At a Glance
Virgin might be the best option here if you want the fastest broadband but Sky has a more well-rounded package as long as you don’t mind a satellite dish on your house.
Sky Q edges in front on number of elements including a more modern box and interface as well as better Ultra HD content and other handy features like advanced Netflix integration.
Best Prices Today: Sky Q
Choosing which TV and broadband service to get is a tricky one with so many factors to consider. Sky and Virgin are two of the leading options on the market so we’ve compared them in various areas to help you choose which is best for you.
Since there’s lots of elements to these services, we’ve broken the comparison down into small sections including price, interface, channels, apps and more. Let the battle commence.
Price & Bundles
Buying TV isn’t a simple game as it depends on what sort of package you want, as well as – in the case of Sky – which box(es) you want. It’s complicated, especially if you want to take broadband or other services too, but here’s how it works for each company in terms of TV.
Sky Q starts at £22 per month for a basic package including 300 Sky channels. You’ll then need to add other packs and add-ons for a more complete experience.
Deals change every now and then so you can get things cheaper than these prices, but the standard price for things like Cinema, Sports and Kids are £19, £30 and £5 per month respectively. Adding HD channels is a further £5 per month.
You’ll then want to consider things like Sky Q Experience which unlocks features like multi-room and Ultra HD – it’s £13 a month. Then there’s Ultimate On-Demand which gives you access to thousands of shows, er, on demand as well as Netflix – it’s £13 a month.
Sky charges £20 installation for a normal Sky Q box and £199 for the 2TB model, although that’s knocked down to £75 if you take Q Experience. At the moment you can get a Sky Q mini box for £20 instead of £99.
There’s a wide range of prices then, but if you take every option at with deals at the time of writing, Sky Q can cost £86 a month with a one-off £95 fee for installation and boxes (which are loaned to you).
View the Sky Q bundles here.
Over at Virgin you can choose one of four bundles which include broadband and phone. They start at £33 per month for the Player package which has 125 channels – with HD but no big name Sky channels. You’ll just get TiVo box, not the newer V6.
Move to Player + Drama for £43 a month and you’ll get 160 channels including Sky One, Comedy Central and Fox. Not all of them are HD, though. The next package Full House – £57 with 247 channels including a number of Sky HD channels, BT Sport HD and Virgin’s Ultra HD channel.
The most expensive Virgin package is V.VIP at £99 per month and this crucially adds Sky Cinema and Sports channels along with some kids ones too. The total number of channels is 303 and you’ll get two V6 boxes.
Virgin installation is a flat £25 for any of the above packages.
View the Virgin TV bundles here.
As mentioned above, Virgin’s bundles include broadband (and phone) which not only keeps things neat but also makes the prices more justifiable.
The two cheapest bundles come with Vivid 50 which provides speeds of up to 54Mbps over fibre. You’ll then jump to Vivid 100 (up to 108Mbps) and Vivid 500 (up to 516Mbps) for Full House and V.VIP respectively.
Virgin consistently – currently 10 years running – wins the uSwitch award for fastest broadband provider, but you’ll still want to check the availability for your address
Whichever package you go for, you’ll get Virgin’s Hub 3 router and Intelligent Wi-Fi which promises to automatically adapt to different devices and the demands of various tasks.
The prices we’ve mentioned above for Sky don’t include broadband but you’ll be given the option to add it during the checkout process. You have three options starting with Broadband Unlimited at an average of 11Mbps for £20 a month.
Fibre Unlimited (average 38Mbps) and Fibre Max (average 63Mbps) are both £27 per month at the time of writing, but bear in mind that these are fixed for 18 months then jump up. There’s a set up fee of £9.95. Again, check the broadband for your address first
Going with Sky gives you the advantage of the Q Hub working with the any Q minis to create a mesh network for better coverage around your home. Each one acts as a repeater.
Remember that Sky doesn’t need broadband for watching live TV, just streaming or downloading on-demand content.
If broadband is an important part of your buying decision then it could be a big reason to go with Virgin. It also means you don’t need to have a satellite dish bolted to the side of your house.
Check out the best broadband deals here.
Channels and Ultra HD
What channels you get depends on which package you take with each provider as we’ve touched on above. Sky is the big content producer here with plenty of its own cinema and sports channels, but you can get the majority of them on Virgin anyway. You’ll just have to get the top package to get the Cinema and Sports channels.
It’s worth noting that Sky Atlantic isn’t available though, so if you like watching the latest dramas like Game of Thrones then going with Sky is the right move.
Sky allows you to choose a little more specifically want you want by offering packs including Entertainment, Sport, Cinema and Kids. They do what you’d expect.
Virgin has a dedicated channel for Ultra HD (aka 4K) content which sounds good but when you think about it, having 4K across multiple channels when it’s available is better. You can also get BT Sport UHD.
Sky has a wealth of Ultra HD shows, over 200 films and a lot of live sport is also available in the higher quality including Premier League football and Formula 1. Sky says there’s a total of 3000 hours of Ultra HD content available across movies, sport and entertainment.
You’ll just need the 2TB box and Q Experience.
Catch-up and On-demand
As well as regular channels, you can use Virgin and Sky to access various catch-up and on-demand services.
So you can watch things like YouTube and iPlayer easy enough, but while Virgin offers the apps Sky does things a bit differently. For services like ITV Hub and iPlayer, you can download the shows at full broadcast quality rather than simply streaming them.
It also works differently with Netflix if you have Ultimate On Demand, which on top of Sky content, you get Netflix woven into the Sky Q interface so there’s no need to use it as a separate app. You can still use an existing Netflix account and cost will be handled in your Sky bill.
Read more about Netflix on Sky Q.
Despite the newer V6 box, Virgin still uses the interface from TiVo. This means existing customers will be familiar with it but it’s looking a bit clunky and dated in 2019. For example, recordings don’t have thumbnails.
Sky Q has a slick and modern look with even few updates since launching in 2016. The firm tweaked things to make better use of the screen, as well as adding things like the ability to search Sky and Netflix content.
It might take Sky+ customers a couple of weeks to get used to, but it will be worth it.
Boxes & Remotes
Things are nice and simple at Virgin with the latest V6 box, which is the only choice. It’s not a particularly stylish design but it’s compact and looks nicer than the older TiVo box.
A curvy remote comes with the V6 which has a somewhat overwhelming amount of buttons. Like most, you’ll get used to it (especially if you previously had TiVo) and it works well over Bluetooth so doesn’t require line of sight to the box. You can find a lost remote by holding down channel up on the V6 box.
Sky’s range of Q boxes look more slick and modern, but it’s a little bit more confusing as to which to choose.
There are 1- and 2TB boxes (the latter used to be called ‘Silver’) but it’s not just storage that is different here. The smaller box can record fewer shows simultaneously and is also restricted to HD content. We’ll explore the features in more detail below.
Sky also offers the Q mini for other rooms around the house, which for some might come in really handy.
Sky has different remote controls with a rubber button one similar to Virgin’s or a touch remote. We didn’t like the first generation of the touch sensitive option but a new model is much better with the option to use touch or buttons. If you lose the touch remote, you can push a button on the Sky Q box to make it beep.
In terms of ports and connectivity the Virgin V6 has a small advantage by offering scart alongside HDMI, but requires a cable for internet which is a pain. The Sky Q boxes might not have scart but have Wi-Fi as well as Ethernet.
Recording and storage
It’s good that the Virgin V6 box has some decent features as standard like being able to record six things at once while watching a 7th. The box also supports Ultra HD resolution if you have a
TV to match).
The downside here is that there’s only one storage option at 1TB so you can record up to 500 hours of standard definition content.
This means the V6 sits between the Q boxes in terms of features as the smaller of Sky’s main options is also 1TB but can only record three shows while watching a 4th. It’s also worth noting that you can’t watch Ultra HD content here, only HD.
Getting the 2TB not only gets you twice the storage, but abilities that match the V6 in terms of recording shows and Ultra HD. That is, if you take the Q Experience option with your subscription which also allows you to watch on three different TVs at once.
Streaming and apps
This is where the Q mini comes in because it’s a great way of having Sky in other rooms like your bedroom or the kitchen. You can add up to four to the Sky Q system and it’s really easy with this tiny box and Wi-Fi.
The 2TB Sky Q box will allow you to stream to two devices, like a tablet, at once. Go with the 1TB model and you’ll be restricted to just one.
Virgin also offers multi-room if you have another V6 or an older TiVo box as a second screen. The advantage of using two V6 boxes is you get to use the storage on both and Ultra HD, where the Q mini doesn’t have a hard drive and is 1080p. However, it does need to be wired into the network rather than using Wi-Fi.
On Virgin you can stream to a maximum of two devices on the same account. A Full House customer can use up to four devices including via the Virgin TV Go app.
TV Go works in a similar way to the Sky Q app in that you can watch live TV or stream on demand content to devices like a smartphone or tablet. However, while Sky Q does it all, you’ll need a separate TV Control app to do things like set recordings on the V6 box.
Either way you can download content for offline viewing but Virgin warns that this only includes ‘selected content’. Sky Q allows you to download any of your recordings to take with you if you have Q Experience.
If you want to search for content with your voice, which will feel natural if you have some smart speakers around the house then you’ll need to go with Sky.
The touch remote has a microphone you can easily speak your request, which is a lot quicker than typing it. It’s also pretty smart so you can search for actors and even lines from films as well as plain titles.
Read more about Sky Voice Search.
There’s a lot to consider here so it’s not exactly a simple decision, but we do think there’s a winner here.
Although the Virgin V6 has some advantages like Ultra HD as standard, you’ll still need the right package to get the channel with UHD content. The firm is the place to go if you want the fastest broadband, though, and if you don’t like the idea of a satellite dish on your house.
Sky Q wins in a number of areas we think are key in providing a premium TV service including boxes with Wi-Fi, the ease of having Q minis in other rooms, a better interface and more useful app. If you’re ok with a dish, broadband is really only required for the odd download.
Then there’s the larger range of Ultra HD content, the way Netflix is built into the Sky Q system and other handy features like voice search. All with the right package add-ons, of course.
Sky Q: Specs
- HDMI Out (HDMI 1.4b output with HDCP 1.2)
- 1x USB, (1A port, non-charging) – for future use
- Optical S/PIDF (Digital Audio)
- 1x 10/100Mb/s Ethernet RJ45 port
- Composite Video/L/R 4-pole 3.5mm Jack (L/R/Video/GND)
- Wireless works dual band on 2.4GHz and 5GHz concurrently
- 2.4GHz 801.11n is 2×2 MIMO – Back compatible with 802.11 b/g
- 5GHz 801.11ac is 3×3 MIMO – Back compatible with 802.11n
- Supports Powerline AV1.1 – only compatible with other Sky devices. Not available at launch
- Bluetooth 4.0 LE support
- 4:3, 16:9 aspect ratio support
- Video resolution supported: 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 576p