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Virgin Media TiVo 1TB review: Still going strong six years later

Nathan Spendelow Seth Barton
1 Sep 2016
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
49
inc VAT

You've still got some navigation issues, but TiVo's wealth of content puts it up there atop the best PVRs around

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While not everyone can get Virgin Media's wide range of cable services, it's becoming much more widespread than you might think. It's been over 6 years since Virgin Media started rolling out its Tivo-powered PVRs and the box has now become the core of the company's Virgin Media TV offering akin to the Sky+ brand of its main competitor. Since then, a new competitor has arisen in the form of YouView, backed by BT and TalkTalk.

You might be familiar with the TiVo brand already, especially considering it's become increasingly popular overseas in recent years rather than our land of Sky dominance. Interestingly, we did get a bit of TiVop action in the UK way back in 2000, with the first ever hard-disk based recorders, but they were a bit too ahead of their time. They didn't sell all that many, and the Sky+ Box was the final nail in the coffin. Fast forward to the present, and we've had the TiVo box firmly in our homes for around 6 years now, but does it still hold up compared to its competitor's offerings?

BLACK BOX

The box itself is pretty tasteful, all black with a bunch of not too bright LED indicators along the front. There's a collection of useful buttons too, just in case you can’t find the remote. As usual, we wish that such boxes were as wide as standard Hi-Fi components and had flat tops, but it seems we’re on a losing battle with that one.

Virgin Media TiVo 1TB

The TiVo box's all-black finish is quiet and understated

On the rear of the box are all the ports you should need. The HDMI output is the only way to get HD video out of the box, as with previous V+ HD boxes there’s no component option, not that many people will be bothered by that these days. The SCART output is likely to be ignored by most too, as it doesn’t support HD signals. For those with an AV receiver that doesn’t support HDMI inputs, there’s an optical S/PDIF to hook it up.

As expected, the Ethernet port has never found a use, as the TiVo does all its communicating via its cable connection, the same goes for the two USB ports. Finally there’s the all-important smartcard slot, without which you won’t get very far - there's still no Freesat equivalent for cable TV services.

TUNING IN

Inside there are three tuners, so you can record up to three shows at the same time, and even watch recorded or on-demand content while doing so. All three tuners have their own buffers, so you can be recording two programmes, watching another, and still flick between the three and browse back through the buffered video as you wish. By comparison the Sky+ HD box only has a buffer on the currently watched channel - so you can’t flick to another channel, flick back, and still rewind. You can also press record half-way through a programme you’re watching and it will include the buffered video in the recording. This was a key feature missing from the old V+ box.

Virgin Media TiVo Captain Jack

You can permanently store buffered TV into a recording by pressing record while watching a TV show

There are actually two TiVo boxes on offer, all but identical except for their storage capacities: 500GB or 1TB. Whichever box you get, it will hold a lot more TV than the old V+ box, which only had a capacity of 160GB that equated to eighty hours of standard definition (SD) broadcasts or only 20 hours of HD. The new 500GB TiVo box can store 250 hours of SD or 60 hours of HD, with the 1TB box weighing in with 536 hours and 120 hours respectively.

It’s worth pointing out, for those new to Virgin Media, that you don’t actually own the TiVo box; instead you rent it from Virgin Media. The upside of this is that it will repair or replace the box should anything go wrong, the downside is that you can’t sell it on eBay after a year if you decide to cancel your contract.

THE PRICE IS RIGHT?

The cost of the box depends on which TV service you are signed up to, or are going to sign up to. The pricing details of all the various bundles are too complex to go into here, but you can look into Virgin Media services in your area online.

Essentially the box costs an additional £5 a month on top of your usual bill, with a one-off £50 ‘activation’ charge if you want the bigger 1TB capacity (though it’s free with some high-end packages). However, it’s now included as part of Virgin Media’s various ‘Collections’ of TV, broadband and phone services, and so the vast majority of those signing up to Virgin Media will get a TiVo box. The only alternative now is a non-recording V HD box, which is usually used a second room set top box.

Virgin Media TiVo price

A summary of charges for the TiVo box - click to enlarge

With most people opting for a deal that includes the box, it’s hard to put a price on the box itself, though its capabilities are still well worth considering in depth if you’re considering whether to go with Sky, Virgin or YouView in the future.

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