Sky has more than two million subscribers with a Sky Multiroom subscription that lets them watch TV in a second room. But, until now, the only way to watch HD in a second room has been to get a second Sky+HD box.
Not only is this pretty expensive – unless you’re upgrading to a 1TB box in your main viewing room – it also needs two feeds into your second room. Even then, a Sky+HD box is big and noisy thing to have in your bedroom, which is where most people want their multiroom viewing.
The SkyHD Digibox, or DRX595 to give its true name, is a solution to that problem, and more.
The name’s a giveaway that it’s made by Amstrad, now fully owned by Sky and a brand that you might never see again unless Sir Alan Sugar gets tired of making godawful TV talent shows and goes back into the real business world.
It looks a lot like its big brother, the DRX895 1TB Sky+HD, shrunk down and with smaller, but very nice buttons for power, channel change and Back Up. And a very good look it is.
An exciting future
Connectivity is necessarily slimmed-down, with the back panel featuring a single RGB-capable Scart for standard-def viewing, a single LNB input, one HDMI out, Ethernet, USB, a modem, optical digital audio (with a neatly built-in dust cover) and a new 10-pin I/O port.
On the plus side, the HDMI supports Dolby Digital audio as well as stereo with Pro Logic, so the optical S/PDIF isn’t quite as vital as it is on the standard Sky+. The I/O port doesn’t do anything yet, but is designed to work with a range of peripherals such as the venerable Sky Gnome wireless audio extender, using a dongle that will imitate both the analogue stereo audio outputs and RS-232 serial data port of the larger Sky boxes. Sky’s also hoping that other innovative uses will be found.
The standard Sky+ remote in the box hints that the HD Digibox is more than just a dumb second-room box – it has an exciting future. Although not enabled yet, the Ethernet port will allow users to not only watch live streaming content from Sky Anytime+ via broadband, but also to connect to their main Sky+HD box.
You’ll be able to stream recordings from your hard disc, and control the Sky Guide Planner. For now, it’s a satisfyingly high-performance HD satellite receiver, at least on a par with Sky’s top-of-the-line 1TB PVR when it comes to channel changes and browsing the Sky Guide, if not faster.
On our 46-inch LG TV, the HD picture is as good as any other HD TV image we’ve seen, and for the first time on a Sky box, Dolby Digital is passed through the HDMI as well as the dedicated digital audio out.
The downside to HD multiroom is the cost. The first box is free (extras cost £49 plus £30 installation), but an HD multiroom subscription costs a staggering £10.25/month on top of the standard £10.25/month multiroom sub.
We love HD, but £20.50 per month, per room is too much moolah for second-room HD.