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Eye on Demand | July 26, 2017

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Sky Online TV Box (DE)

Sky Online TV Box (DE)

Review Overview

Value For Money
3.5
User Interface
5.5
Availability And Quality Of Services
3
4

Needs More Apps For This Price

If you’re subscribing to one of Sky Germany’s online services; Sky Online or Sky Snap, you may also be interested in their dedicated set-top-box, especially once you spot the Roku Powered label. We give this device a full rundown in our Sky Online TV Box review.

When you’re watching television at home, there is no better way than on your big-screen TV, with a good old fashioned remote-control dangling from your fingers while you slouch or lie on the sofa.

This is exactly the principle behind the Sky Online TV Box. It’s small, elegant and for €69, you’ll get easy access to Sky Online, Snap, and a small handful of selected 3rd party apps.

But whatever you do, don’t get fooled by that “Roku Powered” label. This is not a Roku box. Roku make set-top-boxes and sell them in a small number of countries, which at the time of publication included the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Mexico. These boxes contain Roku firmware and are generally speaking for all intents and purposes, an open platform.

“Roku Powered” devices like the one reviewed here, simply utilise the Roku hardware. The firmware on the other hand is squarely in the hands of Sky DE, and this is far from an open box. Once you buy it, there is no converting it to a US or UK Roku and there is no opportunity to add apps or channels from anywhere outside of Sky DE’s limited range.

This “Roku Powered” Sky Online TV Box is for Germany’s Sky TV only, and is not compatible with Sky services from other countries

This review is concentrating on the hardware itself. For a look at Germany’s Sky Online streaming VOD service, please check out our other review (to be published shortly).

 


  • Physical

    By default we should expect nothing less than a Roku product behind the Roku Powered label, and in this case it’s effectively a two year old Roku 3 with a simpler remote.

    Smaller than an Apple TV, this tiny box unfortunately has to remain in visual sight so that the remote can access it, but due to its diminutive size it won’t be hard to find a suitable spot in most homes.

    RokuPoweredSky

    For those who have used the latest Roku 3 remotes though, you may be a little disappointed here. There is none of the extra features found on a real Roku 3 remote such as the microphone, preset buttons, headphone socket, WiFi connect or motion detection. Instead what you have is a much more basic line-of-sight model with none of the whizzbang bells and whistles. Still, it is light and feels solid enough, if a little cheap.

    Roku Remote

    Ports on the rear and side of the main box include a USB port (for playing personal media), power socket, Ethernet port, microSD card slot and the obligatory HDMI port.

    If you’re wondering where the on/off switch is, there isn’t one. The only way to fully power down the device is to pull the plug from the wall, although it will go into low power mode after a period of time.

    Ports

    Overall, the box is elegant enough, but lacks the finer details and features of a real Roku 3 that most Americans or Brits will be used to.

    Specifications:

    • Dimensions: 8,9 x 8,9 x 2,5 cm
    • Video output: 720 HDTV, 1080p HDTV
    • CPU: Dual-Core
    • RAM: 512 MB
    • Network: Dual Band WiFi (802.11 a/b/g/n), Ethernet
    • Power: 12V / 1.0A


  • Services

    There is only one real app available on the Sky Online TV Box, and that’s Sky Online itself.

    Well, to be honest there are actually 13 others including YouTube and Vevo, but do they really count? What we can’t fail to ask is where are all the main broadcaster’s apps like ARD and ZDF? We can understand the omission of Netflix, Watchever, Maxdome and Prime if Sky Online don’t want direct competitors, but surely the main television networks should have been included.

    Consider this: A real Roku device is famed for having thousands of apps (or channels as they like to call them) but this device has only 14, with 1 of them actually being useful. Granted, a great deal of those other Roku apps found in the US are little more than local church groups, but if you sieve through all the pointless ones, you can install almost every major television or media service found in the US or UK.

    Take into account that Sky’s UK equivalent is a similar Roku (3) powered device for only £15, but includes all of the major broadcasters which can be used for free. That’s the BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport, ITV Hub, All 4 and Demand 5, making it the best value VOD set-top-box on the market – anywhere in the world!

    On the other hand, the Sky Online TV Box comes preinstalled with Sky Online (which can also be used for Sky Snap customers), but little else of consequence, and to be honest I couldn’t see any reason to test out the other apps.

    This means that unlike the Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV or Android TV (e.g. Nexus Player), unless you subscribe to Sky Online or Sky Snap, it is very unlikely that you’ll be picking up the remote.

    Apps2

    In the US and UK, Roku remotes come with preset buttons that can instantly fire up Netflix or Hulu. Obviously we can’t expect that here but it would have been nice to have a Sky Online preset, especially since that is pretty much the only worthwhile app.

  •  

  • UI

    Whilst the Roku UI is looking quite a bit dated these days, the platform as a whole is still famed for its easy to use interface.

    The Sky Online TV Box sports a UI based on a stripped down standard Roku one, as it lacks any of the additional features and apps found on real Rokus, where it has even discarded the search option.

    One of the most breathtakingly annoying aspects of this box when using Sky Online was the endless amount of times we had to type in our PIN. I can understand the need for protecting younger eyes, but Sky Germany’s implementation is quite frankly ridiculous. There were times where I even needed to type in the PIN twice in a row! This meant that to fire up a live television stream, it took 63 key presses on the remote before the channel played back. Granted, having to key in the child lock code twice was obviously one of the many bugs I experienced with this service, but even if I only had to do it once, it would still be 31 key-presses too long.

    To top it off, there is no way to modify this at all in the settings, which is extremely annoying for those especially in households without children.

    Add to the fact entering a PIN by remote is far more irritating than on a keyboard, and that Sky DE do not allow any external keyboards to be connected, despite the presence of a USB port.

    On the positive side, you can select the language between German, English, French and Italian, which is a great thing in these multicultural times that we live in. Unfortunately, the Sky Online app itself is only available in German, even if most of the content it offers is in both the original soundtrack and German dubbing – but that’s for a different review.

    Overall, the device’s UI is simple and easy to navigate, but to be honest, I never really saw it, as my main goal was to always fire up the Sky Online app anyway and watch a bit of TV.

  • Conclusion

    I have to say that I find it difficult to like this box, and that’s outside of the slight prejudice that I had before I even got my hands on it, due to its “Roku Powered” label.

    Unlike pretty much all competitive set-top-boxes which can work with a wide range of media services, the Sky Online TV Box is incredibly limited.

    €70 is a lot of money for such a heavily restricted box that really only has one point – to increase Sky’s ratings by locking them into a platform that can’t do anything else. When you think about it, it’s a bit like if Sky sold a television without any significant reduction in price, that could only receive Sky channels.

    Couple this with buggy apps, expensive Sky Online packages, and outdated hardware, and I have to admit, I’m not incredibly excited about this platform.

    Still, if your only goal is to watch Sky Online or Sky Snap on the living room TV, and you really don’t mind dishing out €70, then I certainly can’t say that this won’t do the job.

    Personally though, I’d rather Sky either opened up the app store a bit more like the UK or Australian Roku Powered platforms of Now TV and Telstra TV, or just gave up on this box and instead launch more apps on competing platforms like the Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV or the real Roku (if it ever launches in Germany).

    Pros:

    • Comes with a Sky Online app.
    • Language can be set to German, English, Spanish or French (But Sky Online’s UI is always in German).

    Cons:

    • App store is terribly restricted.
    • Hardware is out of date.
    • UI looks quite outdated.
    • Sky Online app a bit buggy.
    • Too expensive.
    • PIN, PIN, PIN, always the damn PIN!
    • Remote is weak compared to current Roku 3.
    • Remote requires line-of-sight.

    Log:

    03.12.2015: Review Published: Score: 4: Needs More Apps For This Price.

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    (Some selected photos used in this review are property of Sky)


Comments

  1. James

    Thanks for the review. Does seems strange that any of the mediathek apps from ARD/ZDF etc, are not available ? I am seriously considering signing up to Skyonline.de so am looking forward to your further review of the service.

    • Hi James,

      Year, it is incredibly odd. Perhaps this is also to do with ARD, ZDF and the other broadcasters. Because the Sky Online Box is so intrenched into Sky’s own service, and perhaps also because it is so expensive, the TV broadcasters don’t see it as a viable platform to invest time and effort developing for. In the UK, there is also a full “unrestricted” Roku as well, as the broadcasters know that they have a lot more potential viewers for their content.

      As for Sky Online itself, my review will hopefully be finished this week. But to sum it up a bit, I find the content to be quite good especially for the movies section, but the UI and price are a bit of a let down.

      • James

        The whole package structure and pricing options are not as flexible compared to the UK version from what I have seen. I look forward to reading your review shortly.

        Have you come across Magine ? I would be interested to know how you would compare the service they offer to say Zattoo ?

        • Hi James, I’ve been testing Magine from the German and UK (beta) version. At this stage the UK one doesn’t excite me too much since it lacks the BBC channels, but I am considering a review on the German one which is quite impressive. It may take me a bit of time to get around to it sadly, as my priority right now is a full Apple TV review (gosh that box has huge potential), and I am getting behind on a few updates. Amazon US and CBS are looking a bit dated right now.

          But I always appreciate suggestions for a review, and there are services out there that I have yet to discover which you may know about, so definitely throw them my way 🙂