Review: Sky Finally Launches HDR With Its Ultra HD 4k Service and It’s Fantastic But…

New! A 4k HDR Christmas Present from Sky: movies go HDR with Dolby Atmos

It’s finally here – High Dynamic Range (HDR) on Sky – but not for everyone with a Sky Q box! Finally, Sky offers a ‘full-fat’ 4k service. While Sky has offered Ultra HD 4k programming for several years via its Sky Q set-top box, Sky has lagged behind its online streaming rivals Netflix, Disney Plus, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime by not offering HDR. HDR makes pictures more vivid and realistic, with more intense colours and, for many viewers, HDR makes more difference than the extra resolution provided by Ultra HD.

Sky Ultra HD HDR picture

Last December, it was reported that the launch of Sky’s HDR service was delayed until “late 2020”. We are delighted to see that Sky has surprised many enthusiasts by launching HDR to coincide with the launch of the new Sky Nature channel. It’s not all plain-sailing though, and there are unhappy customers who have incompatible boxes.

Updated! Don’t forget to visit our guide Set Up Guide For Sky Q Ultra HD (4k) and HDR.

Sky has launched the following series of nature documentaries in HDR format:

  • Gangs of Lemurs
  • Pridelands: Wilderness Reborn
  • Malawi: Wildlife Rescue.

After viewing these, we can confirm that these look spectacular on a 77 inch OLED screen. The photographs of the screen shown here do not do the picture quality justice. When you watch nature documentaries in this format, there really is no going back.

Sky HDR photo

Although Sky is still playing catch-up on the HDR front in terms of depth of content, its Ultra HD service has now made a major turn for the better, and it is sure to drive the take-up of Ultra HD TVs. Sky intends to offer more HDR programmes by the end of 2020, including movies, and we hope that Sky quickly adds HDR to its existing catalogue of 4k content. Unlike rivals, Sky does not currently indicate whether an Ultra HD programme is in HDR, presumably because so few programmes are.

Please note that the following applications on Sky Q do not currently support HDR (although HDR versions are expected to be added in due course):

  • Netflix
  • Disney Plus
  • BBC iPlayer.

Our recommendation continues to be to watch these services on separate devices that do support Ultra HD and HDR, such as a smart TVs. We would never recommend watching Netflix and Disney Plus via a Sky Q box even if HDR was supported. That is because the Sky Q box sets the output frame rate to 50 frames per second (fps), whereas much of the content on Netflix and Disney Plus has a different frame rate (24 fps) and is, therefore, displayed with unwanted motion effects. Many smart TVs and devices such as Apple TV display content at the correct frame rate.

Screenshot of Sky menu


Older Sky Q boxes do not display HDR

We understand that there are compatibility issues with the oldest Sky Q equipment. While we can confirm that HDR works perfectly on our most recent Sky Q 2TB set-top box (which uses an external power supply), HDR does not work on the oldest (version 1) Sky Q boxes where the power supply is built in to the set-top box. Many early adopters who purchased Sky Q near the beginning of the service may be frustrated by the news. 2TB Sky Q boxes with hardware version number 32B0Xxx work do not work with HDR. 1 TB Sky Q boxes (32C0xx and 32C1xx) and, obviously, Sky Q Mini boxes, do not work either. As shown in the table below, more modern Sky Q boxes work with HDR. If your Sky Q box is not compatible, we recommend that you get in contact with Sky to discuss upgrade options. To us, HDR has more impact than the increased resolution provided by Ultra HD.

Hardware version numberType of Sky Q box
32B0xxSky Q 2TB
32B1xxSky Q 2TB
32B203 or 32B204Sky Q 1TB UHD
32B205 or 32B206Sky Q 1TB UHD or Sky Q 2TB

Table: Sky Q boxes that are HDR capable


We believe that the availability of the 2021 Olympic Games in Ultra 4k is going to help fuel the mainstream adoption of the format, and Sky has confirmed that it intends to broadcast the Games live in HDR. While BBC recently stopped its iPlayer Ultra HD trials due to the coronavirus pandemic (to reduce strain on broadband networks), we are confident that these will resume when things get back to ‘normal’. We cannot imagine that the BBC won’t be broadcasting the 2021 Olympic Games in Ultra HD HDR format via iPlayer, so 2021 will be a very exciting year for broadband-delivered high-quality TV content.

Don’t forget you visit our guide Setting Up Sky Q for Ultra HD (4k) and HDR

Never has it been more important to improve your broadband connection. Please visit our Increase Broadband Speed Guide for 15 top tips.


Other pages you may be interested in:

How to Disable WiFi with Sky Q and Use Ethernet Instead  | A 4k HDR Christmas Present from Sky  |  Blog  |  Review of Disney Plus  |  Review of Apple TV+  |  BBC iPlayer Ultra HD (4k)  |  Superfast Broadband Fuels Streamed Video-on-Demand Services