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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



The amount of on-demand content TV you get depends on what package you have. The XL deal we’re on has loads of complete series of TV programmes available to watch. There really is something for everyone and the content is rotated regularly. It isn’t as easy to browse as they should be, though; plus there’s no way to set favourites to return to easily later.

The key problem is that 90 per cent of the content comes under the ‘Comedy and Entertainment’ category, making searching by genre a waste of time. There are no thumbnails for the series or shows either, just a text list with descriptions. Once again, the TiVo suggestions system doesn’t work here, so you can’t easily tell your box you like South Park, despite having just watched a whole season of it. Search works fine, but then you have to know what you’re looking for, rather than browsing for something new. Video quality here was good, with both SD and HD offerings living up to DVD or broadcast HD quality respectively.

Virgin Media TiVo On Demand Get a more expensive package and you’ll get plenty of on-demand TV seasons

The key differences between Virgin Media and Sky are down to which channels you get; further complicated by the fact that many of Virgin Media’s most desirable offerings are actually Sky channels. As everyone has different tastes in TV, it’s impossible for us to directly compare one with the other, especially once you factor in the labyrinthine price structures that both companies have for their various services (including broadband and phone deals).

It’s worth pointing out that Sky currently has more HD channels at present, with up to 66 on offer should you go for the top-end package, while there are only 43 available on Virgin Media’s XL. This is partly because some of Sky’s channels, such as Sky Atlantic HD, aren’t available on Virgin Media’s service. Suffice to say you pay for that extra content on Sky, though.

At the very top-end – with all the sports, movie and HD packages – Sky certainly has the edge in HD content. But then there aren’t many people who are happy to pay over £70 a month in TV subscription fees.

Sky still has the lead with 3D TV, on which you can enjoy some sports, movies and documentaries. There still isn’t a huge amount of content at present, and we’ve seen little growth over the two years since we first wrote this review. The TiVo box also supports 3D content, but without Sky Sports in 3D, the range is limited to a few pay-per-view movies and some shorts and trailers.

Speaking of movies there’s a huge choice of pay-per-view films through Virgin Movies, though they’re not cheap at £4 and £5 respectively for SD and HD versions. Quality is good, though such services now have heavy competition from online services – speaking of which there are no apps for Netflix or Lovefilm here, which seems a missed opportunity all round.

If you’re coming from Freeview, then it’s a hell-of-a-lot of TV whichever package you choose. And the video quality on cable TV is excellent and consistent, with no reception issues. One minor quibble is that the on-demand menus are a little sluggish to navigate.


Here at Expert Reviews we use a variety of TV services, with Sky+, V+, Freeview PVR and PC-based Media Center users. How appealing the TiVo box is to you, will largely depend on where you’re coming from.

New to all this?

If you’re new to Virgin, and have come from Freeview services, then you’ll be amazed by how much TV there is on offer here. The sheer bulk of it does make it a little unwieldy to navigate at times, but at least you won’t have to switch from device to device to get all your content – previously one of us often found himself moving from a dual-tuner Freeview box, to the TV itself for its built-in iPlayer service, and then onto an Xbox for on-demand movies. At first the corporate branding on everything may irk you, but you soon learn to ignore it, and to master the occasionally iffy navigation.

The TiVo box certainly matches up well to Sky’s excellent Sky+ HD box. We think the TiVo has the edge technically, with its extra tuner, TiVo suggestions system, real-time search and arguably superior ‘pull’ catch-up service. Sky has caught up with additions like iPlayer content on the timeline (though still no dedicated app to browse), but TiVo has struck back with red-button interactive services.

That said, it’s content that rules. At present Sky has arguably the better selection of movies and you can get more HD sports channels from the satellite provider, plus the exclusive Sky Atlantic channel, which shows the best US shows and tons of excellent HBO content. A better box certainly levels the playing field, but for some it simply won’t replace certain much-loved channels.

On the plus side for Virgin Media, you can get some excellent bundles with super-fast broadband and TV, though even here Sky is fighting back with its new fibre-based broadband services.

Upgrading from V+?

If you’ve still got a V+ box then TiVo is a huge step forward and worth switching to one of the new collections packages to receive. For anyone who watches more than the most minimal amount of TV. The interface is improved, the content is easier to find, plus you can record much, much more of it.


Two years down the line from its release the TiVo box has improved in many ways, though it still has a slightly clunky menu system and struggles to deal with the huge amount of content accessible through it.

It’s hard to put a score on such a device, as its pricing and usefulness is inextricably linked to Virgin Media’s other offerings – and how those then compare to Sky’s packages. However, it’s an accomplished set top box, and the equal of anything else out there today. It continues to be a key weapon in Virgin Media’s armoury to tempt current ADSL and Freeview users into the world of cable services – so it retains our Best Buy award.

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AwardBest Buy


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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