Gadget Update: Virgin Media TiVo

I’ve upgraded a couple of gadgets this month, satisfying my inner gadget geek for a while and giving me some new shinys to play with.

First up is a Virgin Media TiVo to replace my V+ HD. My main reason for getting this was for the massively larger hard drive: with the increase in HD channels I was finding my V+ was constantly filling up, forcing me to either watch or delete progammes to free up some space. The VM TiVo comes in 1TB or 500GB flavors; I opted for the “baby TiVo” as it works with my basic M+ TV package (for the 1TB box you need to be on the top TV package). There’s lots to love about the TiVo: it’s faster and quieter, sleeker and smarter; it has three tuners each with an hour-long buffer, there’s a 21-day programme guide (two weeks ahead, one week back), intelligent recommendation system (based on the TiVo “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons) and a clever wishlist feature that lets you create custom search recordings based on keywords, actors, directors etc. For example, I set one to look out for and record all films directed by Stanley Kubrick showing in HD.

There are a few isues with Virgin Media TV Powered By TiVo though (to give it its full clunky name). You get a smart “rewind time” EPG with catch-up, but the BBC force you to use iPlayer as a separate app. There’s also no set-and-forget padding to add a bit of time to the start and end of a recording. You can add padding, but you need to set it every time for every recording or series link. The TiVo box keeps on asking me for my PIN way too often, and some of the menu screens look awfully low-res. The app area is where you’ll find the BBC iPlayer along with a few others apps such as Twitter (laughably unusable) and YouTube (not too bad, but could seriously do with an option to sort-by-date). The oft-rumored Spotify app has yet to appear on Virgin Media, but if and when it does I expect it will be on the TiVo boxes only, since they have the app infrastructure as well as dedicated bandwidth that’s separate from your regular broadband.

All the above issues are software-based, so I can see see most of them getting fixed Virgin media in due course.

Perhaps the biggest down-side of VMTVPBT is the monthly cost: whereas the larger 1TB version costs you £3/month, the smaller (cheaper?) one costs £8/month on top of your regular package subscription. This is obviously to persuade you to upgrade to the larger TV package, but I do feel it is a bit of a cynical surcharge.

Still, VMTVPBT beats anything Sky has to offer in terms of functionality so I’m reasonably happy with it for now.


Here’s three great blogs to check out if you have or are thinking of getting a Virgin Media TiVo: