Product Type: Cisco set top boxes
Newest Review: ... than an hour. The only disappointment I had was that I was not shown how to use the box and was just left with a booklet and remote t... more
America's TiVo hits British shores... again.
Virgin Media TiVo
Member Name: he6rt6gr6m
Virgin Media TiVo
Advantages: Recording of three programmes, easy to use interface, now completely affordable.
Disadvantages: Only available to Virgin Media cable customers, poor physical design, no reminder function yet.
Reasons vary depending on who you talk to as to why TiVo "failed" in the UK. Sky say the technology wasn't appealing to the British market. TiVo say the relationship between the two companies was part of the reason, which was soured because Sky were developing and promoting their own PVR behind the back of TiVo - the Sky+.
TiVo left the UK, with their debut experience being a failure. But were contacted by the newest-kid-on-the-block Virgin Media in late 2009 to have another bash and to work together. Along with Cisco, TiVo developed this exclusive box, the CT8685DVB, released in December 2010 with a massive £200 activation fee, £49 installation fee and extra £3 a month on top of your TV service.
Boasting three tuners for recording, the TiVo experience is definitely a serious competitor to the hugely successful Sky+HD product currently at the height of the British PVR market. Those three tuners allow you to record three (yes, THREE) programmes at one time, compared to one with Sky+HD, and two with Virgin Media's V+ service. And, as with all PVR's, you can record by using a series link by simply pressing the "R" button and selecting one of the options it gives you. TiVo allows you to select whether you'd like it to record a series of reruns and/or new episodes, which means you can filter out all those annoying daily reruns from your stored recordings.
If you're out and about, the Virgin Media TiVo app, available on the Android Market and Apple Market for free, allowing you to set a recording remotely (away from home), presuming you've left your TiVo box on and a data connection from and to your smartphone.
TiVo will also record suggestions for you, based on what you've watched and given the "thumbs up", so if you're a regular viewer of Emmerdale, the box will see that you like soaps, and record other soaps for your viewing. This is completely optional in the settings, but is enabled by default, so if you feel you'll be filling the hard drive up with your own recordings, you may want to disable this.
Hard drive capacity varies on which "size" you select. Both models of the set top box are exactly the same in every way other than the capacity of the hard drive, with the two options being a 500Gb and 1Tb (1024Gb) options. The 500Gb capacity allows for 250 hours of standard definition recording, and 50 hours of high definition recording from Virgin Media's ever-expanding range of HD channels, whereas the 1Tb doubles those numbers to 500 hours of standard and 100 hours of high def.
Also under the hood is a dedicated 10Mb modem, which downloads information on movies, shows and their stars on-the-fly, for use with TiVo's search options, as well as to stream videos using the TiVo app for YouTube. The 10Mb modem allows users to experience these features without it affecting their existing broadband service, allowing simultaneous surfing and streaming in your home.
As touched on, the TiVo search option is very in-depth, finding films, actors, actresses and TV shows by simply punching in a few characters in the search bar, and is very handy in finding your favourites and offering you any instance that they will be next on the TV. Such an impressive service still has slight teething problems, as the character input is momentarily slow to react, and pressing left too many times there sends you back to the previous screen. Also, upon searching last night, Discovery Real Time's NY Ink was nowhere to be found, even though the show exists but is currently not shown on TV. Juventud Guerrero, a professional wrestler who has one movie to his credit in "Ready to Rumble", shows up, even though the film isn't available on demand. But aside from that, the database is extensive and very impressive, allowing me to see instances within the next two weeks of Juventus' games to be shown on ESPN.
Also previously mentioned is the TiVo apps function, which is very handy and entertaining.
Currently available in the apps is YouTube, which is an excellent tool to have via the set top box, and isn't confusing with its very basic layout and search function. Quality of the video depends on the original uploader and his or her's upload quality, but the TiVo box does an excellent job of stretching it to fill the screen and the quality of videos I have watched through it have been very good.
Other apps include the BBC iPlayer, which is already part of the Virgin Media On Demand service, eBay, CNBC news, a Who Wants to Be A Millionaire game and weather app. One can only presume that TiVo and Virgin Media will allow more apps to come into the fold over time, and confirmation came in September that an update will improve the layout of the YouTube app, as well as other tweaks to the service.
Picture and audio quality is of the highest standard, even allowing for Dolby Digital 5.1 where available in specific programmes and movies. This is something many users of previous boxes from Virgin Media were disappointed not to have been able to experience.
If you've joined the craze of 3D viewing, you might be happy to know that the TiVo box is 3D-enabled, however, Virgin Media's selection of 3D content is rather limited at this time. The main focus is their On Demand platform, which offers films in 3D for a one-off rental price.
On the back of the box, there is a power switch to completely turn off the box so that no power runs through it for all the green people out there. A scart socket for those without a HD TV, one HDMI port for HD and 3D output, ethernet, two USB 2.0 ports and Optical Out.
The front has buttons for standby, home, TV, back, left, up, right, down, OK and record, which will be very handy if your remote dies or goes hiding, or you can't find replacement batteries.
The box itself isn't attractive, as seen in the picture accompanying this review, not looking too dissimilar from the PlayStation 3, and only comes in a charcoal colour, which will go well with other appliances of the same or similar colours. Those of us that picked silver for our set-up all those years ago are left with an odd-one-out, but for what the TiVo offers, I think many are willing to let that slide.
The remote, however, is a very sophisticated controlling device for the TiVo, and your TV's volume. Fitting in your hand perfectly with its monkey-peanut shape and grooved back for extra grip, the remote allows your hand to comfortably control everything you watch. With well spaced buttons, raised up well from the chipboard and plastic chassis, it would be the perfect remote for older users, although people with issues with sight may struggle with the writing on each button. The home button is located at the top, directing you to the main screen of the Virgin Media TiVo, with your basic PVR functions smack-bang in the middle with the TiVo "thumbs up/down" buttons being just above on each side, with volume functions and channel up/down opposite each other, numbers at the bottom and colours for shortcuts to all channels in the TV guide, access to help and so on. The remote itself is a typical TiVo design, and there's a reason why TiVo have stuck with this design, as it is quite magnificent.
Finally, I will take you onto the EPG - the Electronic Programme Guide and home screen design. Decorated in a tasteful dark-tinted red, associated with the Virgin brand, everything is curved and suave. The EPG bar at the bottom of the picture on the television has been given a lot of thought. Again, curved and with that lovely dark red tinge, it takes up around 20% of the screen, allowing you to view information for the programme, set a series link for recording, or simply see what the time is. Pressing "OK" will bring up a TV guide below that small EPG, increasing the amount of the picture taken up to around 50%, but with a hint of transparency, so you can still see what's happening behind the guide. It shows you three channels in the sort of TV guide format we're all used to. Scrolling up and down or punching in a channel number allows you to view now and next for the next two hours, and even allows you to view forthcoming programmes for the next TWO weeks (yes, the EPG has a two week TV guide), using the "fast-forward" button will forward you two hours and the"slow-forward" button on this will forward 24 hours. A very nice feature, handy for forward planning.
Going to the home screen shows you the current TV channel in the top-right hand corner, a permanent feature for Virgin Media boxes since the ntl: days, which disappears (as does the sound) when you open certain apps and go to certain screens, including the options for recording series links. Still red, and still with curved boxes for highlighting what you're clicking, it's very simple to use, using the arrow buttons on the remote, and the "OK" or "right" button to advance to the next screen, or the "left" button to go back. It isn't instantly responsive, but it isn't slow either - something cable services have become known for in the UK.
At the top of the home screen, there is a bar of discovery, showing you shows, movies and tips you may be interested in, allowing you to click and be directed straight to without any mess. It also refreshes to offer you different things throughout your day. Just highlighting a block in the discovery bar will bring up information, a rating and even a cover image you might see on a DVD or poster for the show.
One vital flaw the service has is its inability to alert and remind you that a show is starting. While the three tuners stop you from missing the show completely, the reminder function is a much-loved addition of many boxes left out of this specific device. TiVo and Virgin Media have confirmed that the consumer community has spoken out loud about the lack of this feature, and have acknowledged that they are looking into adding it.
The 500Gb is now available to new and existing customers for free, with a subscription of £3 a month on top of what you currently pay, and is absolutely a bargain for what you're getting in this excellent piece of kit.
An update in December will improve various things, including 'Express Series Link', speeding up the process of recording entire series. It could possibly add the one function missing from the TiVo that many consumers are very used to - reminders.
Summary: While Cable areas are limited in comparison to Sky satellite areas, this box should still worry Sky.
More reviews in the field of Set Top Box
- SKY + HD GREAT INVENTION
- Watch and record, pause and rewind, technology these days!
- A Great Old Set top Box, still in use!
- Great when it works...
- Needs updated but has had a long life
- Cheap and fairly solid
- Virgin Media New TIVO set top box
- Argos Digital Set Top Box
- Ticks all the boxes except for the one marked 'expensive'.