The peanut-shaped remote control is a big change from previous versions. Like the system as a whole, it took some getting used to, but after a few days using it, it became a lot more familiar, though selecting buttons was far from second nature. The numeric buttons are on the bottom of the remote with the play, pause, fast-forward and rewind buttons occupying the centre of the unit. The unique ‘Thumbs Up’ and ‘Thumbs Down’ buttons sit either side of the record button, above which sit a plethora of navigation buttons.
While the remote itself feels rather nice in the hand, if you need to switch between using the navigation buttons on the top of the remote and numeric buttons on the bottom, it’s rather awkward. Another problem with the remote is there are too many small buttons on the top of the remote, making it virtually impossible to pick the right one without studying it intently – which is awkward when watching TV in the dark.
The Electronic Program Guide (EPG) for TiVo has been completely redesigned and those used to the old Virgin set up will initially find it strange to deal with. With a new remote and new system to navigate, it took quite a while for us to be able to use it instinctively and even a couple of weeks in, there are still times when it’s not altogether natural. The major change comes in the homepage, where you are greeted with a list of six options on the left hand side and a visual Discovery Bar across the top where program icons are dynamically displayed while you browse through the homepage. The Discovery Bar includes a combination of programs TiVo thinks you would like and programs promoted by Virgin. There is still all the stuff you would find on the V box menu including On-Demand content and My Shows and Recordings.
Overall the redesigned homepage and guides are a lot brighter than the previous versions and once you get used to the left and right selection method, they are intuitive to navigate your way around. First up is the TV Guide, which has been redesigned to include more information such as which programs are available via catch-up – indicated by a little ‘c’ symbol. Where things begin to get interesting is that the new EPG allows you to scroll forward and back, up to seven days. Any programs in the last seven days you see with the catch-up symbol can be clicked and two clicks later you are watching the show. This is a very slick system but we just wished the BBC on-demand content could be accessed this way too rather than via a dedicated app or the red button.
While watching TV, the program guide gives us a lot more information than previously, including a program description and what channels the other two tuners are tuned into. It is also possible from here to go directly to either of these channels and rewind to the point when it tuned into that channel. While watching a show you can press the green Thumbs Up or red Thumbs Down buttons to let the system know this is the type of program you like or dislike. It is these actions which help TiVo to predict what you like and make suggestions about shows it thinks you may enjoy.
In the My Shows menu from the homepage (also accessed via a dedicated remote button), you will find all the recordings (organised into folders if there is more than two of one series) and Series Links you have scheduled, but you will also find a folder entitled Suggestions. It is in here that TiVo places the shows it thinks you would enjoy based on your viewing habits and Thumbs Up or Down selections. For the most part, TiVo gets it spot on, recording shows and films in the same genre as those we would normally watch anyway. While most of the programs are fairly obvious choices, there were a few we hadn’t seen/heard of before and this is where TiVo excels, by introducing you to content that otherwise would have completely passed you by.