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Sky Glass review: streaming TV not quite ready for prime time | Sky

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Glass is Sky’s new voice-controlled streaming television – an ambitious attempt to ditch the satellite dish and provide pay TV straight to the screen, with no set top box required.

The television comes in three sizes starting at £649 for a 43in screen, or £13 a month over four years, which works out at £25 cheaper too. Sky’s service costs from £25 a month on top.

Monolithic looks in your choice of colour

sky glass review
The relatively thick body of the TV is aluminium with a mesh at the top allowing a pair of speakers to fire upwards for surround sound. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Glass is a heavy beast, the 55in version weighs 28kg with its stand – about 10kg more than a standard 55in TV – but hides its bulk well from the front. The body is aluminium in a choice of five colours, and houses the built-in soundbar below the screen, making it look a bit like Apple’s iMac.

The 4K LCD screen ticks most of the specifications boxes. It has “quantum dot” technology with a local dimming LED backlight, which is found in many of the best mid- to high-range TVs. It supports the HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision high-dynamic range (HDR) standards, which covers the most popular formats used for 4K content.

The automatic brightness makes the picture look a little dim and grey except in very bright rooms, particularly with skin tones, and the backlight is uneven around the screen’s edges. Disable auto-brightness for a better picture that looks decent for normal HD and sharp for 4K content. But you’ll also see blacks turning a bit grey and a bit of blooming, where the backlight shines like a halo around dark edges.

Following an update the HDR performance is reasonable, but lacks a bit of peak brightness to really make the picture pop. Overall the screen rivals lower mid-range TVs costing about £500.

sky glass review
HDMI-connected devices are handled like apps within the interface, found within panels to the left of your personalised recommendations. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

There are ethernet and three HDMI 2.1 ports on the back. But all you need is power and wifi to get up and running, making it a one-cable solution, which is extremely rare in the world of televisions.

Rare too is a TV that actually sounds good. Glass supports Dolby Atmos virtual surround sound with its six built-in speakers. It won’t beat something like the Sonos Arc, but does a decent job of delivering punchy, full audio. Its vocal clarity is particularly impressive and you don’t have to deal with any lip-sync issues. It is slightly weaker for music, lacking a bit of balance and detail at times compared to a dedicated speaker.

Sky over broadband

sky glass review
The top of the home screen is filled with personalised recommendations, which also form the basis of the TV’s big splashy screensavers when idle. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Everything Glass does can be delivered via any broadband provider; no satellite connection or Sky broadband is required.

The interface looks like an evolution of Sky Q. The top of the home screen features “top picks for you” recommendations and recently viewed channels, apps or HDMI inputs. Below that you can browse by content type, such as TV, movies or sport, or check out the regular TV guide. There is no one-button option for going immediately to live TV and when hopping between channels it takes two to three seconds before the picture appears.

Recommendations are pulled from all the services and apps including Sky, BBC iPlayer ITV Hub, All4, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and others. The unified voice or text search makes finding shows across multiple services quick and easy.

Playlist

sky glass review
You can add almost anything you like to your playlist from any supported channel or service, but it won’t always be available after the live broadcast and you won’t know that until you try to access it. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Things get more interesting when you reach the “playlist” section about halfway down the home screen. Glass cannot record programmes in the traditional sense. Instead you add shows and movies to your playlist with the “+” button on your remote. When a new episode is available it appears in the “play now” panel, along with the rest of your playlist and others things Sky thinks you might like. The logic is sound, but the execution is mixed.

It works great with content hosted on Sky’s platform, including UKTV and Syfy. New shows turn up, you press watch and it streams immediately. For content from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and some others, the tile in the playlist is only a link to the on-demand app.

Go to watch a BBC show and it opens the programme’s homepage or an individual episode in iPlayer. The same thing occurs with ITV Hub and All4. How far you got in a show is stored separately in the on-demand app and the Sky home screen, meaning they don’t always match. And you need to log into each app with your individual accounts. Jumping through these multiple hoops feels more like using a smart TV or streaming stick than a premium pay-TV service.

sky glass review
When watching non-live shows from terrestrial channels you are forced into using the broadcaster’s on-demand app, such as BBC iPlayer, many of which can be slow and clunky. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

You are at the mercy of content rights and availability too. Not everything is available for on-demand viewing and some things only for a short period if they are, with no way to tell up front from the TV guide. It is not as good as having the content recorded and ready to watch, even weeks later.

The play now section also filled up with things I didn’t want to see. Movies I had watched and then removed from my playlist lingered for weeks, while shows I had tried once and hated stuck around like a bad smell. Unlike on the various on demand apps there are no separate user profiles on the main Sky interface, which means recommendations are the same for everyone in your home.

Most major on-demand video services are supported, as well as Spotify and YouTube, with Britbox being the only notable exception. But Glass does not support Chromecast or AirPlay from your phone.

Hello, Sky!?

sky glass review
A coloured bar lights up at the top of the screen when you use the voice commands, showing you what the TV hears in real time. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Glass has hands-free voice control, similar to Google or Amazon smart displays. Mics in the TV listen out for your commands after the wake words “Hello Sky” or “Hi Sky” (but not “Hey Sky”) or there’s a push-button mic on the remote. You can ask for a channel, app, show or movie, search by actor, genre or other bits, access custom recommendations or control volume and playback.

Simple word searches work if you’re clear enough, but it doesn’t always wake up on your first “Hello Sky” attempt, and often misheard me. When I say “show me the guide” it can hear “how many died”.

Your commands have to be far more precise than with Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri, too. Asking it to “turn it down a bit” or “set to 30% volume” doesn’t work, instead you need to say “set the volume to 30%”. Pausing or skipping via voice doesn’t work in on-demand apps. And it doesn’t understand when you ask what’s the weather or when a TV show will next be broadcast.

sky glass review
Glass has a screensaver-like mode, which shows big splashy images from its top recommendations when left idle on the home screen. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The TV can detect motion to wake up when you enter the room and turn off when you leave. But it has only worked a handful of times in the three weeks I have been testing it and has turned on when no one is anywhere near it. If I don’t touch the remote for an hour, it asks me to pick it up to avoid the TV turning off too. Sky says it is working on updates to try to fix motion detection.

Sustainability

sky glass review
The TV guide is logical and responsive, but it is harder to skip ahead whole days at a time because the remote lacks a dedicated fast-forward button that skips 24 hours on Q and other TV services. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The television is generally repairable by Sky in the UK. Repair tools and parts will be made available to third parties within the next two years. It is designed to last a minimum of seven years. The company does not operate trade-in schemes. It will recycle old Sky equipment but not third-party devices.

The TV and remote do not contain any recycled materials, but Sky is offsetting the carbon for the TV making it “CarbonNeutral” rated by Natural Capital Partners. The TV is also shipped in plastic-free, fully recyclable packaging including a well designed box. The company publishes its sustainability commitments, including a net zero by 2030 pledge.

Observations

sky glass review
A mic-mute and power button are in the bottom right side of the TV. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
  • The screen does not support 120Hz or the variable refresh rate (VRR) used by the latest games consoles and PCs, and has no game mode for lower latency as is common on competitors.

  • There’s no way to use headphones, wired or otherwise.

  • There’s a standard aerial socket on the back intended as a backup if your internet goes down – otherwise the TV is useless without broadband.

  • You can’t add to your playlist from within on-demand apps, only the main Sky interface.

  • The motion of football on BBC was a bit blurry but not on Sky Sports.

  • The minimum broadband speed for HD content is 10Mbps and 25Mbps for 4K.

sky glass review
The soft-touch plastic remote is fairly intuitive to use and lights up when you pick it up or press a button. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Price

Sky Glass costs £649 for the 43in version, £849 for the 55in and £1,049 for the 65in when bought outright. It can bought via 24- or 48-month interest-free credit costing from £13 a month.

The Sky Ultimate TV service (Sky Entertainment and Netflix) costs £26 a month in HD. The UltraHD HDR and Dolby Atmos package costs an additional £5 a month. For additional channels, Sky Kids costs £5, Cinema costs £11, Sports costs £25 and BT Sport costs £30. After 12 months the ability to skip ads in on-demand content will cost £5 per month.

The TV can be used in limited capacity without a Sky subscription with third-party on-demand apps and the backup Freeview tuner.

Verdict

Sky Glass is all about convenience. Its streaming system and built-in soundbar removes bundles of cables, boxes and the dish. But while its software and service show lots of promise, it is has bugs and small annoyances, most on-demand apps are slow and clunky, and there are extra hoops that must be jumped through to get to content that make it less convenient to use.

I have no doubt updates will fix many of the issues. But the reliance on terrestrial catchup services and their limitations may always be worse than old-school recordings. If you only ever watch live TV or content hosted directly on Sky’s platform or Netflix, Glass is great.

The screen is decent but not spectacular, competing best with lower priced mid-range sets. The sound is great unless you want a real cinema experience, and the remote is great too. The price is tempting when bought monthly, although you must add the cost of the Sky service on top.

Glass is a work in progress with an enormous potential yet to be realised.

Pros: no satellite or box needed, great sound for a TV, responsive and logical interface, good remote, voice search is fast, unified search helps you find content across a range of services, support for most UK streaming services, long service life and software support.

Cons: no local recording, reliance on terrestrial catchup services disappointing, some things only available live, bugs, motion sensing doesn’t work, voice control unreliable, uneven backlighting, auto-brightness is poor, no game or low lag mode, no Chromecast or AirPlay.

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Angharad Yeo: the 10 funniest things I have ever seen (on the internet) | Comedy

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I am a child of the internet. I was always drawn to computers and tech, and used to beg my dad to bring us to his office on a weekend so we could use the high-speed internet to play Neopets games. As I got older it was all MSN, MySpace, Paramore fan forums, Tumblr, Twitter and now TikTok. I want nothing more than to zone out and look at my little pictures.

One of my favourite things about the internet is that it allows you to see everyone’s best joke. The moment in their life where they were at their absolute funniest – whether it be because they had a moment of brilliant wit or because they got pulled through a panel roof while practising for a high school play (I assume).

The internet has rotted my brain with the following content. Please now allow it to rot yours.

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The Pandemic Years have (and continue to be) difficult for everyone. Who among us has not, at one time or another, needed to just explain themselves by saying: “It’s mental illness, innit?”

2. Perfect burger

When I showed this video to my fiancee, she flatly said: “I like how absurdist it is.” That’s her code for, “I don’t get it, but I’m happy you’re happy.” And I am happy. Look at how confident and brave this burger is – ready to take on the world, come what may. I wish to be the burger.

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I have been to court precisely once because I inadvertently got in a cop’s way and he was grumpy about it so he booked me. The penalty was dismissed but not before I cried in front of the judge trying to explain what happened because I was so stressed out. Court is a daunting place and I simply cannot imagine walking in there with any level of irreverence. However, I’m extremely glad there are people who simply do not care, will say whatever damn thing and then an internet angel turns them into TikToks.

4. Turtle choir

This tweet is made all the more majestic by the vaguely threatening Sylvanian Families-style profile picture, on a Twitter account named @bigfatmoosepssy.

5. Trying coffee with pasta water

Climate change is slowly turning the Earth into a barren ball of pain as Mother Nature smacks us for being extremely bad. Even though individual responsibility for climate change isn’t enough to turn the tide, I still applaud those who try. Twitter user @madibskatin woke up in the morning and decided to be the change she wants to see in the world, tastebuds be damned. One could argue that it’s pretty obvious that pasta water isn’t going to make a good coffee but like my dad says as he puts pineapple juice in his coffee: “If no one tries it, how will we know? What if it’s secretly good?”

6. Soaring, flying

If you look closely, this video is actually a metaphor for the ways in which we attempt to break free from our circumstances, yet are entirely at the mercy of them.

7. You cannot trick me

This may be a parody Twitter account, but the spirit of Gail Walden speaks truths. There is no victory sweeter than that which is gained on thine enemy’s own soil.

8. Self-deprecating jokes

Humour is a coping mechanism. I am coping.

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Dairy products are delicious. Ice-cream? Revolutionary. Cheese? Life-changing. Whipped cream on a pavlova? Essential. But milk? Disgusting. It’s not a drink, it’s a stepping stone to greater things.

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I am absolutely 100% not at all lactose intolerant (I promise) so I don’t relate to this video at all (not even a bit).

Angharad Yeo is the host of Double J Weekends, 9am – midday, Saturdays and Sundays.



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F5 cuts revenue 2022 forecasts amid low network chip stocks • The Register

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The artist formerly know as F5 Networks – it moved to plain old F5 in November – is clipping revenue forecasts for fiscal ’22 by $30m to $90m because it can’t source enough specialised chips to produce systems.

The continued impact of the shortfall was outlined in F5’s Q1 results to 31 December and subsequent earnings conference call, during which chief exec François Locoh-Donou opened up on the challenge of suppliers cancelling orders because they can’t meet demand.

“As a result of persistent strong system demand, our systems backlog continued to grow in Q1,” he said. “Over the last 30 days, suppliers of critical components that span a number of our platforms have informed us of significant increases in decommits.

“These came in the form of both order delivery delays and sudden and pronounced reduction in shipment quantities. The step function decline in components availability is significantly restricting our ability to meet our customers’ continued strong demand for our systems.

“Like others in the industry, we are seeing worsening availability of specialized networking chipsets. Within the last 30 days, we have learned that deliveries for 52-week lead time components or at a year ago have been pushed out and that our expected quantities have been reduced.”

Group turnover grew 10 per cent year-on-year to $687m in F5’s Q1, fuelled by a 47 per cent leap in software to $163m, 2 per cent in services to $344m, and 1 per cent in hardware to $180m.

“Our software transition continues to gain momentum,” said Locoh-Donou, adding later in the earnings call: “While we are solely disappointed that supply chain challenges have gated our ability to fulfil customer demand for systems in the near term, we are more confident than ever in our position, our strategy and our long-term opportunity.”

The backlog grew by 10 per cent so the sales pipeline is looking healthy, said the exec, who was at great pains throughout the call to tell analysts: “It absolutely is a supply issue. And the revision we’ve just done to our annual guidance is 100 per cent linked to the supply issue.”

For the year, F5 now expects sales to grow 4-8 per cent ($610m to $650m).

“The issue with our supply chain has deteriorated steadily. And last year, we were not able to ship the demand, which is why our backlog grew so much during the year.

“Things have been getting worse. And at the beginning of our fiscal year, when we were doing the planning for this year, we actually took into account the number of decommits that we were getting from various suppliers and a situation that was already very tight on a number of components.”

He said in the past month it was seeing more than 400 cancellations from suppliers, “and we were running about 30 per cent less than that even just a month ago – the situation is quite unprecedented.”

In a bid to ameliorate the supply situation, F5 said it is working to design and qualify replacement parts – which may improve thing in the second half of the year. It is also trying to pre-order more components.

F5 is confident that it will not see orders cancelled. “The demand we have is very real. Our lead times, unfortunately, have gotten progressively worse over the last five, six quarters, but we haven’t seen any increase in order cancellation, and we don’t expect to see that going forward,” Locoh-Donou stated.

Supply chain problems with silicon components have been hitting companies in the IT industry and beyond for multiple quarters now, and networking vendors are no less vulnerable.

Last year, Arista warned that lead times for key chips were extending out to 60 weeks, twice what would be expected before the pandemic. Both Arista and Juniper announced they were being forced to bump up prices in November, while Cisco warned its buyers and investors that supply chain issues were likely to persist for several months more, although it expected to see some improvement in the situation for Q3 and Q4, taking us into the second half of 2022. ®

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Cork data centre equipment maker Edpac acquired for €29m

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Munters, a Swedish air treatment technology company, will use the Edpac acquisition to expand into the European market.

Irish data centre equipment manufacturer Edpac has been acquired by Swedish company Munters in a €29m deal.

Based in Carrigaline, Co Cork, Edpac manufactures cooling equipment and air handling systems for data centres in the European market, with additional sales in the Middle East, South America and Asia.

For Munters, which has significant operations in North America, the acquisition is an opportunity for it to expand in the European market. Once complete, the deal will see the transfer of Munters’ technologies and engineering capabilities to Ireland.

“The European data centre market is a prioritised segment for Munters, and the acquisition is a significant step in our growth strategy,” said Klas Forsström, president and chief executive of Munters.

Forsström said that Munters’ experience in the North American market will provide Edpac with “opportunities for further profitable growth” by collaborating on “technology development and establishing unified processes”.

Edpac has two manufacturing facilities in Ireland – Newmarket and Carrigaline – and employs around 150 people in the country. Currently a manufacturing partner for Munters, Edpac sees approximately 7pc of its revenue come from the sale of Munters products.

In the financial year ending April 2021, Edpac reported net sales of €17m and earnings before tax of €1.7m. According to The Irish Times, Edpac managing director Noel Lynch has led the company since it was bought from its Swiss parent in 1991.

“We are excited to welcome Edpac to Munters. Edpac brings an attractive, differentiated customer base and high-quality products,” Forsström said, adding that Edpac’s operating model “is a perfect match with Munters ways of working.”

Founded in 1955, Munters aims to create energy efficient air treatment technologies for customers in a wide range of industries. Listed on Nasdaq Stockholm, it employees 3,300 employees across 30 countries – with annual sales exceeding 7bn Swedish krona in 2020.

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