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

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



If you’re used to Freeview PVRs or set-top boxes, the TiVo’s interface may come as a bit of shock. Yes, Virgin Media’s corporate colours may be bright red, but even so, does the whole interface need to be a slave to that garish shade? There’s also Virgin’s logo on almost everything, which seems an unnecessary use of valuable screen space when you’re already signed up.

The most obviously TiVo influenced part of the interface, and remote control, is the thumbs-up and thumbs-down system. While you’re watching a programme you can press either the green or red buttons to give it up to three thumbs-up or -down. The TiVo service then looks at other TiVo users who liked that programme; and makes recommendations to you based on other programmes those viewers enjoyed.

Virgin Media TiVo thumbs-up Tell your TiVo what you like, and don’t like, and it will listen

It makes the recommendations, called TiVo Suggestions, in two ways. Most obviously, it has a ticker tape of images across the top of the main screen, including both shows and actors. The images used aren’t simply stills from the shows, but publicity shots complete with the show’s logo. You can browse through these using the remote control and select the ones you want to record and the box even explains why they’ve been suggested to you. Somtimes these are useful, but we’re irked by the regular addition of advertising into this bar – both for random products and for pay-per-view content.

TiVo will actually go and record some of the suggested shows without even asking you. Such suggested recordings won’t ever clash with a scheduled recording, nor will it delete stored recordings to make way. Also suggestions are always deleted first when you run out of space on your hard disk. What it will do is fill up spare space on your hard disk with shows you might want to watch. Over the years we’ve has the box, we could count on both hands the number of times we’ve watched these recordings, though sometimes it does record something we forgot to schedule ourselves, which is very handy.

Virgin Media TiVo main menu The main menu with TiVo suggestions at the top

Obviously, with a whole family using the box, who have a wide variety of tastes, it will throw up a lot of suggestions that won’t be to everyone’s liking. When you first turn on the box, it will suggest hideous popular trash too, which you’ll have to put up with until it gets used to your own tastes. There should be a way to set certain genres as complete non-starters, for example we’d happily ban our box from ever suggesting any sort of reality TV show. Still, it’s a good way of getting you watching new shows, and of giving you a big range of programmes to view without having to resort to live TV and its unskippable adverts.


Obviously you’ll want to make your own recordings too. As we mentioned above, you can record three shows simultaneously, so you shouldn’t get many clashes. Attempting to set up a fourth simultaneous recording prompts a screen that asks whether you want to cancel the last previous recording – it doesn’t offer you a full list of possible cancellations unfortunately.

Setting up series links has been much improved over the original firmware. Press record on any show (either while watching or in the guide) and you get an option to set up a series link on this show, alongside recording a single episode. Managing your series links is still a little trickier, though, as they box switches to a low-resolution menu. Here you can do some useful stuff though, like order your series links in importance, so that you get the most important recordings guaranteed.

Virgin Media TiVo series link The series link feature works fine, but parts feel a little tacked on

You can access your recordings using the dedicated My Shows button on the remote. You get a list of shows, which can be ordered by date or alphabetically. Programmes from the same series are grouped together and indicated by a number in brackets. As you browse through you get a promo shot for each show as well as genre information, a HD logo if applicable and a channel logo. It all works very well, though we’d happily lose the TiVo recommendations bar from the top of the screen to free up more space.

Virgin Media TiVo my shows The My Shows menu lets you access your recordings


Of course, even with your own recordings, series links and TiVo’s own suggestions, you may occasionally miss something you wanted to watch. The TiVo box’s catch-up TV options are pretty impressive, thankfully, if a tad unorganised.

For ITV, Channel 4 and Five (plus associated channels) you get one week’s worth of catchup TV integrated into the EPG. This isn’t every programme, but a good amount of the most popular stuff is present, and if you know when something was on you can just flick back and watch it.

Programs available this way are clearly marked on the EPG, and it’s great for picking through a night’s TV if you get in late. Some are streamed from Virgin’s servers using the box’s built-in tuners, and so will use a tuner to watch, but won’t impact your broadband bandwidth; others are simply slick links through to catch-up services, most notably iPlayer where you get all the usual options (including HD is available).

This ‘pull’ catch-up system is superior to Sky’s overnight ‘push’ system, which uses downtime overnight to fill Sky+ boxes’ hard disks with catch-up content, as you don’t have to wait to the net day to watch something. You also get catch-up content for any Sky channels you subscribe to, such as Spartacus on Sky 1, though this is found in the On Demand section rather than being integrated on the timeline like the terrestrial channels.

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Analogue tuners0
Digital tuners3
Hybrid tuners0
EPG days14
Dual-channel recordingyes
Series linkyes
Video recording formatMPEG2
Teletext (analogue/digital)N/A
Certified Freeview Playbackno
Picture in Pictureno
Interactive content supportno


Analogue tuner RF inputs0
Digital tuner RF inputs0
Hybrid tuner RF inputs0
RF passthrough sockets0
HDMI outputs1
Component outputs0
Output resolutions576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
Total SCART sockets1
S-Video input0
S-video output0
Composite inputs0
Composite outputs0
Stereo phono inputs0
Stereo phono outputs0
Coaxial S/PDIF outputs0
Optical S/PDIF outputs1
Surround sound formatsDolby Digital
Other ports2x USB, Ethernet


Optical driveno
Optical drive typeN/A
Audio playback formatsN/A
Video playback formatsN/A
Image viewing formatsN/A


Power consumption standby19W
Power consumption on19W

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