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Sky Sky Player on Media Center review

Sky Player on Media Center
Our Rating :

Brings on-demand Sky TV to your Media Center with the ability to rent movies and TV shows, but it's frustrating you can't resume programmes and that it's limited to Windows 7.

When we reviewed Sky Player on Xbox 360 (see Shopper, 264), we were a little disappointed that the service was quite limited and cut out some features from the PC version. With the Windows 7 Media Center edition, we’re pleased to say that everything’s been put back in, so you can pay to rent movies and TV shows, as well as watching live TV channels and on-demand programming.

Unlike the Xbox version, the Media Center version requires no subscription, just a Sky Player account. With this type of account you can pay between 98p and £1.47 to watch episodes of some popular TV shows, including House and Bones, and £3.43 for movies on Box Office. However, the choice is fairly limited and some Box Office films are reserved for Sky TV subscribers.

TV subscribers get free on-demand programmes from channels that they subscribe to, although some shows are still charged for. There’s a bigger choice of shows than on the Xbox version, though, with Sky One having noticeably more content rather than just reality and games shows. Box Office movies have to be paid for, but Sky Movies subscribers also get free on-demand films. Finding content is easy thanks to the Media Center-alike interface and built-in search. Annoyingly, the application doesn’t let you resume a show, which is odd as the Xbox version does.

Live channels, including Sky Movies Screen 1 and 2, MTV and Sky Sport 1, 2 and 3, are reserved for subscribers with Sky Broadband Unlimited (£10) or Sky Multiroom (£10 a month). Alternatively, if you don’t have or want a Sky TV subscription, you can take out an online subscription for between £15 and £41 a month, depending on the channels you want. This fee includes live channels.

Quality of the shows is very good with on-demand programming streamed at 1.4Mbit/s with 128Kbit/s audio, at a resolution of 640×360 for widescreen programmes and 640×480 for 4:3 content. This is a little short of PAL TV’s 720×576 resolution. Live TV is broadcast at the same resolutions but with a choice of Live High (1.8Mbit/s), Live Medium (1.2Mbit) and Live Low (600Kbit/s) stream rates. All produce watchable video, although scrolling text is easier to read with the higher-quality video.

Sky Player on Windows Media Center offers a lot more content than the Xbox version. For Sky TV subscribers, particularly those with Broadband Max or Multiroom subscriptions, it’s a great bonus, although it’s frustrating that it’s limited to Windows 7. For non-Sky customers, it’s an expensive way to get a limited range of channels.


Price £0
Rating ****

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