More details about the Sky Q Silver 4K service: 50fps and HDMI 2.0 coming soon

by on February 1, 2016

Stephan Jukic – February 1, 2016

As we’ve already covered, the upcoming Sky Q and Sky Q Silver streaming media/set-top box services will be coming out very soon and will also shortly after that offer 4K streaming. While details about the content that’s going to be on offer are scanty for now, a recent report by Techradar has managed to confirm a few more technical details. According to Sky itself, the Sky Q Silver hardware already has HDMI 2.0 connectivity hardware inside it and is thus partly ready to deliver 4K UHD video at 50 frames per second, which is more or less the set-top box industry standard for now.

Furthermore, according to some first look appraisals of the Sky Q set-top platform, it offers what Techradar called a “far more holistic approach” to television viewing with modern technology than anything previously seen from broadcaster sources to-date.

On the other hand, nobody at all has yet seen what the 4K service aspect of Sky Q and Sky Q Silver will look like and this has caused some concern about correct hardware compatibility in the platform.

While Sky Q and Sky Q Silver in particular are absolutely bristling with tuners for media streaming and sharing, the specs sheets for Sky Q still seem to list internal hardware specs as being of HDMI 1.4 and HDCP 1.2. Even the specs of the top-tier Sky Q Silver seem to indicate a media box with only HDMI 1.4b hardware built into it. With the upcoming launch of 4K media for these boxes, these above specs are in no way adequate for an optimal 4K content experience. HDMI 1.4 alone will limit 4K content output to just 30 frames per second and result in a much lower quality of video smoothness.

Of course, in the modern competitive new environment of streaming media 4K UHD set-top boxes, such output speeds are almost unforgivable, given that in the UK alone, BT Sport’s Ultra HD Humax box already offers not only 4K content at 50fps but even manages live sportscasts at decent fame rates for subscribers with newer 4K ultra HD TVs.

Thus, with Sky Q, a physical update to HDMI 2.0 instead of a firmware update from HDMI 1.4 to HDMI 1.4b is what is needed.

Luckily though, Sky has indeed confirmed that HDMI 2.0 will be the case in the Sky Q Silver box at least and that the media hardware for this top-tier platform already has HDMI 2.0 silicon inside it, meaning that only a firmware update will be needed to unlock those more powerful 50fps output capacities of HDMI 2.0.

Furthermore, the Sky Q Silver box supports HDCP 2.2 for 4K media content copy protection and will only offer HDMI 1.4b and HDCP 1.2 right after launch, while still operating as a Full HD 1080p platform. Later, with the Ultra HD update to the Sky Q service, we can expect HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 to be unlocked via firmware updates, sometime later in 2016.

HDMI 2.0 is already in Sky Q Silver, to be unlocked via firmware update

HDMI 2.0 is already in Sky Q Silver, to be unlocked via firmware update

On the other hand, we still have no word on HDR ability in the Sky Q Silver box and this too should be an important issue for its manufacturer, given that other streaming 4K media platforms and also the upcoming new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players will all offer HDR compatibility.

Finally, while nobody outside of Sky yet knows how their 4K service will be fit into the Sky Q and Sky Q Silver releases or if it will cost extra to have, the above promises of 4K-capable specs updates for Sky Q Silver alone clearly seem to indicate that only this top-tier set-top box will offer 4K entertainment, with the lower-tier Sky Q box with 8 tuners being stuck at Full HD video.

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  • Jek99
    February 3, 2016 at 2:08 am

    A key question is whether the HDMI 2.0 hardware can be ugraded to HDMI 2.0a via firmware.


    • Stephen
      February 4, 2016 at 12:55 am

      Hello Jek99, To my understanding HDMI 2.0 can actually be upgraded to HDMI 2.0a via firmware in select devices ( certain 4K TVs etc) and is something that Samsung has already implemented to its 2015 SUHD and UHD TVs, as well as Sony for select 2015 Bravia models. Thus the same should be possible in the Sky Q Silver. However, 4K HDR content need not be delivered only via HDMI 2.0a. If a 4K TV is capable of decoding HDR from streaming sources with the visual technology, then streamed HDR content can be delivered to that 4K television, regardless of the connectivity in an accessory set-top box.


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