Sky has delayed its planned HDR (High Dynamic Range) roll-out until later this year. Despite announcing plans to support the format back in February 2018 – and supposedly planning to launch support last year, it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to tune into HDR content via your Sky Q box anytime soon.
According to a forum post from a Sky employee, HDR support will hit Sky Q in late 2020 – at the absolute earliest.
That hands a pretty substantial advantage to Virgin Media. The broadcasting company’s TV V6 set-top box already boasts support for HDR (it has done since launch, although the ability to stream and watch was enabled with a software update after the box was launched nationwide) Virgin Media set records with the first 4K HDR broadcast of The French Open tennis tournament in May 2019. HDR support not only extends to live broadcasts, but is also supported in the built-in Netflix app.
In the past, Netflix has stated HDR is more impressive than 4K Ultra HD alone. For those who don’t know, HDR (High Dynamic Range) can plunge to deeper blacks and flash much brighter whites than a standard picture. It is also designed to stop colours from becoming too washed-out in brighter scenes, or being lost in the gloom in darker parts of the frame.
While 4K Ultra HD is all about the sharpness of the image – by packing in four times as many pixels as standard 1080p High Definition, HDR is all about boosting the colour performance across the image.
So, if you’re looking to get the best possible viewing experience when tuning into the new season of Sex Education, or catching up with the chilling first season of Haunting Of Hill House – you’ll want to watch on a HDR-compatible streaming device, like the Virgin Media TV V6, or Fire TV Cube from Amazon. For comparison, streaming Netflix through Sky Q, which has been possible since an update in late 2018, will not be the best possible viewing quality because it’ll lack HDR support.
Sky Q’s plans to bring HDR to its box was first announced by Sky alongside Spotify integration and more Ultra HD content around the start of 2018. While all of those features have now landed on set-top boxes nationwide… we’re still waiting on the HDR. Sky says it hasn’t rushed to roll-out the update because of lack of interest from its customers.
HDR isn’t the only feature that’s available on Virgin Media’s TV V6 box that you won’t find on Sky Q. Virgin Media has a built-in Amazon Prime Video app – just like Netflix – which lets you watch the thousands of movies and boxsets. Not to mention the original television shows and films created by Amazon for its service, like Good Omens, The Grand Tour and Manchester by the Sea.
Prime Video isn’t included in your Virgin Media TV package, instead you’ll have to hold an Amazon Prime membership (which also includes free next-day shipping on thousands of products, a vast lending library for Kindle owners, unlimited photo storage and more) or a monthly Prime Video-specific subscription to watch.
Sky hasn’t revealed whether it plans to bring a Prime Video app to its service. With more and more streaming offerings popping up – Apple TV+ and Disney+ being the latest – there is no one-size-fits-all solution for those who want to keep up with every show being discussed at their office water cooler.
HDR disappointment aside, Sky has plenty of other features planned for this year. For example, Sky Q could finally ditch the satellite dish and work over the internet instead, meaning those who live in high-rise flats or rented accommodation without the provision for a dish on the outside wall will still be able to tune-in to Sky content. As it stands, those viewers will have to resort to the company’s contract-free video on-demand service, NOW TV.
Sky first announced the news that will allow its service to be beamed to homes without a dish back in 2017. At the time, Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch said it would allow Sky to target up to six million households across Europe and two million in the UK who can’t or don’t want a satellite dish.
Unfortunately, since then, there’s been no new UK updates although Sky is slowly rolling out some customers in Italy and Austria. There’s still no official word on when British customers will get this option but speaking to Pocket-lint, a Sky spokesperson said: “There is scope for [Sky without a dish] to be rolled out across all key markets in future, although we don’t have any further information on details or timings at this time.”