Sky WiFi Review – With catch-up now a mainstream preoccupation, it’s no surprise that pay TV Goliath Sky has finally integrated Wi-fi into its set-top boxes. But just how does this impact the overall Sky+ proposition and, more significantly, has Sky finally produced the perfect hassle-free Pay TV set-top box? The addition of Wi-fi is a running change to the satcaster’s 2TB and standard Sky+HD box lines, and it’s the latter that we have here for review. Clearly, as the main point of difference is beneath the hood, the new DRX890W looks much like its wired predecessors, albeit with key additions. There’s now a WPS (Wi-fi protected set-up) button located on the fascia.
The rest of the feature set remains unchanged. Critics might argue that this kind of refinement is not particularly adventurous. The brand continues to resist the temptation to cram in more tuners, and unlike some of the newer subscription-free PVRs, there’s no retrospective EPG. However, Sky believes in evolution not revolution and with good reason. This update is slicker than a wet otter.
The grid-based EPG remains reassuringly familiar. Increasingly Sky seems to be directing users to its iOS and Android apps; this is clearly where it sees the greatest potential in terms of navigation and search, both of which are rather restricted on the box itself, but the lure of the iconic remote is difficult to resist. The STB measures a neat 346 x 73 x 255mm (WxHxD). Joining the single HDMI are two digital audio outputs (optical and coaxial), a Scart, dual F-connectors, Ethernet, RJ45 jack, RS-232 control plus (currently inactive) e-SATA and USB ports. A front flap on the fascia accommodates the Sky viewing card. There is no RF loopthrough/ onboard RF demodulator, though.
Those of you that rely on this to feed an RF distribution amplifier, will need to buy an additional RF loopthrough module, which connects to the 10-pin I/O port mini-DIN. This is configurable in the set-up menu. The DRX890W employs a 500GB HDD, of which 250GB is available for personal timeshifting (enough for around 60 hours of HD). The partition is for overnight push VoD. On demand catch up, however, is downloaded to the user recordable partition of the drive. Sky offers loads of on-demand content, covering all five mainstream channels as well as a raft of satellite channels.
The box’s implementation of Wi-fi is completely seamless. The network tab in the settings menu offers a choice of either a WPS connection, should your router support it, or manual setup requiring a password. Our sample required a system software update to function wirelessly, but once completed the box scanned available networks and found our Virgin Media router in an instant. It was then simply a matter of inputting the password (not easy using a standard Sky wand) and issuing a Picard-like ‘make it so’ command.
The receiver immediately made a secure connection. Once online, Sky’s bulging IP coffers open to reveal the last 30 days of TV from those featured catch-up services, plus a wide range of Box Set compilations and movies, both in SD and HD. These reside on the partitioned area of the STB’s hard drive until they’re done with or expire.
While the HD editions will take up a significantly larger chunk of this box’s hard drive, for the most part it’s worth the space sacrifice. While a wired Ethernet line remains our preferred way of getting Sky+ HD boxes online, this wireless solution is immeasurably more elegant than the On-Demand connector kits that Sky has been offering. Its implementation is pretty much faultless.
When it comes to content richness, Sky’s portfolio is formidable. With more than 65 channels in hi-def, Sky leads the pack when it comes to quality transmissions. Overall, picture clarity and audio performance appear outstanding. The least heavily compressed channels, such as BBC One HD, Sky Sports F1 HD and NHK are mightily impressive. In truth, even the better SD services can look great.
We coupled this box to a Sony 4K Ultra HD TV, just to access how well such dish-delivered channels would upscale, and the higher pixel density panel positively sparkled with depth and detail. It’ll certainly pass muster until Sky delivers native 4K. Sky has also refined its audio delivery, recently adding 5.1 Dolby Digital delivery over HDMI. This simplifies hookup when connecting a Sky box to a home cinema AV receiver. Increasingly, DD 5.1 has become the standard audio on some of the bigger TV shows out there.
As with its 1 and 2TB siblings, you can undelete recordings. Should you accidentally consign the season finale of Game of Thrones to the recycle bin, you can journey beyond the Wall and bring it safely back It’s difficult not to be impressed by the DRX890W. The addition of Wi-fi adds extra polish to what is already a bullet-proof PVR.
The playback quality from its HD channel bouquet is outstanding, and for users who have yet to accommodate a hardwired Ethernet solution, this new Wi-fi iteration makes perfect sense as the variety and depth of IP catch-up increases. The price is looking keen for existing subscribers buying one as an upgrade. The UK’s best set-top box platform has just evolved.
- Effortless Wi-fi set up
- Unbeatable hi-def channel choice
- Growing on-demand library of movies and box sets
- No RF demodulator and aerial loopthrough
- The standard Sky EPG grid is showing its age
- With so much HD, the 2TB box may be a better investment
Sky WiFi Specifications
- LNB inputs: 2
- LNB loopthrough: No
- No. aerial inputs: N/A
- Aerial loopthrough: No
- Common interface: None
- 3D compatible: Yes
- Smart app integration: Yes
- Teletext: DVB decoded
- EPG support: 7-day
- Timer: EPG record; remote record; series linking
- Hard drive: 500GB (250GB user recordable)
- Software upgrade: Network or USB
- Data ports: USB 2.0 (inactive); eSATA; RS232; Ethernet; I/O DIN Port; telephone line
- SD out: Scart, composite
- HD out: HDMI
- Audio: Via HDMI; optical and coaxial digital audio (all Dolby Digital bitsream compatible); analogue stereo