If Sky’s goal was to get our attention with their mysterious ‘Set your TV free’ invitation, then it certainly succeeded. Their cryptic launch video whipped us through 100 years of broadcasting history, lining up the first broadcasts, the jump to colour, the launch of Sky, HD programming, Sky Go (rather generously, we’d suggest) before inviting us to find out what comes next. The general consensus amongst those who make it their business to pay attention to these things, is that Sky will use the November 18th event to launch a new Sky box dubbed SkyQ, which would support native 4K playback.
This new box would potentially utilise the existing satellite technology in place by Sky to beam 4K images directly to your home, bypassing the streaming technology widely used by competitors. Alas though, we don’t yet know if this is going to be the case, and when the SkyQ box would find its way into the market (nor how much extra Sky would charge for 4K channels), and before you try the Skyphone number, they aren't telling.
All of which means that if you’re in the market for 4K content, you could be looking elsewhere. These are the best options available right now:
Netflix 4K - £8.99 per month:
Netflix was one of the very first services to offer streaming 4K in the world, and they’ve got great content like House of Cards, Marco Polo and more available to stream right now in Ultra-HD. Indeed, soon Breaking Bad will see a 4K remaster released, bringing yet more great programming up to the new standard.
Unfortunately, if you want these films, you’re going to need a solid 20 to 25Mbps internet connection in order to maintain this content at speed. You’re also going to need a 4K TV with Netflix built in or something like an Amazon Fire TV 4K (around £80) or NVidia Shield. Netflix have a system for recommending TVs, which is based on a mixture of performance, video quality, ease of use and whether the TV has the latest version of Netflix. 4K TVs from Hisense, LG, Panasonic and Sony are all on the list, so consider asking whether your TV is Netflix recommended when you’re shopping.
Amazon Prime 4K - £79 per year:
Amazon Prime is the commerce giant’s value added package, which bundles music streaming, Netflix style streaming (and original content) and free one day delivery for a one off yearly cost. It’s quite excellent value, and it even nets you some 4K content. Like Netflix, you’ll of course still need a 4K TV and something to play it through, and like Netflix the 4K content is somewhat thin on the ground. You’ll get some original content from Amazon like Transparent in 4K, but where it really shines is in its ability to offer you 4K downloads of films. These will cost you a little extra, but it means you can get more recent, premium films in 4K.
As with Netflix, you’ll need a strong internet connection in order for the streaming to work.
BT UHD - £15 per month:
Finally, there’s the more drastic option – switching to BT. Ever since they launched BT Sport, the company have been waging open war against Sky, and their UHD launch earlier in the year certainly sent a message to Sky. BT now sell an Entertainment UItra HD package, which brings Sky+ like DVR features, 80 Freeview HD channels, catch up TV, 50 premium channels and 4K Ultra-HD sport right to your home. It still requires a fast internet connection, but if sport is what gets you up in the morning, it’s not to be missed.
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