting the Smart Box is Now TV, which you’ll be able to entry both by urgent the devoted button on the distant, or by navigating to the app.

It takes a number of seconds to load however breaks up the obtainable content material consistent with the totally different passes which can be obtainable: Movies, Entertainment, Sports and Kids.

Whether you’re impressed by what’s obtainable will totally be down to private desire, nevertheless it does really feel like there’s extra depth to than Amazon or Netflix, notably on the film entrance.

Now TV Smart stick

It additionally means you’ll be able to entry the exhibits with out the necessity for a satellite tv for pc dish or having to enroll to a prolonged contract. Whether it really works out cheaper will rely on what you wish to watch – however in case you’re a soccer fan then counting on Sky Sports passes at £7.99 a day or £12.99 every week will quickly add up.

On the entire, the Now TV Smart Box isn’t as slick because the Sky Q field and feels a step behind the Amazon Fire TV field and Amazon Fire Stick. Nevertheless it’s simple sufficient to navigate, if a little bit over-complicated at instances.

You have to leap by a number of hoops on the Now TV web site to cancel a cross, however you’ll be able to at the very least do it approach earlier than the renewal date and stick with it watching till it ends. As such, there’s no danger of getting stung for one more month in case you overlook to cancel on the penultimate day.

NOW TV Smart box

Now TV Smart Box – Performance

Resolution of Now TV content material could be restricted to 720p, however on my 37in 1080p Samsung it seemed ok, with loads of element and no Wi-Fi-related dips in high quality. If you’ve already upgraded to 4K then the shortage of pixels perhaps obvious, however the Now TV Smart Box isn’t actually aimed toward these people who watch that a lot TV.

Stick on BBC One and the standard seems distinctly standard-definition, however that’s as a result of the Freeview HD channels are buried a lot additional down the EPG; by default, it begins you on the high. Without the flexibility to go looking or use the numerical channel shortcuts, they’re an actual ache to get to. In normal, nevertheless, the interface is slicker than quite a lot of devoted Freeview packing containers.

There’s no built-in storage, so you’ll be able to’t file any programmes – that’s what the catch-up apps are for, grandad – however you’ll be able to pause and rewind stay TV, which is a bonus.

Now TV Smart stick

Whether you’re watching a Freeview channel or a stream, fast-forwarding or rewinding isn’t a precise science with this field, however there’s no signal of pixellating or buffering because it catches up.

On Now TV, cease watching fully and you’ll decide up the place you left off later, with the My TV menu maintaining observe of what you bailed out on, plus a Watchlist to which you’ll be able to add exhibits.

According to Sky, the Now TV Smart Box is already able to exhibiting 1080p content material – however good luck discovering any. I figured the USB port on the aspect may permit me to play my very own from a reminiscence stick, however plug one in and nothing occurs.

However, it does supply energy when the field is turned on, which might have made it good for recharging the distant if it didn’t run on old style triple-As. At least you’ll be able to plug your telephone in to cost whilst you compensate for Westworld.

NOW TV Smart box

Why purchase a Now TV Smart Box?

Considering most TVs include a Freeview tuner in-built today, what’s the purpose in shopping for a Smart Box over the £15 Smart Stick?

Good query. And until you might have a TV with out a tuner and are a extremely massive fan of Dave Ja Vu, that is troublesome to reply. Having every thing in a single place and having the ability to time-shift stay TV is pretty useful, however is it price the additional £35?

Of course, not one of the above makes the Now TV Smart Box a foul machine; it simply means you require fairly particular circumstances to make it a essential buy.

Some will level to its lack of 4K, particularly within the face of Amazon’s Fire TV, however Ultra HD TVs include the mandatory apps in-built, so these streaming packing containers are more and more being pushed in direction of second TV the place this isn’t an enormous deal.

Verdict

A slick streaming field that gives entry to Sky with out all the effort – however until you want the Freeview tuner, there are cheaper methods to get it.

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