Sky package name changes hide the odd quirk
NEVER keen to let us rest on our database laurels for too long, Sky have made a host of changes to a variety of their packages, some superficial, some more significant.
Gone are the Family Bundle, Sky Q Silver, and Fibre Pro. In their place are the Box Sets Bundle, Sky Q Multiscreen, and Fibre Max.
In the first instance, the change is purely cosmetic - the Family Bundle has simply been given a more fitting name, better reflecting one of its main attractions for Sky subscribers.
But in both the case of Sky Q, and Fibre Max, the new names reflect some serious changes under the hood as well.
Sky Q boxes and bundles
To make things simpler for everyone as far as Sky Q is concerned, the broadcaster have renamed the two main boxes, using the size of their hard drives to distinguish between them.
What was (rather confusingly) called the Sky Q box is now the Sky Q 1TB box; what was known as the Sky Q Silver box is now the Sky Q 2TB box.
Sky told us that, "we know that customers want to record and store more TV than ever so the new names clearly present the differences in storage".
That's more important now, because the names used to refer not just to the boxes, but to the packages they came with: customers after the Sky Q Silver box had to get the Sky Q Silver bundle:
|Package||Kit||Price at launch|
|Sky Q Bundle||Sky Q box||£42|
|Sky Q Silver Bundle||Sky Q Silver box,
Sky Q Mini box
So here's the first of the truly significant changes for Sky Q: customers are no longer limited to a particular bundle by their choice of box.
In fact, they're no longer limited to a particular channel bundle either.
More choice, lower prices
When it was launched in February, Sky Q was very much a premium product, and therefore only came with what was then the Family Bundle, plus whatever extras we wanted to add on top.
Now, however, Sky have added the Variety pack to the Sky Q line-up - and from what we can understand, existing Sky+ Original Bundle customers who want to upgrade to the newer platform can stick with just those channels if they want.
In fact, it's the channel pack that new customers will be asked to pick first, before being given the choice of the 1TB or 2TB box.
|Sky Q: Variety bundle||Choice of Sky Q 1TB or 2TB box||326 (11 HD)
|Sky Q: Box Sets bundle (previously Family bundle)||Choice of Sky Q 1TB or 2TB box||365 (50+ HD)
Note the figures in the price column.
Perhaps most important among the changes made to Sky Q is that its prices have been adjusted to match those charged for the channel packs with Sky+.
Sky Q Multiscreen
Visit the Sky website and the prices look higher - £12 higher - because Sky are highlighting one of Sky Q's big selling points: the multiscreen feature.
Early reviews of Sky Q described it as being TV for the streaming generation. We didn't go quite that far - and besides, plenty of streamers don't bother at all with linear TV and traditional channels - but what those reviews were referring to was the principle of accessing content on various other screens.
The Sky Q Mini box is basically a streaming device, acting as a way station for content from the main box to another TV (and for those with Sky Broadband, for the wireless signal).
Both the 1TB and 2TB boxes can also stream to at least one tablet at the same time.
Basically, Sky Q is kind of a multiscreen platform by default, but Sky Q Multiscreen - the new name for the Sky Q Silver Bundle - makes the most of that capability.
|Sky Q Multiscreen: Variety bundle||Choice of Sky Q box
+ Sky Q Mini Box
|326 (11 HD)
|Sky Q Multiscreen: Box Sets bundle||Choice of Sky Q box
+ Sky Q Mini Box
|365 (50+ HD)
Now it's available to people opting for the 1TB box as well as the 2TB box, even those who can only stream to one Mini box or tablet at a time can also download content to up to four tablets in total.
Those familiar with Sky TV may be forgiven for thinking that sounds an awful lot like Sky Go Extra, but Sky are careful not to call it that.
For one thing, Sky Go Extra works on both tablets and mobile phones, but the Sky Q app is only compatible with tablets.
The other, important, difference is that any Sky+ customer can get Sky Go Extra - but tellingly the Sky Q version is referred to as the "Multiscreen pack". Those with only one Sky Q box need not apply.
HD and Ultra HD
Early adopters looking at the reduced prices for single Sky Q boxes and feeling hard done by should note that free Sky Go Extra isn't the only perk they get that's not available to new customers.
In the original version of our review of Sky Q, we said this:
"Anyone looking for the HD pack to get their sport or big screen action in sharper detail will be disappointed: it doesn't exist as far as Sky Q is concerned - because it doesn't need to.
"Sky's Family package, on which Sky Q is based, comes with 50 HD channels. Sky+ viewers have to pay to add the HD versions of their premium channels to that tally - but Sky Q subscribers get them added automatically when they take a premium channel pack."
When Sky Movies was renamed Sky Cinema, the broadcaster confirmed that everyone would get the HD versions of the channels as standard, whatever their base bundle - reflecting how it works on Sky Q.
But now, in what seems like a backwards step, new Sky Q customers who want Sky Sports in HD have to do what Sky+ customers do: add the Box Sets Bundle and HD Pack to their subscription.
Sky told us that, "as a result of the simplification of the bundles we've reintroduced the HD pack (£6) which has always been the way customers get Sky Sports in HD" - unless, of course, they signed up for Sky Q before this month.
Here's the really curious part: Sky Q 2TB boxes are ultra HD compatible. From the start of this week, those with a Sky Q Silver or the new Sky Q Multiscreen subscription (basically, a 2TB box plus a Mini box), have been able to access ultra HD content.
Sky have confirmed that to get Sky Sports in ultra HD, customers simply need to add to that a Sky Sports subscription.
That means that new customers with the 2TB Multiscreen deal are therefore in the rather odd position of being able to get ultra HD sports coverage as part of their subscription, but having to pay for premium HD content.
Sky Q isn't the only service Sky have simplified (and slimmed down slightly) while being refreshed.
It's not always immediately obvious, but Sky sell another fibre broadband deal alongside their up to 38Mb Fibre and Fibre Unlimited products.
Those willing to dig around a bit on their website would previously have found the odd reference to Fibre Pro, an unlimited up to 76Mb deal.
We say "previously", because Fibre Pro is no longer available for new customers - and its replacement is a little easier to find online, and £5 a month cheaper.
Fibre Max also offers a connection of up to 76Mb with unlimited data, but while Fibre Pro costs £30 a month, the new deal costs £25 a month.
with Sky Broadband: click here
As ever, the devil is in the detail: Fibre Pro was so named because as well as the superfast connection, it came with some useful extras, such as a static IP address and a dedicated support line.
Fibre Max comes with none of those, hence the lower price.
The good news is that existing Fibre Pro customers who make use of the extra features can stay put if they want to; those who just want the extra speed (and who've seen out their minimum contract) are free to sign up for the cheaper deal.