Updates!

For my regular readers, I apologise for not updating this blog for a while as I’ve been very busy.  During the past month, I’ve passed my probation in the new job I started back in August and what with just having gone through the recent Black Friday/Cyber Monday, the weeks leading up to it have been extraordinarily busy.

I’ve cancelled Virgin Media and gone back to Sky for TV, phone and broadband (well, the phone not so much – I’ll be using my EE mobile for the most part and just keep the Sky landline for incoming calls).  I can tell you right now, the difference between Sky and Virgin is like night and day.  Sky Q has improved considerably in the 8 months or so since I originally joined Virgin with their Tivo 6 box.  The Tivo has been a massive disappointment what with TV programmes regularly suffering from messed up imagery/artefacts and I’ve not been able to delete all programs I’ve recorded either – they just end up stuck.  The whole Sky Cinema SD/HD thing was just awful.  So Virgin Media has been given the heave-ho permanently this time.

I’m a tiny bit disappointed that Sky has done away with their Sky Fibre Broadband Pro package which offered a static IP.  As I also work from home on a semi-regular basis, having a static IP makes a big difference when configuring access control lists for various endpoints.  But the max package I’m on is nevertheless not shabby in the least, and the lease times on IPv4 seems long enough – plus IPv6 has been re-enabled (took around 12 days after activation), so I’m dual stack here.

Getting back to Sky Q – there’s a new remote!  Instead of giving everybody two remotes for the main Sky Q box, there is just one.  It doubles as a touch-sensitive remote as well as being a regular clicky one – controllable from within the Sky Q menu settings.  I really like this approach and big kudos to Sky for taking on board feedback from customers.  It’s a real pleasure to use now.  But the biggest thing for me is the voice control.  I ask Sky Q to change the channel (and it will automatically select the HD version of that channel if available) as well as fast forwarding and rewinding X seconds or minutes.   It matches up with the Apple 4K TV just nicely.  If only we had a unified remote that could control both!

Sky Q now offers favourite channels – something that was sadly lacking last time.  It still needs a bit of tweaking: ideally, there should be a favourites button on the remote to take you to the TV guide that compliments the (new) existing feature of allocating favourites to the remote buttons.

Sky Cinema is back in full HD, and still offers a not unreasonable number of ultra HD (4K) content.  Unlike the Tivo V6 which didn’t offer anything at all.  And the best part is that Sky Cinema is only £10 a month for the duration of my 18-month contract.  Let’s hope we can do a deal again when it comes to renewing it!

For me, while I have had a massive speed drop from 300Mbs to 76Mbs (on average around 65Mbs), this isn’t a big problem.  Rarely do I achieve speeds above 150Mbs anyway – mainly because many websites simply won’t go above 100Mb due to bandwidth throttling at the hosting company – take a look at a lot of hosting packages and you’ll see what I mean.  But I’d rather Sky’s speeds with their brilliant Sky Q Hub than Virgin Media’s Intel-powered latency inducing SuperHub 3.

(BTW, not being paid by Sky to say these things – just a very happy customer with one exception – I have continually received “please return our equipment” SMSes and emails over the past month with threats to charge me despite the equipment being sent back with evidence of posting.  I think this has finally been resolved by speaking to an operator who got me to upload a scan of the Post Office receipt to a special section of Sky’s website.  So hopefully that’s that.)

Oh, and I’ve also replaced my Oppo 203 UltraHD Blu-Ray player with an Xbox One X – currently the most powerful console yet, with its 6 Teraflops of processing power.  It also has an UltraHD Blu-Ray player in it, and is much, much smaller than the Oppo.  I’ve been very impressed with it, but not so much with Microsoft Store who mucked up the extended warranty necessitating in two phone calls and a bunch of emails.  I’m not entirely sure the issue has been fully resolved as my account has weird XML related code embedded in the page where the warranty info is.  Let’s say that if I were considering a Surface Pro 2 which can cost up to £3k, I’d be very wary of buying it directly from Microsoft.  If they can’t get it right with an Xbox…

So that’s it so far!

Sky’s Pie in the Eye

After nearly a full year of Sky Q, I’m almost ready to give up.  Except I can’t – not until August (blasted 18-month contracts).

The biggest problem with Sky Q for me is the user interface – requiring far too many actions to get to where you want to go.  I’ve barely used the Sky Q minibox. I’ve had to power cycle the minibox a couple of times as there are a few Wi-Fi devices upstairs that rely on it and stopped working after the box went a bit wonky (technical term).

I detest Sky’s series record.  It doesn’t work very well at all.  I often find it records new episodes and repeats of the same episodes, completely stops after a series ends and never picks up the next series, and all manner of silly things.  I use Sky’s web-based Never Miss to fill in the blanks, but honestly, this just isn’t good enough.

I gave up using the fancy pants Sky touch remote a while back.  Scrubbing through adverts is too sensitive – often going way beyond where I want to end up. The IR remote also supplied works well enough.

UHD 4K content is still sadly lacking too.

I also find that adding/removing packages is horribly inconsistent too.  Sometimes you can use the web interface to manage this, other times you need to speak to somebody by phone.   Why can’t we manage our account entirely online?

The only good thing about the whole package has been Sky Broadband Fibre Pro. Rock solid, with static IP and IPv6 address and everything.

But I think that come August I’ll be switching to Virgin Media.  Now they offer upload speeds up to 20Mbs and download speeds up to 200Mbs, with IPv6 coming later this year (apparently) – and a new, faster (and tiny) Tivo box that offers even more simultaneous live channel recording than Sky Q, albeit with a smaller capacity hard drive (doesn’t bother me – I’ve barely filled the Sky Q box HD).  I’d be happy to get rid of the Movie channels.  I don’t watch them as often as I used to – I find these days Netflix & Amazon take up most of my viewing time.