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.