Virgin Media TiVo April 2011
Virgin Media TiVo first look
Virgin's latest PVR is powered by TiVo and uses its own broadband connection to access the internet. It promises to help you find the TV you actually want to watch and let you record it on its huge 1TB hard drive. We haven't lab-tested the Virgin Media TiVo yet. These are our first impressions.
Virgin is rolling out its long awaited TiVo service so we popped down to Virgin's Our House event in London to be one of the first to see it in action.
The new TiVo box, described by Virgin Media as 'the UK's first next-generation entertainment platform', features web-based applications alongside the usual live TV, catch- up services and on-demand programmes.
At first glance the amount of content available these days can be overwhelming. The selling point of TiVo is that it claims to be a guiding hand to help you find the TV you actually want to watch by examining your viewing habits, then recording programs it thinks you'll like.
For help and advice on how to find the best TV service for your needs, see our guide to your cable, satellite and digital TV options.
Thumbs up or thumbs down with TiVo
Have you ever sat down wanting to watch something but not sure what? Well, Virgin hopes its TiVo box will provide you with the answer. It says it will learn what TV you like and will make start to make recommendations. The more you use it, the more it gets to know you and as well as suggesting this it'll record and save them for you.
Your PVR getting to know you might be a scary thought but, with a huge range of channels and programmes available, it could help you wade through the schedules.
You can give it a steer in the right direction by rating shows with the 'Thumbs up' and 'Thumbs down' buttons on your remote. It gives you the option to give something one, two or even three thumbs up or down for those love/hate moments.
It also offers a new search engine that finds films, music, TV shows and online content with your search term. Users can create a WishList search on a particular show, theme, actor or director and automatically record all future content related to it.
We can't wait to put the new features on the TiVo box to the test in our lab. In the meantime you can find out how the current Virgin+ box compares to other PVRs in the Which? PVR reviews.
Virgin's TiVo box
The TiVo PVR offers 1TB (1,000GB) of storage, which Virgin claims is up to 500 hours of standard definition programming. This is a high recording capacity, most other PVRs offer 250GB to 500GB, but remember if you are recording in high definition it will cut down on the hours. A smaller 500GB version of the box will be available from 16 May.
The box itself looks fairly unassuming but the 'iconic peanut-shaped' TiVo remote control does stand out - especially the one we tried out, which was an eye-catching shiny silver. It also has the capacity to record two channels while watching a third thanks to its three tuners.
For accessing online content there's a 10Mbps cable broadband modem built in which, according to Virgin, works on its own dedicated channels of bandwidth. This should mean your household broadband connection won't grind to a halt as you watch.
TiVo Apps and Games
The Apps and Games section offers a new BBC-branded iPlayer application, and games such as Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.
You can also view YouTube videos, although the quality will depend on what's been uploaded to the site. One of the clips we watched was a bit fuzzy - what looks fine on the small screen of your netbook might not look so good on your wide screen TV.
Virgin was keen to point out that this section is still in development and new apps are likely to be added in the future. The box's broadband modem allows any updates to be made via this connection without a need for customers to manually update.
What will TiVo cost?
To get TiVo you'll need to pay a one-off cost to get the box as well as a monthly subscription. A standard installation will cost an additional £40.
TiVo 1TB box
- £199.95 for new customers
- £149.95 for existing customers
- £33.50 if taken as a standalone service
- £27.50 if you take a Virgin Media landline at £12.99 a month (total cost £40.49)
The 500GB TiVo box launching in May will be available to existing customers only initially. It will then be available to customers taking M+ and L Virgin TV packages. The 1TB box will be exclusive to XL customers. The cost of the smaller box will be £49.95 but details of the monthly subscription cost are yet to be announced.
Although the box uses a broadband connection, it's not compulsory to be a Virgin broadband customer. You must, however, be able to get a Virgin cable connection. This means the service is currently only available to the 50% of the UK population who live in a Virgin Media cable area.
TiVo is currently being rolled out to customers and if you're interested you can register on the Virgin Media website.
Pros: Improved search and TiVo's unique recommendation abilities, any updates can be made over the in-built broadband connection.
Cons: The monthly subscription and the one-off cost for the PVR doesn't come cheap.
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