Virgin Media Powered By TiVo - Browse, Apps and Verdict

David Gilbert

By David Gilbert


Our Score


Review Price free/subscription

Where the TiVo box significantly differs from any of the competition on offer, is in the Browse and Search options. From the homepage, choosing Browse and Search will let you find virtually any television show, film, actor, actress, director that is scheduled to appear in the coming weeks. It will allow you to check out when and where particular programs are on, record them and set up series links. The 'Browse All TV' option, brings you to curated groups of television shows and films including Pick of the Week, Collections and Categories.

The My Wishlist Searches option is a very powerful tool and one of the best features on TiVo. Say for example you love Christopher Walken (and who doesn't) and you don't want to miss anything that he appears in. By setting up a Wishlist Search for Walken, your TiVo box will automatically keep an eye out for anything to do with the acting legend and record it for you. You can set up as many searches as you like based on actor, actress, director or just a keyword. The final option in this Browse section is access to YouTube. This means you can search the entire YouTube library whenever you want, using the dedicated 10Mbps modem in the TiVo box. The interface is simple and the system works effectively, though with most of the content on the video sharing site not the best quality, on a larger screen it can seem very blurry indeed.

The final section on the homepage menu is Apps and Games. In its current form, this section is not a killer feature, but it is the possibilities that Virgin Media could open up which make it such an exciting feature. Currently there are just seven apps available: Twitter, BBC iPlayer, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Celebrity, Weather, eBay and again YouTube. The iPlayer app has been developed specially for Virgin Media and contains up to three times the content available on the V boxes. Users can access it through this dedicated app or via the red button. The other apps are all fairly basic (the eBay app doesn't even let you make a bid) but Virgin Media fully admits these are merely the beginning and it sees this as one of the areas where TiVo will stand out in the future.

The 1TB TiVo box is not cheap. Costing £199 for new customers and £149 for existing customers, the box gets a lifetime guarantee from Virgin Media should anything go wrong, but the catch is that you actually don't own the box and effectively are renting it - which is a little odd. However this week Virgin Media has announced a new 500GB box which will cost £49.95 for existing customer.

Content-wise, only XL customers will be able to get the 1TB TiVo costing £33.50-a-month without a phone line and £27.50-a-month when bundled with the phone line - which is a £3-a-month bump in price for the pleasure of using TiVo. Customers on the L or M packages will be able to by the new 500GB box from mid-May with a similar £3-a-month price bump in subscriptions.

With 50,000 people pre-registering their interest in getting a TiVo box, there certainly seems a demand for the service out there. The box itself, while quicker than its predecessors, is still sluggish in places and some of the menu screens look pixelated. Add to this the high initial cost and bump of £3-a-month in the subscription and a lot of people could be put off the service.

While there are certainly some drawbacks, Virgin Media freely admit that this is just the beginning and the powerful box offers so much more than any of its competitors do. Its unique learning brain will bring you to television places you could only have dreamed of. It will introduce you to shows you will love (and hate) and will help you view television in the way you want to view it. The potential for growth is huge with TiVo and if Virgin Media get it right then it will set the standard for how we watch TV for a long time into the future.

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April 14, 2011, 2:34 pm

Strangest business model ever... renting a box when you must first pay a non-refundable lump-sum £200 for the privilege of never owning it!


April 14, 2011, 7:41 pm

Was genuinely interested in this (anything has to be better than the V+ box).... right up until I saw the price. £150 is far too much for a rental box I'm afraid. The 500Gb version at £50 sounds like a far more attractive deal until you notice they want to stick an extra £40 on for installation. Such a shame, it's got the potential to be a fantastic system but it's just too expensive right now.


April 14, 2011, 9:53 pm


£200 lump sum is for new customers - whereas existing Virgin customers can pick this rental box up for an up-front investment of £150.

Think someone at Virgin needs to gain an understanding of the concept of 'rental' and 'deposit'.

I'd honestly be more interested in hooking Virgin's TV service up through Windows Media Centre - but I gather that's not exactly straight forward either.


April 16, 2011, 12:15 am

No one is going to buy the big-boy, but the 500 Gb at £90 installed + £3 per month must be tempting. Not a bad price for a PVR with a fair few tricks up its jumper.


April 16, 2011, 1:22 pm

It's a good deal. The £150 buys you free lifetime service and/or replacement of units if they are unfixable. The £3 pm is for the TiVo software interface, which does a lot more than competitors'.

With Sky you pay for any repairs or any replacement of units.


May 6, 2011, 2:37 am

I am about to loose my beloved first generation TiVO in a month's time when they finally turn the EPG off thanks to the new box being launched with Virgin.

I have yet to see a PVR that comes close to TIVO in terms of its ease of use and features that ensure there is always something worthwhile that I will want to watch on the hard drive, even if I didn't know I wanted to watch it!
It takes about a month of use to thumbs down all the stuff you really aren't interested in but it keeps learning.
If I lived in an area with Virgin Media I would bite their arm off for one of these boxes.


May 10, 2011, 3:54 am

"Knight Rider's KIT", it should be "KITT" or K.I.T.T with 2 T's, someone did not watch the classic 80's show me thinks ;)


September 18, 2011, 8:51 pm

The Virgin Tivo still has several faults - it cuts the end off recordings - it looses channels - it is difficult to use - it has no interactive feature. Don't go there - wait until Virgin gets it sorted.

Doug Gordon

October 18, 2011, 3:08 pm

I have to say I am amazed at your review. I have been a Virgin media customer since before

their takeover of Telewest.

The original Virgin V/V+ box UI (user interface)

was far superior to the new Tivo box UI. Why?

[1] The original menu deign and navigation was

simple, easy to remember and required few steps.

[2] You could set multiple channel/time reminders (one of best and most useful features of the box/IU).

[3] recording was simple and easy to cancel.

In-fact it's only miss giving was that the box was old and the UI a bit slow. Apart from that it was extremely easy and clear to use.

The new Tivo box UI is almost the exact opposite.

[1] The menu design and navigation is clearly the implementation of a power point presentation and have never been used by its designers (else they would not have released the product with such a painful UI).

[2] The channel/time reminders feature has vanished! How mind numbing annoying is that. I mean to say you would think that that would be a prime requirement of such a *wonderful*

box UI? and in software its a such a no-brainer to implement. In-fact if you hit the 'ok' button on the remote, it will mark the program to record. If you hit the 'ok' button again it will not cancel the recording. The only way to cancel the recording is to leave the TY guide menu completely, navigate to 'your planed recordings' menu, find the planed recording, hit the 'ok' button there, hit the 'ok' button again to 'confirm' and the go all the way back through the menu system to the TV guide. How rubbish is that!

I could go on and on about the Virgin Tivo UI

and it's horrible design and navigation. Best you try one out for 'real' before you upgrade.

I am moving to Sky..........




October 18, 2011, 3:27 pm

I think the idea is that it records everything so you should never need set a reminder - just schedule a recording instead. If you don't want to keep the recording, you just delete it. Form what I've seen of the interface it seems pretty easy to use as well. And in long term testing - David has it installed - he's never reported any problems.


December 31, 2011, 5:33 pm

Had my Tivo box fitted on the 21/12/2011. Used it to record stuff over the christmas holidays and everything seemed great. Yesterday it had ' just wait a few minutes...' on the screen then kept going through a rebooting cycle. Got through to VM who said that they would get an engineer out the next day. To be fair the guy came out at 9am the next morning. End result was that the box had to be replaced, said that they had received a bad batch of Tivos. This means that I have lost everything that I have saved, not happy. Looking at the net you find that this must have been one big batch as a lot of problems seem to have been experienced with the Tivo. It is a great piece of kit, very impressive, but it certainley has reliabillity problems. I have no confidence in it, will continue to use Pc to save stuff that's important to me.


February 14, 2012, 9:32 pm

Initially, I made a decision based on the user reviews here not to migrate over to VM from Sky. But something didn't feel quite right. Then I came across this thread on the avforums:

So I put all their objections to the 'resident expert user' there (Carl Waring). I'm so glad I did. Carl answered all their objections to my satisfaction, and I'm now moving over to VM from Sky. There is a reason this site is called Trusted Reviews. David Gilbert has it just about right - he knows what he's talking about, and the user reviewers here (Gordon, Sanchez and Trammess) are just plain wrong. The moral? Make sure you are thorough in your research before you dismiss a viable alternative Tv services provider.


February 27, 2013, 12:24 pm

I'll keep it short, Remote way too awkward, you need to put a light on to see buttons if your using it in an evening. menus way to complicated. Stick with virgin HD or sky.

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