Even before NowTV, television was changing. TV programs are bigger, better and more star studded than ever. Whether it’s documentaries from far flung corners of the planet or slick retro productions like Mad Men, TV makers have upped their game. There’s more to watch on terrestrial and cable, and online services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have found niche markets with their own programs.
NowTV is a service from Sky that’s joined this line-up. It’s an entertainment, cinema and sports provider that’s available online. As well as being available on laptops or mobile phones and tablets, there’s a NowTV set-top box designed to be used using your home broadband. Apps and players are fine, but this box is the most user-friendly way to bring NowTV in to the living room, for all the family to watch.
Unpacking this new entertainment gadget reveals the box to be compact at three and a half inches square and weighing less than five ounces. As well as the NowTV box itself, in the package are two AAA batteries for the included remote, a mains power adaptor and thankfully, a HDMI cable.
The box also has a USB port and MicroSD card slot that can be used in the future as the service adds new features. There’s an Ethernet socket on the box for plugging in to your home broadband router which I prefer to use. Wired internet connections provide a more consistent connection than using a gadget’s own built in WiFi, particularly if you have a house full of connected smartphones or children.
Once I’d connected the HDMI cable to my TV and the powered up the box an introductory screen prompted me to connect to my broadband network which took only a few seconds. With that done, I used the remote control to enter my NowTV account details which I’d created earlier on my laptop.
The onscreen interface is attractive and easy to navigate. There’s an apps section which gives you access to the likes of YouTube and RedBullTV. TuneIn Radio is also available as an app and you can bring full internet radio to your TV and living-room via the NowTV box.
The settings section allows you to choose the resolution, with 1080 high-definition available and there are useful features like the ability to add closed-captions for those hard of hearing.
With the NowTV account I set up, I can watch on up to four screens, and two of them at the same time. NowTV works sort of like a Pay-As-You-Go mobile phone. You can buy passes for the cinema, entertainment or sports packages. They’re priced fairly, but the standout value seems to be the cinema package which I discovered has an array of films I hadn’t seen.
Using the box & NowTV
Using the box is straightforward and it’s performance surprised me with most apps and programs opening and playing instantly. The home screen that’s displayed on your TV is usefully organised to show content that you may have missed in the catch-up section. There’s also eleven live television channels if you have the entertainment pass and includes channels like Sky Atlantic and Gold.
NowTV is a service that’s likely to appeal to those wanting to shirk off the commitment of annual contracts for TV. That’s likely perhaps, to be students or those sharing houses but I think the NowTV box would also be ideal for second or holiday homes, given the a la carte nature of the viewing passes.
Overall, the box worked well for me. I’m not that keen on the remote control and it’s onscreen keyboard when you need to key in search terms or passwords. A dual sided remote with keyboard would be useful addition. That said, for a device that’s priced as it is, it’s well made and its performance is lightning quick.
Whichever of the three viewing pass you pair it with, the audio and picture quality are excellent and the available apps give it the potential to do even more. It won’t replace a Sky or Netflix subscription, but it’s a smart, decently priced way of complementing them.
More info: www.nowtv.com