CHANGE HISTORY FAQ
31/08/2004 Content Fully updated - dynamic version dropped for time being
23/08/03: Updated new price & install info. Amended info on which Sky+ box to choose. Amended info on where to buy Sky+. Amended info on Dual Recording. Amended Dolby Digital 5.1 info.
29/07/03: FAQ replaced with dynamic version
10/07/03: Updated various sections
16/05/03: Added information
What are Sky+ and Sky+160 and how much do they cost?
Sky+ & Sky+160 are satellite receivers and personal television recorders (PTR) in one.
Sky+ normally costs £199 from Sky direct. Previous stock shortages have now been resolved. Prices can vary due to Sky promotions, (up as well as down) whether you already subscribe to Sky and how long you've been a Sky customer for.
Check for the best price by calling Sky on 08702 432 492. The Sky+ web site is often the best place to see the best deal. Currently there is a £99 Sky+ offer if you are new to Sky, or £149 if you are already a Sky customer. Offer available only on the SKY+ web site: http://www.sky.com/skycom/skyplus
Sky+ 160 (so called because of its 160 Gigabyte Hard Drive) will be available in October 2004, costing £399 plus £60 install and will have the same functionality as Sky+ apart from a hard disk that is 4 times bigger, allowing 4 times as much content to be recorded.
Do I have to pay an additional subscription for Sky+?
Yes it will require a further £10 per month Sky+ subscription in addition to any Sky digital subscription that you may have.
However if you subscribe to more than 1 Premium Sky channel you get the Sky+ subscription for FREE.
Do I want the original Pace Sky+ box, the new Pace or Amstrad Sky+ box?
There is no difference in the functionality or service given by all three Sky+ boxes. The only real difference is in how the units look. The new boxes are approx. one third smaller than the original unit. Supplies of the old Sky+ box are now exhausted, you can now only be supplied with the new Sky+ box - so it will be a Pace version 2, or the new Amstrad Sky+.
When will supplies of the old Sky+ end?
Supplies of the Pace version 1 original Sky+ have ended. (unless you opt for a special deal with a reconditioned Sky+). You will now only be supplied with the new Sky+.
What happens if I stop paying my Sky+ £10 per month subscription?
The box behaves like a normal Sky Digibox. Any recorded programmes cannot be watched. You will own a very large expensive silver brick sitting under your TV. (Unless you get a free Sky+ subscription with your Sky+ due to your level of channel subscription package (see above).
What happens if I change my Sky channel choice?
Sky+ will only playback programmes that you have recorded that you are currently subscribed to. So if you record a Sky film and then stop subscribing to the film channels, you will not be allowed to watch that film you had recorded on Sky+.
Do I have to be an existing Sky subscriber?
No - although Sky will no doubt try to entice you into taking a subscription to their channel packages. Actually you don't have to subscribe to any of Sky's channels at all; if you're happy with channels 101-105 then all you'll have to pay is £10 per month on top of the purchase and installation charge.
Where can I buy a Sky+ digibox?
Good news on this front, over the last 12 months, Sky+ has become available to buy in most electrical retailers. You can walk in and take away a Sky+ from all the usual suspects: Dixons, Currys, or Comet or your usual retailer.
Your local specialised Sky dealer might have access to their own supply.
SOFTWARE UPGRADES & IMPROVEMENTS TO SKY+ : HISTORY
Interactive Stream Recording - From the autumn Sky are promising that certain streamed interactive content will be able to be recorded. Easier Radio recording - put your PhD in applied mathematics down, Sky promise an easier way to record Radio this autumn.
New Sky+160 is launched providing up to 4 times the recording capacity of normal Sky+.
Sort Planner Entries - Sky+ Boxes now have the ability to sort the entries in your planner into the order you want to see. e.g. viewed, recorded, to be recorded. Or to sort your entries into alphabetical order.
Dual recording - Record two programmes simultaneously - taking Sky+ to the next level, subscribers can record two programmes simultaneously on different channels, whilst also watching a previous recording. This utilises the dual tuner inside every Sky+ box.
Instant Rewind - Sky+ allows you to rewind the programme you are watching - so if you come in half way through Eastenders, you will be able to rewind and watch it from the start without missing the first bit. What's more, those watching live sport will be able to instantly replay that dubious referee decision or fantastic goal! Instant rewind can be activated by pressing the services button on your remote control and accessing the Sky+ set- up menu. You can then select how far back you want Sky+ to be able to rewind the live broadcast, whether it be 5, 15, 30 or 60 minutes. Manual recording
Manual Recordings - for the first time subscribers can create a home media centre which stores both radio and TV programmes. Customers can now record blocks of programming, for example artist interviews on MTV, a series on Radio Four or a specific section of a magazine programme such as Channel Four's T4. Extra time Extra Time - To compensate for the rare occasions where broadcasters make unexpected schedule changes, Sky has added an additional feature that allows customers to set recordings with extra time at the start or end of a programme for added levels of security. Fast forward
Fast forward / rewind speeds - Sky+ allows viewers to fast forward and rewind-recorded programmes at: X 2,X6, X12, X30 the original speed User-defined start position on playback - viewers can select their own start position when playing back recordings, by typing in the number of minutes they wish to start viewing from.
Pay per view PPV enhancements - If a pay per view event/movie is being recorded when a viewer decides to select it for playback, the 'part-recorded' message will not appear unless the start of the recording was missed. Stop recording Toggling record on / off - If a programme is being recorded, viewers can cancel the recording in the Sky+ planner, highlighting the programme and pressing the record button on the Sky+ remote control.
The record status will update automatically. Managing interruptions Messaging on 'interrupted' recordings - If for any reason there has been a gap in a recording, e.g. broadcast problem, loss of signal etc, a message will pop up during the interrupted portion of the recording to explain why the interruption has occurred.
Skip to end - By pressing and holding down the fast forward key, you can skip to the end of a recorded programme, providing no additional bookmarks have been set. Where there are additional bookmarks, holding down the fast forward key will take you to the next bookmarked point. End of playback 'Banner' - A banner appears at the end of playback informing the viewer that they have reached the end of that recording.
Back-up & stop key returns to Sky+ planner - During playback of a recorded programme, pressing the back-up or stop key on the Sky+ remote control will return you to the Sky+ planner. Dolby Digital 5.1
Dolby Digital 5.1 - Sky+ launched the ultimate cinema in the home sound experience - Dolby Digital 5.1. The Dolby Digital movies are shown on a selection of Sky's movie channels and are broadcast with five separate audio channels. DD5.1 has now been removed from Sky Box Office channels because Sky say "more people would benefit from having it on the main Movie channels". Sky+ launch
The Launch - Sky+ launched as Europe's first integrated Personal Video Recorder and service offering viewers the ability to pause a live programme and record up to 20 hours of TV directly onto a harddisk using Sky's Electronic Programme Guide.
Does the Sky+ box work 'out of the box'?
Yes - although the 'plus' features will not be available until the dish has been upgraded (to provide a signal for the second internal receiver.) You also need to phone Sky to register your card and box together to enable all channels correctly and ensure your account has been activated.
How much does the installation cost?
The Sky+ installation costs vary from Free to £60 depending on what offers are available at any given time, if you order online and whether you are already a Sky subscriber or not. check out Sky+ website: http://www.sky.com/skycom/skyplus/
Are there any additional costs?
Additional costs may incurred for 'non-standard' installations.
How long does it take to activate the 'plus' features?
The 'plus' features would be enabled within 2 hours of Sky completing the installation
What happens to my old dish/set-top box?
In most cases the box is yours to keep but the dish stays - it is upgraded with a quad LNB that can be used to supply your old box should you choose to have this 'reinstalled' under the Multirooms tariff.
Can the software in the box be upgraded?
Yes via satellite, in the same way as normal Sky digiboxes. The monthly subscription includes all new features.
What if the customer has no telephone line?
Sorry you can't have Sky+ if you don't have an operational landline. It's part of the contract, Sky+ must be connected to a phone line.
What happens about Sky+ in flats?
This depends on a few factors. If you are in a flat and you already have a Sky digibox with its own minidish, then you should have no problems getting Sky+ installed.
Would it help if one of the neighboring flats has a dish?
If you live in flats but don't have Sky, as long as someone else in your block has a standard Sky minidish, you can be pretty sure that attaching another small minidish to the building is going to be ok.
What should I do if no one nearby has a dish?
For blocks of flats that have no minidishes installed, you should speak to your landlord in the first instance, and then your local County Council Planning Department in case Planning Permission is required. In certain houses in the National Park, minidishes are not allowed.
We have a communal distribution system, can I get Sky+?
If you live in a block of flats and get Sky through a communal Sky distribution system, then matters may be more complicated, and expensive. Because Sky+ uses two feeds, one for live channel and one for recording channel, then your Distribution Suppliers will need to supply you with one more feed. This is likely not to be free, e.g. £75 per annum charge for feed 1, £75 per annum charge for feed 2. It gets really expensive if you want to keep your old digibox, because you will need a 3rd feed with another annual charge. This is all before you consider subscriptions for Sky+ or channel subs.
What do the online menus look like?
They are very similar to the existing Sky digital EPG, personal planner etc - if you have a very old digibox you should notice that Sky+ is faster.
What programme guide data is available?
Sky+ provides one weeks worth of listings of all of the Sky Digital channels using an extended version of the Sky 'Electronic Programme' Guide (EPG). (So don't go on holiday for more than a week.)
How is the programme guide data updated?
Via satellite. (although this should be in real time - some channels, notably ITV1 on channel 103 choose not to keep it up to the minute, and therefore programme overruns that make Sky+ miss the end of the program is not uncommon.) Latest software version does include a padding function to add extra time at start and the end to try to eliminate this.
Are subtitles supported?
Supports digital subtitles and teletext style. Still no "one button" toggle option for subtitles. However the great thing is that the Sky+ recorder can record the subtitles intact and can display subtitles on a recorded programme even if the subtitles were turned off at the time of recording.
Does Sky+ support digital text?
Yes. BBC, Sky channels (e.g. Sky one), and UKTV provide text services, along with many other broadcasters.
Does Sky+ provide support for Digital Terrestrial channels?
What interactive features are there?
These are the same as a regular Sky Digibox and include a mix of news, shopping and games. However when watching a recorded programme any red interactive dot is lost. (worth the price of Sky+ alone)
Can I record interactive channels, such Music Choice, or BBC Sport multiscreen services?
No, there is currently no facility to record interactive broadcasts. Worse still even after selecting a specific screen, e.g. for the Olympics, there is still no way to record these individual multiscreen channels. You could however record the output of the interactive session onto a Video Cassette Recorder. (no laughing at the back please!)
Plans are advanced to allow recording of some interactive channels where start times and end times are known.
What parental controls are available?
The Sky+ uses the parental controls as per built into a standard Digibox - including spending controls (Like only £4 per month on Box Office movies, etc).
Can you 'pause' live TV?
Yes. When you pause, the picture on the channel being viewed is frozen and all future content recorded onto the hard disk. Pressing Play will allow to continue viewing the program from that point. You also can pause again, rewind or fast forward. After pausing
Can I advance to the current time so I am watching Live again (not delayed)?
Yes by fast-forwarding or pressing the Sky button to exit Live Pause.
Is Sky+ constantly recording / is there a live TV buffer?
Yes and No.
A new always recording function has been placed in the Sky+ services menu but you have to choose to turn this facility on as the default is "off". When the default is turned "on", you can choose the number of minutes that you want buffered, up to a maximum of 60 minutes.
What happens when buffering is switched off?
With buffering switched "off" Sky+ will only record where you have set it to do so or after you have hit the pause button. Also, the buffer will grow to the duration of the current programme and then stop (providing the EPG data is correct) This means if you are watching a delayed recording you will miss the start of the next programme (if you wanted to watch that as well - but of course you press R to record that other programme if you wish).
Can I see an instant replay of what just happened (e.g. last 8 seconds)?
Yes provided the "constant recording" option is switched on. Can I have favourite channels? Yes you can add up to 20 channels into your favourites list, and then cycle through them using the now/next banner using the blue button on the remote.
Will Sky+ suggest programmes to watch?
No, at present only Tivo can do this. Although this feature could possibly be added in the future.
Can I record the programme I am currently watching?
Yes - just press the R button on the remote control, couldn't be simpler.
Can I schedule or just start immediate recording of another channel while still watching TV?
Yes, you can set recordings from the Search and Scan banner whilst you're watching any TV channel, or when you're in live pause, or even when you're watching playback of a recorded programme. But remember that the search and scan banner doesn't go very much into the future.
How can I find a programme I want to record?
Sky's EPG and personal planner is the normal way to choose programmes. A new manual timer recording option is now available, as an alternative means, though this doesn't label the recording with any programme names.
Can I record two channels at the same time?
Sky+ contains two tuners. And the good news is that a recent software upgrade in December 2003 allowed two recordings of different channels at the same time. You can even watch one other prerecorded program at the same time whilst recording a further 2 channels.
What if two programmes clash?
Sky+ does detect clashes and gives you the option of cancelling if you wish, the item(s) that you're clashing with.
What if programme times change?
If the programme times change after you've scheduled recordings, resulting in a clash, by default Sky+ will record all of the first programme and miss the start of the subsequent programme. This behaviour can be overridden by marking the subsequent programme as "Keep", in which case the first programme will be truncated to allow the whole of the second programme to be recorded.
IIs it possible to pad programmes?
Padding of two minutes either side of a programme is always added (except when recording two consecutive programmes). There is also a global padding option that you can alter in the Services menu of Sky+ to give 0, 1, 2 ,5 or 10 minutes of extra padding at the start and / or end of the programme.
Can I record box office movies?
Yes. Box office movies will be held for 7 days. If you have not watched them within this period, they will be deleted and you will not be charged. If you choose to watch the recording, it will be deleted automatically from your system within 24 hours of viewing. However that's just the start of how Sky+ can make Box Office movies more appealing.
Do you fancy a "virtual video store" in your living room?
If you wanted to you could record EVERY Sky Box Office movie onto your Sky+ FREE of charge, and if you decide to watch one, it is only when you press Play that a viewing charge is applied. If you don't watch the rest of the movies you downloaded, there is no charge.
IIs there a limit to the number of box office movies I can record?
Not as long as you have recording space available.
Can I record widescreen movies?
Yes. Sky+ will record & play back in whatever aspect ratio the film / programme is transmitted.
What other benefits are there to recording box office movies?
One other benefit for movie buffs is that Sky Box Office and normal movies can be recorded at their broadcast time, and viewed at any time of the day, whatever the film's rating. So if you want to watch a Horror film, Certificate 18 at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, you can. Just press "Play"
What is 'series link'?
Series link is a facility that allows you to record all the episodes of your favourite series. Unfortunately the necessary control information does not appear to be on all channels at every opportunity though it does appear in most cases and 'series link' is currently available on a majority of programmes (approx. 90%), though not all possible series linking programmes. So for mainstream programmes you should be ok. Otherwise you just record the programmes by pressing "R" for the selected individual programmes in the Electronic Programme Guide.
Can I automatically record programmes that I like e.g. all programmes with a certain actor?
Can I play the programme I am currently recording before it has finished recording?
Can you watch one channel on one TV and another on a different set using TV link?
No - there is only one output. But with TV link you can watch in another room whatever you choose to play so the effect is of having Sky+ in another room.
Can you fast-forward and rewind?
Sky+ has four different speeds of fast forward and rewind (2x, 6x, 12x, 30x).. The box has the option to disable fast forwarding through adverts, but this has not currently been used by Sky, and Sky say they have no plans to introduce this.
Can I jump to the end of the programme?
Yes, use the Goto Option and toggle to "End".
Can I jump to a specific part of a programme?
Sky+ has the facility to bookmark places in a recording for later retrieval. You can also specify the number of minutes into the recording that you want Sky+ to start playback.
Can I output a recording to VCR?
Yes, although Macrovision protection (box office movies) will be maintained and this may prohibit you from doing so.
Can I output multiple recordings to VCR at the same time?
Yes, you may queue a number of programmes for archive all at once, and these will copy out in the order you put the "Copy" markers on the recordings.
Do I really need to connect the Sky+ digibox to a phone socket?
Technically there is nothing to stop the box from working if it is disconnected indefinitely. All programmed guide information and software updates are broadcast over the satellite
What happens if I disconnect the phone line, after the installer has left?
In practice, the box is still subsidised on the premise that you might actually pay up for a Box Office Movie or try the Sky Active service and buy something. If you disconnect the phone line, you won't be able to do either - and if BSkyB find out, they are likely to land you with claw back bills amounting to hundreds of pounds
Can I use my old Open / Sky Active keyboard?
Yes. Press the TV button on the keyboard, hold down the blue key and select down until the red light flashes twice. Then press 2 followed by select.
What is the picture quality like?
The Sky+ box records the digital stream directly meaning that what you see on a normal Sky box is what is recorded by Sky+. Since no MPEG encoding is done the picture quality recorded by Sky+ is exactly the same as the original.
Can you change the recording quality?
It is not possible to reduce the disc space used by a recording at the expense of quality.
What is the sound quality like?
Sky+ offers a Dolby Digital optical output. Some films are broadcast in 5.1 surround sound, however at the moment all the remaining programmes are being broadcasted at 48khz stereo. Any Dolby Pro Logic soundtracks are seamless. Leave the box set to Dolby 5.1 and all non 5.1 sound will be downmixed from that stream for better quality sound.
Does Sky+ record anamorphic widescreen?
Yes - and it will playback with the switching signal intact as it records the original digital stream exactly - just like being there when the recorded item for first transmitted. Switching will only work via the RGB socket and not via the Svideo socket or the UHF output.
Will Sky+ record all audio streams?
No. It will only record the audio stream and language selected at the time. If you record the EuroNews in French, then it will always play back in French irrespective of whether the language setting as since been changed.
Does Sky+ record the EPG if it used while a recording is in progress?
Can I record Sky's radio channels?
Yes but not directly from the EPG. You have to use the new manual timer option. How many hours of programmes can be stored?
It is not possible to say as it depends on the bit rate the broadcaster is using for any particular channel. Typically around 20 hours of programmes may be stored. The box will give you an estimate of the size required to record a programme. Radio channels are recorded efficiently and therefore hundreds of hours of radio can be recorded on the hard disk.
Can more storage space be added?
Not officially but many people choose to do this. Reports of successful upgrades are available. Check out http://www.hummer.co.uk/inside-skyplus.html
Can I add external storage devices?
Sky seem to have given up on offering options for existing Sky+ customers apart from the option of buying the new Sky+160 with 4 times more recording hours. .