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Virgin Media HD V Box unveiled

Virgin HD TV offered at no extra subscription cost

Virgin HD V Box cable TV set-top box

Virgin Media has today announced a new HD set-top box – the V HD Box – that will let its customers receive HD TV channels for no additional monthly subscription fees.

Virgin claims that the V HD Box, made by Cisco, will be 3D-ready. Both existing Virgin customers and new subscribers will be able to buy the new V HD Box for £49 plus an installation fee, from 22 March. 

The V HD Box does not incorporate PVR functionality, though an upgraded version of the Virgin V+ PVR is likely later in 2010. Virgin customers can now choose between the basic standard-definition V Box, the new V HD Box, and the Virgin V+ HD PVR – reviewed by Which?.

According to Virgin, the V HD Box includes HDMI, Scart, USB and Ethernet sockets. The company also claims that the V HD Box features ‘a best-in-class power saving function which dramatically cuts power usage by approximately 95% compared to standby mode’ – Which? will put this to the test when we give the V HD Box a full lab test as part of our set-top boxes review.

Tempted by the crystal clarity of high definition? To ensure the best possible picture quality choose from the wide range of Best Buy HD-ready TVs in the Which? LCD and plasma TV review.

What’s on Virgin Media HD?

Virgin media announced last week that E4 HD and Film 4 HD will be available on Virgin Media from summer 2010, joining HD channels already available on the platform.

Film4 HD will show a daily line-up of movies. Virgin Media says the channel will showcase the best of British film-making, including Slumdog Millionaire and Mike Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky. You’ll also be able to watch international films in HD including US independent films, Hollywood blockbusters, mainstream drama and comedy.

E4 HD offers popular TV shows including Glee, Skins and Hollyoaks in HD. Alongside a choice of Channel 4 commissioned programmes, E4 HD will also offer a range of films and well known US series including Desperate Housewives, 90210, and Ugly Betty in HD. 

E4HD and Film4HD join Virgin Media’s growing HD line-up of C4HD, BBC HD, ESPN HD, FX HD, MTVN HD, National Geographic HD, LIVING HD (a Virgin Media exclusive) and the forthcoming Discovery HD and Eurosport HD channels.

Virgin Media customers can also watch several hundred hours of HD programmes on-demand.

Sky, Freesat and Freeview HD

To watch HD television you’ll need HD-ready equipment – either an HD TV and an HD set-top box, or an HD TV set with a built in HD tuner. 

You’ll also need a digital TV service that broadcasts in HD. Virgin Media’s HD service is available at no extra charge to customers that subscribe to it’s top-level ‘XL’ pay-TV service.

Virgin Media’s HD service has always faced tough competition from Sky’s pay-TV HD service, for which you must pay an additional monthly HD subscription, and now faces a new HD rival in the form of Freeview HD. 

Which? will be testing Freeview HD set-top boxes and Freeview HD TVs as they become available in shops – keep an eye on the Which? website for the results of our first batch of testing coming soon.

Free HD TV

Freeview started rolling out its HD service to parts of the UK late last year, and hopes that Freeview HD will be available for almost 50% of the UK population to watch in time for the 2010 World Cup.

You can also watch HD programmes on Freesat, the free satellite TV service from the BBC and ITV.

It’s free to watch HD programmes on both Freeview and Freesat as long as you have the necessary digital HD equipment, but the range of shows isn’t as extensive as on either Sky or Virgin Media.

Find out more about watching HD in the Which? guides to Freeview HD and HD TV explained.

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