REVIEW: NOW TV Smart Stick
NOW TV has been out a while in Ireland and it originally launched with the NOW TV Box. The box was small and fit into most setup pretty seamlessly, but it was starting to age and technology has moved on, what could be done with the box (and more) can now be done in the same size as a memory stick, hence the NOW TV Stick.
Physically, not much to see here really. It’s a black plastic stick with a HDMI on end and a microUSB connection on the other (for power). You plug the HDMI into your TV and plug the included USB cable and power adaptor (or use a USB socket on your TV) to power it up. Also in the box is the new NOW TV remote with voice control. This works through a Wifi Direct system (so you can’t use a universal Infrared remote with the stick). It’s responsive and does what you would expect the remote todo. If you happen to have a Logitech Harmony Hub remote system, you can set that to control the NOW TV stick over the Wifi network.
Once you’ve created your NOW TV account online and purchased your relevant pass (this can only be done through a computer or phone), you’re ready to go.
Setup was pretty easy with the UI guiding you through the steps nice and clearly. Basically, enter your Wifi, download any updates and apps and you’re ready to go. Simple as that.
The ‘Home’ UI consists of a number of elements:
- Home: This is your highlights, (shows/movies you might like), Shows on your NOW TV Watch LIst, and highlights from other apps you have installed.
- Best of Catch Up: These are box sets and recent shows that have aired on any of the apps you have installed.
- TV Guide: This is where you can access the live channels you have subscribed to in your passes.
- MY Apps: The main apps you will be using are the NOW TV App (yes, it’s an ‘app’, the Virgin Media Player, All4 and YouTube. There is also Sky News, VEVO, Sky Store, Red Bull TV and a few more minor ones.
The Apps I’ve been mainly using are the NOW TV, Virgin Media Player and All4. To use the NOW TV App, you need to subscribe to a pass. There are 4 main passes – Entertainment (TV), Cinema (Movies), Kids (Disney, etc..) and Sports. They run about €15 per month, but prices vary depending on the Pass (e.g. the sports pass is more expensive). You can find out more about the passes here – https://www.nowtv.com/ie/tv-passes
So far I’ve been enjoying my time with NOW TV. It’s a good alternative to ‘traditional’ TV, as long as you have a decent broadband connection. The selection is ok, but I’d like to see more Live channels and the possible inclusion of the RTE Player would really round things out.
The main issue I have with the system is the quality. While the hardware can handle Full HD and up to 7.1, the NOW TV implementation only supports, at best 720p and basic stereo sound, and frankly, in 2018 where the likes of Netflix is giving 4k HDR with Dolby Atmos surround sound in places, this quality isn’t good enough for the price. I hoping that NOW TV get their act together and at least up the quality to 1080p with Dolby Digital+ (that’s the entry quality on most other streaming services).
But with that being said, it’s a good offering with a decent selection of shows (and some exclusive content from the likes of Sky Atlantic – I’m looking at you Game of Thrones). The Stick costs €25 and can be bought in the likes of PC World or online here: https://www.nowtv.com/ie/smart-tv-stick