Product Type: other set top boxes
Newest Review: ... things like virgin media were invented from the company virgin that does many other things. The virgin media plus box came with our contra... more
Virgin's former flagship product before the advent of the mighty TiVo
Virgin V +Box
Member Name: KennyG5000
Virgin V +Box
Advantages: The comprehensive on TV on demand service will surely have plenty for everyone to enjoy
Disadvantages: Smallish hard-drive, a few of the showcase Sky channels unavailable at present
After reviewing the Sky HD+ box I figured for completeness I should give my opinions on Virgin Media's more recent answer to this, the V+ Box. Obviously Virgin weren't going for points when it came to originality in naming this set-top box recorder, but there are plenty of novel features here you simply won't find with Sky. The first difference that should be mentioned is that when I was an existing Virgin Media customer (around 6 months ago) I was charged a one off installation fee of £99 to upgrade to a V+ Box from the standard free one that comes with the TV package. This was around 2 years ago, and things of course move forward; I believe Virgin are now backing there newer TiVo set top box and there is a similar 'installation fee' for this box meaning I think you get the V+ Box free if you now sign up to Virgin as a new customer (not sure about existing customers upgrading still mind). Information regarding this is, let's say, at little hazy on Virgin Media's website, meaning you have to log in as an existing customer to see what offer is available to you personally.
So that's pricing out of the way, what do you actually get when you receive one of these shiny boxes from Virgin then? Well I'll come out and say straight away that I'm a huge fan of this set top box (see my other review for my direct comparison with the Sky HD+ box). I think Virgin Media have really nailed it with this one; they've basically taken all that was good about Sky's version of this and put in a few really nice improvements on what was already a solid performer. So you are going to find all of the features you are familiar with if you've had a Sky+ box before; namely I really well thought out and easy to navigate EPG (Electronic Program Guide) that holds data for the current 7 days (with nice easy options to jump forward 24 hours with the yellow button etc), the option to record any program with a single button click on the remote (with the ultra handy option of whether or not to record the entire series or just a single episode), and also two features you won't find on Sky, namely 'TV Choice' (now called just 'TV on Demand') and 'Catch up on Demand' (free to customers on the largest TV package). A nice plus for Virgin is on this box you can record two shows simultaneously and watch a third, yet on Sky only two shows can ever be recorded or watched at the same time.
'TV Choice' is a really brilliant service that fully utilizes the blazing hot download speeds that can be achieved through fibre-optic cable. Thus you have access to a huge back catalogue of TV shows and box sets, music events, sports programs; all handily sorted into clear categories for easy browsing. This service was comprehensive when I was last a Virgin Media customer (left Virgin December 2011), but now you can access a whopping 2600 hours of TV with this option, and I always found it brilliant to go through a whole series this way when there was (very often!) nothing decent to watch on the TV. Not to mention it appears since I left Virgin they have added Sky's 'Anytime' service, which is accessible for free. For those who don't know, Sky 'Anytime' is basically a selection of shows exclusively from Sky and it is disappointingly the only version of 'TV Choice' you get with Sky. The other service that Virgin offer you is 'Catch up on Demand', and this no less comprehensive. On this service you get shows from the last 7 days from just about all the channels you subscribe to, and it includes such luminaries as the 'BBC Iplayer', 'TV player' and '4 on demand'. So yes, that is a lot of TV and all of it will download a play just when you want it to (you could say I was a bit gutted that the house we moved to was not cabled!).
Okay so that's the mainly great things about the V+ Box and the service that Virgin Media offers. As always though to balance things out there are a few negatives. The hard-drive that you get with the V+ is modest at 160 Gb (compared to the 250 Gb of user space provided on the Sky HD+ box). In reality this means you can't keep that much, especially if you are recording a few series in HD, so you are often juggling your recorded content and desperately trying to get through shows to make space (and avoid the dreaded 'critical' status!). To be fair it seems this has been addressed in the release of Virgin's TiVo service (which is a V+ box on steroids!) which has a staggering 1 Terra byte drive, but this will obviously cost you for installation and upgrade (as an aside TiVo can record three programs while you can watch a forth...but good luck finding four shows on simultaneously you actually want to see!). I also thought that at time we chose to upgrade we'd been loyal Virgin customers for four years, and it still cost us £99 to upgrade to a V+ box, which is probably not the most enlightened customer service policy. Also annoying was the numerous times that 'TV Choice' and 'TV on Demand' just weren't available when you chose to access them; I've had to call Virgin a number of occasions and it seems provision of these services can be a bit intermittent.
The above points are only really minor gripes, and I really loved using this set top box and the TV service that Virgin Media offered. The comprehensive choice of TV available is overwhelming with 'TV on demand', meaning that if there's a dreary schedule of TV you can find quality shows here instantly and for free. It's this service and the more complete 'Catch up TV' that Virgin offer that I believe edges this box over what's on offer with the Sky HD+ box, but to be fair both offer a great choice of TV and the most hassle free television services that I've ever used. In short, a winner.
Summary: There's not a lot not to love about this excellent set top box and Virgin TV in general
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