November 02, 2013

Sky Atlantic on the Now TV box - first impressions

Well, that was a disappointing start. Plugged in my new Now TV box (HDMI, power) and turned to Sky Atlantic and... no ER. Ho hum. I'm not sure how many other shows are going to be missing but it looks like Sky have scrimped on the "all platforms" rights on some US imports. This could get frustrating.
Fortunately, the next show I try is Blue Bloods, the Tom Selleck Atlantic exclusive. Now this is more like it. Haven't got a clue what's going on as I've never seen it before, but the picture quality is very good on my 32in - certainly at the high end of the standard definition spectrum (think BBC1 SD rather than 5USA). I've seen worse HD picture quality to be truthful. No buffering or blocking whatsoever either. I'm impressed.
It's the same with the Atlantic On Demand content too - a few minutes of Boardwalk Empire (season 4) and Attenborough's Flying Monsters and the PQ holds up extremely well. It's a sharp and well balanced picture for SD, good colour saturation and nicely detailed. I hadn't expected this at all.
Sadly, one of my expectations, limited On Demand shows, proves accurate. There's no opportunity to catch up with the Atlantic headline acts - Games of Thrones and Mad Men are both currently absent - but there are the last month's broadcast episodes of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Newsroom, Hello Ladies, Veep and a better selection of the UK Atlantic originals Alan Partridge's Mid Morning Matters (6 eps from season 1); The British (7 eps from season 1); 3 episodes of Attenborough's Kingdom of Plants; the Jack Dee panel show Don't Sit in the Front Row; Falcon (4 eps); Fish Town (10 eps); Hunderby (all 8); The Tunnel and something I'd never heard of called This is Jinsy. There are also 13 episodes from season 1 of Rescue Me - I didn't know that was on Atlantic.
There are ad breaks but they don't feature ads - just a short Atlantic promo. Maybe the ads will follow as the service matures?
It's a fair line up, somewhat light on the heavyweight imports and certainly short of the Sky Box Sets they have on the satellite service - for example, The Wire ain't there. With HBO it's catch up only by the look of things. Disappointing compared to Netflix's complete runs of Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Arrested Developments  etc. But at £4.99 a month, it's good, and if I had just Freeview, it would be very attractive indeed - Sky 1, Fox, Atlantic, Living, Arts 1, Gold etc. Sky has got a winner here methinks. Clever buggers. But remember though that £4.99 is tagged as only an "introductory" price. There's no word yet what the regular pricing will be.
The box is tiny and discrete, the remote and interface are fairly snappy, and although the EPG is a little bit of a struggle to get the hang of that's probably just down to it being unfamiliar. Did I mention the audio? I only have stereo (which sounds good) but 5.1 is an option too for those better equipped than me (!).
It's good. And for a tenner, a neat box. I had a quick look at the iPlayer and the PQ was fine on HD but very poor on SD. Not as good as VM's on either count.
So they're my first impressions. Neat. And I have Sky Atlantic at long, long last. What's the betting it will be on Virgin Media in the next few weeks now? Ho well, at least I've not signed up to an expensive contract.
BTW, Stephen Merchant's Hello Ladies is pretty darn funny, but the second episode PQ is a little soft to my eyes.
Any questions or things you'd like me to check out on my Now TV box, let me know.


Tom Chiverton said...

Sounds pointless.

Mark said...

Not pointless if you want a cheaper method of accessing some of the more popular subscription channels without a minimum term contract.

I do agree, it's not for the run-of-the-mill Virgin subscriber and certainly of no use to a current Sky customer...

Nialli said...

If you're on a budget and just looking to supplement Freeview, this gives you what is (arguably) the best of the non-Freeview channels at a reasonable price with no contract. Those with a modern games console or smart TV may not need the Now box, but if I was on a tighter budget I would give Now TV serious attention.
At a tenner, it's amazing value. The top of the range Roku which the Now TV box is based) is over £100

sibod said...

I've been playing around with it on my PS3 - it's reasonably good - 720p for on demand contend, SD for live.

Compared to Netflix though, it is very lacking indeed. No back catalogue stuff beyond a couple of shows. Why, for example, dont they have the rest of Ray Donavan - just episode 12?
Also what about the first season of Arrow for those who missed it because they only just made Now TV Entertainment available?
They advertise THe Wire as being available on their promotions for this and yet it's not on there at all.

Sky are very half arsed about this - and I think it's purely so they can hook you into a full sky subsciription rather than give people what they want..

BK said...

not top of the range roku - this is the basic roku model (LT)
still worth £50 mind.

properrlfan said...

Is there any outputs non it to record to a DVD recorder?

Nialli said...

Just a single (HDMI) out

BK said...

you can output to RCA (& record to DVD) but need the cable (£5) to connect to the minijack socket.