Unlike a potential partner, however, Sky, Virgin and BT TV are now available in resolutions from 4K max to 1080p, obviously. So which one to get? We have put Sky Q, Virgin TV and BT YouView + Ultra HD boxes to help you choose the best TV Service Providers.
|TV service providers, sky multiroom, bt packages, virgin media service|
Sky Q vs. Virgin TV vs BT TV: Ease of use
The sky is nowadays a good service. It’s quick, sensibly and treats your eyes to many miniature images instead of just boring you with text lists. There are also plenty of ways to get to the TV you want to watch, with the newly added voice search proving to be a particular success. BT and Virgin do not have anything like it.
Virgin’s TiVo interface has been revised and improved a lot over the past year, but it’s still a bit awkward to operate. Fortunately, there is no longer any delay between pressing a button and the screen actually changes, but you will still have to wade through too many submenus before reaching the content demand and graphically it is often closer to an Excel spreadsheet than A charming Netflix- Style.
YouView is at the heart of the BT TV interface, and that’s a very good thing because YouView is a very well thought out platform. It looks great, with thumbnails rather than text for the most part, and you can always get the sample or app of your choice with no more than a couple of clicks. It’s fast, too.
Sky and BT are a bit far from Virgin in this category. There is not much between them at the top, but the voice search just shoots it for Sky.
1st: Sky Q
2nd: BT TV
3rd: Virgin TV
Sky Q vs. Virgin TV vs BT TV: Recording
Sky-Q’s high definition set-top box comes with a generous 2TB of storage, enough for about 350 hours of HD recordings or over 1000 hours of standard definition content. Sky does not indicate how many hours of 4K content you will have room for, but we estimate it will be around 80 hours.
At this point, you can record five programs while watching a sixth, but a next update will increase those figures to six and seven, respectively.
The Virgin V6 has ‘only’ 1TB of space (enough for 500 hours of SD recordings or 100 hours of HD recordings), but each additional box you purchase adds another 1TB to your general storage pool. The V6 also goes full kitchen sink in the front tuners, allowing users to record six channels while looking at another. And if you have a second V6 box then you get six more tuners.
BT’s YouView + Ultra HD box lags behind the other two on this front. You can only record two programs while watching a third of the demand, the catch-up or your recordings. Like Virgin V6 it has a 1TB hard drive inside it, big enough for (depending on BT) 600 hours of SD, 250 hours of HD or 60 hours of 4K content.
Sky and Virgin are two stunning boxes when it comes to recordings, although tinted with more than an excess odour. After all, can you really imagine a situation where you need all those tuners? However, if recording many things at once is a great deal for you, Virgin is a slightly better option than Sky right now, with BT behind third.
First: Virgin TV V6
2nd: Sky Q
3rd: BT YouView + Ultra HD
Sky Q vs. Virgin TV vs BT TV: Multiple Room Viewing
Sky q: sky multiroom
One of the great selling points for Sky Q is its Fluid Viewing function, so a program you are watching can be made to “follow” around your house: start watching an episode of Westworld in the living room, You left On another TV connected to a mini-box equipped with Wi-Fi (from which you can have up to four) and then you end up on the phone screen the next morning.
In practice it works well – we have not experienced any flaws in our months of use, and the fact that Mini Boxes can be connected to Wi-Fi means that it is easy to place anywhere in the house and you can use sky multiroom with ease.
The Virgin V6 also supports multi-room viewing, and in a seamless fashion to Fluid Viewing, though Virgin has not considered it appropriate to give it a similarly sexy name. Shame.
Sadly there is no equivalent of the Mini box here – you will have to use another Virgin TiVo or V6 box, and that could end up costing you some extra wedge unless you already have an old one. The fact that the boxes need to be connected through Ethernet also restricts their ability to move them around the house.
On the plus side, the use of two full-fledged boxes gives you those extra tuners and recording space and as with Sky Q, you can also see it on your smartphone and tablet. You can also add more boxes if you wish, giving you more storage space and tuners.
BT is again the poor relationship here. While you can add a second box, doing so does not give you any of the Virgin Mary’s fluid neatness features. Essentially, you are only adding a separate second unit that you can use to watch TV in a second room. There is no interchange of recordings between the boxes and while you can use the BT applications to view on a phone, tablet or laptop, there are all kinds of restrictions that control the content that you can access.
As with Virgin, the second box has to be connected to your router via Ethernet, restricting where it can be placed, although BT provides useful PowerLine style plugs to make this easier. Another thing you can not do, however, is to have 4K in your second room – you are limited to one UHD box per household.
It is again pretty even between Sky and Virgin when it comes to multiroom. Both approaches have their good and bad points, so we are calling for a tie. BT is again far behind in this respect.
First: Sky Q / Virgin TV
3rd: BT BT
Sky Q vs. Virgin TV vs BT TV: 4K content
The sky is comfortably the best current source of 4K content in the UK. Anyone who subscribes to HD Sport and Film channels also gets the 4K version at no additional cost, giving you the likes of The Martian, Specter and, er, Arsenal vs Hull City in all their ultra-high definition glory.
You also get plenty of TV shows – including Fortitude and Ross Kemp Extreme World (come on, you love it). In addition, you can buy about 30 more movies through the Sky Store.
Virgin is not so well stocked. In fact, it is more like a branch of Currys after a riot across the city. While you can subscribe to Sky Sports and Cinema through Virgin, and BT Sport also, you will not have access to the UHD versions. There is no 4K content available on demand on the Virgin platform, not even among the paid movies, and when asked, Virgin would just say that “it will continue to increase our 4K offer as demand from our customers grows.”
What you get through the V6 is access to Netflix, which is not something Sky offers, although it is also available on BT TV. Netflix has a lot of UHD content, and since its own originals are among the best shows that are currently being performed in the world, which is a big deal, Let’s take Stranger Things or House Of Cards on Ross Kemp Extreme World any day. However, most 4K TVs already include an integrated Netflix app, or you can stream it from your phone to a Chromecast Ultra, which means that this is not a reason to buy the V6.
BT sits perfectly between Sky and Virgin in the 4K order. The big draw is sport: you get a dedicated channel, the BT Sport 4K UHD, which projects an average of one or two live matches per week, taking in the English Premier League, the Champions League and the National Football League, Rugby Union Premiership and other sports Including Moto GP, boxing and UFC.
Out of the sport there is no native 4K content, but as Virgin BT has a built-in Netflix app, it gives you wonders like Daredevil, Orange is the new black, The OA and all the rest. But also as with Virgin, your 4K TV probably has a proprietary Netflix application, so there is not that much of a selling point beyond being seamlessly integrated into the BT YouView-run configuration; You will even find Netflix results that appear in the universal search function.
This is one of the easiest rounds to get: Sky Q wins with a knockout. There is not much in it between Sky and BT on the sports front – Sky has more close-up football, and live Formula 1, but BT has the Champions League in addition to a wide range of other sports. But while BT has Netflix, Sky surpasses it by having plenty of movies and entertainment masses also available in ultra high definition. Virgin just has Netflix and YouTube right now, which means it brings back.
1st: Sky Q
2nd: BT TV
3rd: Virgin TV
Sky Q vs Virgin TV vs BT TV: Catch-up and on-demand
Sky also leads the way of the 4K arena, with its Sky Atlantic channel offering a lot of TV programmes including Game Of Thrones, Billions and the next Twin Peaks reboot. A la carte is equally impressive. Sky Box-sets has hundreds of hours of excellent TV – everything from current favourites like The Walking Dead to classics like The West Wing.
With so much in demand and catching up on Sky, you have to download the programs before you can see them. On the plus side, this means that there is no buffering during playback. But on the negative side, it is not instantaneous. Demonstrations do not take long to transfer, however, as long as you have a decent internet connection – it will often be less than 1 minute.
Virgin has a few decent set-top-bobox of their own, but nowhere near as many as Sky. You can not get Sky Atlantic on Virgin either, and it just does not have great exclusive shows. Virgin’s only potential advantage is that V6 broadcasts its content on-demand and recovery, and given Virgin’s fast broadband speeds, you typically do not experience buffering when viewing programs. The capture is seamlessly integrated into the main TV Guide: you can scroll backwards in the timeline and if there is a show available, you can click on it and start watching immediately.
BT adopts the same approach as Virgin, allowing it to move backwards and jump directly into catch-up programs as long as they are available in one of the integrated services. It has more options than Sky or Virgin on this front, with the likes of UK TV Play (home of Dave and Yesterday, among others) included alongside the usual tastes of BBC iPlayer and 4oD.
For the demand, you get the BT player, where you can buy a decent selection of movies and box games. In terms of free stuff, the selection is relatively limited, but still a bit better than Virgin. For example, BT’s exclusive AMC channel offers Pierce Brosnan’s new movie, Western The Son, and you’ll also find the magnificent Mr Robot and Orange the New Black available here.
As with the 4K content, Sky leads the way for demand ahead of BT and then Virgin. BT handles the best of the three.
1st: Sky Q
2nd: BT TV
3rd: Virgin TV
Sky Q vs TV vs TV: HDR and Dolby Atmos
Despite what you may have read elsewhere, Sky’s Q box is physically capable of getting out of HDR but is currently awaiting an update to make it a reality. All we know now is that he’s working on it. Dolby Atmos surround sound is a similar arrangement – Sky has confirmed that it is in the pipeline, but not when.
The Virgin V6 box is similar to Sky as it will be able to exit in HDR once an update arrives. Currently, there is no content available to take advantage of it, beyond Netflix. It is in a better position on the front of Atmos, as it is already able to exit in the audio format of the room, but again there is still no content on Virgin that will work with it.
While others can only broadcast theoretically in the Dolby Atmos format, the BT Box YouView + Ultra HD is already doing so. At the moment it is limited to the Premier League football matches on the UHD channel, but given that Atmos excels with live events, that’s not bad. The box is also capable of output HDR, but currently, it will not.
It is clearly still early days for all three services, but BT is currently the leader of this race for being the only one actually being in operation with Dolby Atmos.
1st: BT TV
2nd: Virgin TV
3rd: Sky Q
Sky Q vs. Virgin TV vs BT TV: Design and Remote Control
The stylish and futuristic Sky Q box is much easier on the eyes than the Virgin V6 or BT YouView + Ultra HD. With dimensions of 330 x 210 x 43 mm, it is thinner than the V6 as well, but wider than the BT UHD box and has a larger total surface area than both.
The Sky Q remote control is a step ahead of the basic clickers thanks to its large trackpad, which allows you to easily navigate through the menus of the user interface. However, we have found that it is a little more sensitive in use. It also has an alarm to make it easier to find when it is lost, plus a microphone that you can use for voice searches.
The V6 is not, it must be said, an attractive set-top box. It is squat and level, and will not win any awards for its style. On the plus side, it is very compact: 230 x 153 x 55 mm in size.
The remote control of the new box has been slightly redesigned, which makes it smaller than the previous Virgin, adding RF support (to work even if the box is hidden out of sight) and a new button to go directly to search. It also has an alarm that can be triggered from the box, helping you locate it if you lose it.
The BT YouView TopView box looks distinctly state-of-the-art, with plenty of fairly cheap plastic on display and not much in the design style. It is the shortest of the three, however, with dimensions of 273 x 152 x 43 mm.
The BT remote control is a fairly large and flat effort with many buttons. Most of them are where you will want them, but the main navigation keys can be a little fiddly to find with your fingers. There is no clean technology packaged inside it.
There is not a lot in this round, but the fact that Sky seems to have put in at least a little effort in raising his box and remote above the boring rule gives him the win.
1st: Sky Q
2nd: Virgin TV
3rd: BT TV
This was the full comparison of Sky Q vs Virgin TV vs BT TV. Now it is up to you to select the best TV Service Providers according to your needs.