In an era where HD viewing – and even 4K – is becoming a standard expectation, Sky’s NOW streaming service appears to lag behind.
Despite its popularity for offering flexible and diverse content, NOW has drawn criticism for its approach to Full HD viewing.
This feature, which is often a given in other streaming services, is tucked away behind a paywall in the form of the £6/month NOW Boost add-on.
But the real kicker? Even after shelling out for NOW Boost, some users may not know that they will find themselves unable to access Full HD on their devices, including popular ones like iPhones, Android phones, and PCs (see the full list below).
And while NOW Boost does have additional benefits (such as being able to stream on up to 3 devices, and the removal of adverts that are otherwise present on NOW’s memberships) – the promise of Full HD is a major one.
What Is NOW Boost?
First, a quick refresher: NOW (formerly known as NOW TV) is Sky’s long-running standalone streaming service that doesn’t require a long-term contract and works as an app on many supported devices.
Late last year, Sky launched its Sky Stream, which is also a streaming service from Sky – but one that only works with the Sky Stream puck, and has a different interface (and pricing scheme) – See our Sky Stream VS NOW comparison.
NOW offers three main content packages (“memberships”):
- NOW Entertainment, normally at £9.99/m, with Sky’s TV channels, including Sky Atlantic, and content for kids.
- NOW Cinema, normally at £9.99/month. Identical to the Sky Cinema plan on Sky, with new blockbusters and back-catalogue films.
- NOW Sky Sports, normally at £34.99/month. Almost identical to Sky Sports on Sky (with Racing, Mix and News being part of this membership instead of Entertainment).
- There are often ways to get NOW with a discount – so be sure to check our NOW Deals page.
And then there’s NOW Boost.
Priced at £6 per month (on top of any other NOW membership), NOW Boost promises to enhance the viewing experience by providing Full HD (1080p) video quality, Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, ad-free on-demand content, and the ability to stream on up to three devices simultaneously (instead of just one).
Furthermore, NOW Boost promises smoother sporting action, as all the Sky Sports channels stream at 50 frames per second when you have Boost.
However, the small print for NOW Boost reveals one disappointing detail – the Full HD part is only supported on a limited number of devices.
The Limitations Of NOW Boost
NOW Boost is marketed primarily as a feature that enhances the viewing experience by providing Full HD (1080p) video quality and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.
However, a closer look reveals a significant limitation: these features are not universally supported across all devices.
This means that some users, despite paying an additional £6 per month, are not receiving the full benefits of the service.
Full HD: Expected Standard?
In today’s digital age, Full HD and surround sound are no longer considered premium features, but rather expected standards for any streaming service.
Full HD, or 1080p, offers superior picture quality compared to standard definition, while Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound provides an immersive, cinematic audio experience.
These features are crucial for a high-quality viewing experience and are typically included in the base packages of many streaming services.
In fact, many streaming services (such as Disney+ and Amazon’s Prime Video) already offer 4K video resolution on many of their titles, as part of the basic subscription – without you having to pay more – so Full HD (1080p) is pretty much a given.
Even Netflix no longer offers a plan with a 720p video resolution, following the recent cancellation of the ‘Basic’ tier, as their low-cost Standard-with-Ads tier supports Full HD.
Sky’s NOW, therefore – despite already being more expensive than many of the other streaming services – comes with a 720p video resolution as standard – unless you pay extra for Boost.
But even then – NOW Boost, despite being a paid add-on, fails to deliver these features across all devices.
This is a significant shortcoming, as it means that users are paying extra for a service that doesn’t deliver on its promises on several popular devices.
Devices That Do NOT Support NOW Boost HD
The list of devices that do not support Full HD (1080p) and Surround Sound on NOW, even with the Boost add-on, include as of this writing:
- PC/Mac (Even though NOW recently ditched its PC/Mac standalone player)
- iOS or Android mobile devices
- Amazon Fire And Fire HD tablets
- Certain Roku devices (Roku Express and the Roku Streaming Stick are supported)
- Chromecast 1st and 2nd generation
The fact that NOW Boost does not support Full HD (and, to a lesser degree, surround sound) on these devices is a critical oversight – especially for mobile phones and computers, which are common platforms for streaming.
It’s only fair to mention that NOW isn’t the only service facing issues with Full HD on certain devices.
Netflix used to have issues with Full HD on mobile phones (but those have mostly been fixed), and Google’s Chrome browser is notorious for limited video resolution on several streaming services.
Devices That DO Support NOW Boost Full HD
On the other hand, the list of devices that do support Full HD and Surround Sound with NOW Boost includes:
- NOW Smart Stick
- Any NOW Box
- Amazon Fire TV Stick (2nd & 3rd Gen, 4K & 4K Max, Lite & Basic Edition)
- Amazon Fire TV Cube 2nd Gen (2019)
- Amazon Fire TV 2nd Gen (2015) & 3rd Gen (2017)
- Amazon Fire TV Edition – JVC 4K (2019), HD/FHD (2020), 2K (2021) & UHD (2021); Technika/Bush 4K (2020)
- Nebula Soundbar (2019)
- Android TV
- Roku Express or Roku Streaming Stick
- Supported Samsung TVs
- Sony TVs (most models from 2016)
- Xbox One (50fps not currently available)
- Xbox Series X & S (50fps not currently available)
- Apple TV HD (gen 4) or 4K
- YouView (including TalkTalk & BT boxes)
- LG Web OS TV (50fps not currently available)
- JVC Fire TV Edition Smart 4K TV
- Chromecast Ultra or 3rd generation
The good news is that most users will be able to get Full HD with Boost on their big-screen TVs – if they’re using a Smart TV or a supported streaming device.
But computers, mobile phones and tablets are off the menu (although NOW Boost’s other features – such as additional concurrent streaming devices – are not affected by these device limitations).
And of course, there’s one question that still remains – will we ever see 4K on NOW?