As I mentioned last week, I’m an XBox LIVE Ambassador, and over the next few weeks I’m going to be testing out all the new features that have arrived with the latest update to the XBox operating system. This week it’s TV week, and so the geekdaddy and I settled down tonight to dig around the “tv” menu on the XBox and see what we could watch.
I should explain before I go too much further that our existing television setup is eclectic to say the least. We have a lovely wall-mounted HD TV, full surround sound system, with an Apple Mac Mini connected to it, through which we watch all our TV. About a year ago we cancelled our Sky subscription as we really didn’t feel we were getting value for money from it, and these days we exist on FreeSat and the BBC iPlayer. So I was interested to check out the options on the XBox for both live TV and video on demand, offered via Sky TV’s “Go” service.
The geekdaddy and I are not huge watchers of television, but I must confess to being a bit of a Glee fan, and it’s one of the few series that make me think every now and again that I should go back to Sky. I think the XBox people got wind of this, as they sent me a little gift to make my Glee-watching corner of the sofa a little more homely (see picture). So I snuggled down on the sofa, and switched on the XBox.
It was easy to navigate around the menus, and I was delighted that the first item being advertised on the tv channel on my XBox dashboard was Glee (had they heard I was coming?!). As a non-Sky subscriber I had to sign up for the Sky Go service before I could access any of the TV content on the XBox. There are a range of subscription options starting from £15 per month, and I was pleased to see there was no minimum contract duration – this is a service you can buy just for a month or two if you want. I also discovered that there is a free Sky Go iPad app which enables you to access the service from your iPad, and you can even stream different channels simultaneously to the iPad and XBox – now the geekdaddy has no argument against me watching my Glee as he can watch something else somewhere else in the house!
The Sky signup was a very quick process, and within a few minutes I was watching last week’s episode of Glee via the video on demand section. It streamed quickly, and was perfectly watchable. I should mention though that all the Sky content on XBox Live is presented in standard definition, and Dolby stereo – no HD or surround sound here which was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe that is an enhancement that will be considered in the future – I can but hope.
There is a smaller set of channels available on the Sky Go service than I remember from my Sky subscription days, but all the important ones (Sky One, Movies, Sports) are there (depending on your chosen subscription), and everything we tested streamed very nicely. In fact, the selection of movies available on demand at the moment is not bad at all, and the geekdaddy and I saw several we would like to watch (once I’ve caught up with my Glee of course!). Not everything that is currently showing on Sky is available in the “on demand” section, but again there was a reasonable selection, and I’d like to hope that if the service proves popular this is something that can be expanded on.
Lastly I had a little look into the parental control settings. Thankfully the geekdaughter isn’t quite old enough yet to be able to navigate her way around the XBox menus, but I’m sure it won’t be long before she can, and then we may choose to restrict what content she has unsupervised access to. I was pleased to discover that on Sky Go you can set a PIN, and also a rating level (U, PG, 12 etc) above which the PIN is requested before the content will play. So whilst the geekdaughter has laid claim to my Glee eyemask (she’s actually gone to sleep wearing it this evening!), I will be able to stop her watching the actual show until I think she’s old enough for it.
So here at the geek family we think that TV via the XBox is off to a good start, and hope that it will be enhanced over time so that the quality and selection are even better.
Disclosure: I have been provided with a complimentary month’s access to the Sky Go service for review purposes, and XBox sent a few Glee goodies to inspire me to write this post