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Virgin Media TV V6 review: Sky Q rival launches new TV box and TellyTablet in UK

Virgin Media revamps its TV service for 2017 with new 4K V6 box and TellyTablet, but is it worth the upgrade?

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Virgin Media is all about the “connected entertainment” mantra. A natural progression, it says, from the old ways of cable TV. Moving away from the antiquated ways of separating apps for each service, Virgin Media is streamlining everything into one handy place.

At its core of the revamp is the new Virgin TV V6 box, the company’s smallest and fastest TV box to date. Half the size of the TiVo box Virgin currently offers, its bland-looking square box is packed with some neat extras. You can record up to six programmes at once while watching a seventh now – something we know Sky Q will be offering next year.

You can also expect to see 4K support via your typical cable TV offerings and streaming services. If you want to record 4K TV shows, expect the meagre 1TB of storage to fill up fast. By comparison, Sky Q’s 2TB box can fit around 200 hours of HD TV. Of course, you can always download shows and watch them on the go with the improved TV Anywhere app.

The app, available for both iOS and Android, allows you to sync some of your recordings with your V6 box to watch offline. While I’m yet to have the opportunity to properly test this, I figure licensing restrictions will get in the way of what you can watch on the go. The revamped Kids app gives young ‘uns a safe place to watch their TV shows and movies on those long “are we there yet?” filled journeys.

The current TiVo experience is clunky. It’s gotten so bad at home I’ve given up using it entirely, opting for a Chromecast or Fire TV Stick to catch up instead. It’s great to see the V6’s speed is boosted, however, and it’ll hopefully hold up far longer than the once industry-leading TiVo box.

My hour-long demo was filled with speedy experiences. Unlike my current TiVo box, every press of a button was immediately responded to and browsing through the many lists of TV shows and movies was a breeze. This newfound speed will be the reason most should choose to upgrade. 

The UI is no different. There are no changes here, aside from a revamped tile-based Box Set and Movie lists, as well as a Series Link+ feature. This incorporates all streaming services into one handy package, letting you know where you could watch which episode of said TV show. It makes the TV experience so much easier - you're never flitting between a bunch of different third party services.

Multi-room viewing is also a possibility – you can watch stuff in other rooms either with another V6 box, old TiVo box or mobile device. Unlike with Sky Q’s multi-room offering, although there’s no Wi-Fi pairing, so you’ll have to install another V6 box to take advantage of this.

The new remote looks near-identical to the TV remote of old. It’s weighty and a little smaller, but its confusing dumbbell-like design will still have me holding it upside down. The new dedicated universal search button helps you look for shows from all streaming services you have linked to the box. It’s also ditched IR for RF, so it will work even when the new box is hidden away in a cupboard. It should beep if you lose it, too.

Most bizarre of all is the crudely named TellyTablet. Serving as an extra screen for multi-viewing, it’s got a 14in HD screen and runs Android Marshmallow. Bridging that gap between TV and streaming, it’s preloaded with a bunch of apps including BBC iPlayer and Sky Sports, as well as Virgin’s own longstanding TV Anywhere service.

It’s a hulking mess of a tablet, and it’s by no means lightweight. Its Full HD 1080p touchscreen is a little uninspiring, but there’s also 32GB of onboard storage with the option to expand via microSD. At £300 outright or as part of Virgin’s mobile contract at £23 per month, it’s up against the best of them, and I can see myself picking up a cheaper iPad mini 2 over this any day.

Virgin Media TV: Pricing and availability

Virgin Media’s TV V6 box has an upfront cost of £99, or £50 if you’re part of either the VIP or Full House bundles. Anyone currently signed up to Virgin’s services will be able to pick one up before the end of the year, with new customers able to get one in early 2017.

Virgin Media seems a bit late to the party. Sky launched its Sky Q box almost a year ago with a kids app, digital store and multi-room options, so the other TV giant has a significant leg up. Virgin Media is playing catch-up and, while six-show recording is coming to the TV V6 first, there’s not really anything here that Sky doesn’t do already. We’ll have to wait and see if Virgin can keep up.

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