Time to rattle Sky's cage?
Up until now if you wanted to watch Virgin's HD channels you needed a high end V+ box, but now Branson's company has brought HD to the masses with the new 'V HD'.
For a one-off cost of £49 and with no additional monthly free, the V HD is an extremely affordable new option to bring access to ESPN HD, FX HD, National Geographic HD, MTVN HD, BBC HD and Channel 4 HD. These six channels don't compete with the 40+ HD channels on Sky now, but with ITV 1 HD, Sci Fi HD, Eurosport HD, Discovery HD, E4 HD and Film 4 HD also arriving soon and the considerable cost saving it is an extremely affordable option nonetheless. It is also a wonderfully cheap way of watching this summer's World Cup in High Def.
On top of this the V HD can tap into the extensive on-demand content Virgin offer with HD movies such as the superb Hurt Locker (I'm still thrilled it beat Smurfahontas at the Oscars) available at the touch of a button. On demand is an area Sky still hasn't properly addressed ('Anytime' isn't fooling anyone, Rupert) and Virgin's integrated support for BBC iPlayer and 4oD is also well worth having.
As for connectivity, the box is what you'd expect with HDMI, SCART, USB and Ethernet while it is 3D-ready for future broadcasts.
Where the V HD box reveal its budget routes is the lack of any PVR (Personal Video Recorder) functionality meaning no recording or time shift capabilities (pause/rewinding live TV, etc). This will no doubt be addressed with a new flagship V+ box before too long, but given on-demand services are the true future of TV viewing it shouldn't a deal breaker for those on a budget.
The V HD box is available now and installation costs £35. Rather strangely it still costs £15 if you do it yourself (wise since you're only swapping cables). You will need to be on the Virgin M+ TV package, but this is just £5.50pm with a Virgin phone line or £11.50 without and is free for the first two months. M+ provides 65 channels and HD channels have no premium.
Yep, it's a contender.