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back to article Virgin Media TV Powered by TiVo

TiVo is synonymous with hard disk video recording, at least in its native US. To date, its profile was lower in the UK, though a few thousand models of the original UK model were sold about ten years ago, winning it a loyal if small fanbase. Virgin Tivo Cisco's Virgin's TiVo box: PlayStation 3-like curves and minimalist styling …

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FAIL

Lost Simplicity

I had a Virgin TiVo for about a week before I handed it back. As an original TiVo customer I loved the simplicity, the crispness and easy of use of the original. The Virgin version is cluttered, confusing and displays random behavior that's just baffling.

Go in to the TV guide, and it won't start from the channel you're already on (it doesn't overlay like the original) but from random selection of channels.

If you have a Virgin TiVo you'll have the top package of channels, so to filter out the rubbish you can set favourites - which the TiVo will ignore and insist on showing you the whole list unless you select to view your favourites every single time you go in to the guide.

Watching back a programme and once it's finished the display will freeze. Or lose the sound. Or decide that BBC1 HD is an adult channel and demand your password.

If Virgin brought back the original interface, especially the wonderful EPG, remembered the channel you're on, remembered your preferences and generally got the software working it might be worth the £45 a month Virgin want for it.

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It's not that bad

There is an on-screen guide - press OK while watching something. Unlike the original series 1 TiVo, this works while watching recordings (as does the Info button), so you can see what's going on live without switching to a live tuner.

The display doesn't freeze for me when I've finished watching a recording, or lose the sound. Those sound like early bugs. The password thing is a pain, but based on watershed times, not channel. Something recorded off BBC1 after 10pm could well be unsuitable for children. The cost is £3/month, not £45/month (over their usual cable package cost).

The VM TiVo isn't yet polished and sometimes lacks the attention to detail of series 1, but overall it's a big improvement over Series 1 (HD, 3 tuners, 1Gig), and from what I've heard, also a significant improvement over V+ and Sky+ (eg better, persistent season passes, wish lists, easier UI).

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Assuming it works like the normal Virgin box

and bearing in mind that I don't use favourites so I might be wrong, I'm pretty sure that if you use the overlay version it _ONLY_ shows your favourites.

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Improvement on TV Drive launch

Having been with Telewest / NTL / Virgin Media for nearly 10 years I would say there is a big improvement on the launch of this new product than previously under other management. When I took the TV Drive (now known as V+ HD) from Telewest the box was practically unuseable and I actually ended up with a 6 month refund of the rental (then £10/month).

I have instantly got on with the Tivo box and can see where future software upgrades will make the experience more slick and easier to use.

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Content + Tuners

I don't want to pay for TV (I'd rather pay for Video on Demand to see films - it works pretty well on the XBOX aside from their unusual Microsoft points currency), but i like the idea of what Tivo can offer for normal broadast TV (documentaries etc.). How long until most Freeview HD TVs have built in buffering ("pause TV") and a Freeview HD set top box has 3 tuners and a 1GB hard disk ?

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Alert

It'll NEVER Happen

Its called Freeview+ its been around for a while. Now there is Freeview+ HD it's a defined standard, but why make it? If they can sell you another box they will, its called good business...

So you'd better get used to having 6 remotes.

How long before, Tv's have built in surround sound and Blu ray players...did you ever see a proper TV with a builtin DVD? (it was only available in small portables)

A long time ago, (before digital even) one company did make a tv with builtin HD PVR, but the bigger companies offered them incentives to stop making it so they did...

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Silver badge

Network?

Can it be networked? Can I stream any media (flac, ogg, mp4, whatever) from any location on my network to that box? If the answer is "No" then this is an epic fail. I did scan the article but didn't spot it.

For that money I'd go get a small-ish, quite PC (something like a Fit-PC2, but maybe with more oomph) drop XBMC/Myth on it and stream from a common source (e.g. a desktop with a Freesat card). No ties-in, no limitations, no continuing charges.

OK, so I won't have FX, Discovery etc, but I have those now and really (apart from Mythbusters) there isn't much worth watching. Take the savings and throw some at the broadband connections, yer still quids in.

When will these companies realise that they are now just another utility?

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When will these companies realise that they are now just another utility?

About the same time you realise that someone who thinks "I'd go get a small-ish, quite PC (something like a Fit-PC2, but maybe with more oomph) drop XBMC/Myth on it and stream from a common source " isn't the target demographic for this device?

This is for ordinary people, they don't want to do what you describe, they want someone to come round, install the magic box for them, then leave so they can watch tv...

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Also

"No ties-in, no limitations, no continuing charges"

So why haven't you done it already? You're probably paying about 15 quid a month for your TV, so 180 a year. Why not just ditch the TV and go with your above plan? Unless, of course, you just wanted to sound technically superior and actually quite like having a magic box that does it all for you.

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WTF?

err

I didnt know you could watch sky sports (live) on XBMC/myth. That sounds great.

/sarcasm off

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@Shakje

Because I have never had satellite or cable, I needed fast broadband, I got a very good deal, I thought I'd give it a go. It's not worth it.

@Danny 14

No, you cannot (and I did state you won't have certain channels). As I don't watch Sky Sports etc, they're of no interest to me.

---

I will be implementing pretty much what I stated when my contract ends.

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I did just that...

..but after countless calls from the wife that she can't watch Eastenders because Myth or something had crashed I gave up and got a V+ HD box - it just works! I'd like to switch to a Tivo box but don't really want to pay extra for it..

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Anonymous Coward

Would possibly win me over

Going from Windows Media Centre to SKY+ found me cursing it more than anything, unless I missed something. The things I loved about WMC I can't do with SKY - Have it record a program regardless of what channel it was on. For it to remember I was watching XYZ... so when the next series airs for it to automatically start recording it.

With SKY I find I have to constantly monitor what I record to make sure I don't miss something. This new Tivo box for Virgin might actually make me swap providers (the only thing that stops me are the channels currently provided)

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Isn't it time TiVo made a non-dedicated box again?

I do wonder have users been dragged into the age where the famous TiVo functionality would be accepted.

The stupid marketing when it first launched as a stand-alone box was it's undoing, but now, people are more sophisticated and expect more from their non-linear viewing.

A Freesat TiVo or similar box?

$ky would hate that...

Oh, I am aware of Myth and other home-brew platforms, but let's be sensible here, they are not really great on the user experience.

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TiVo don't make the box

TiVo are a software company, they license their software+service to hardware manufacturers. The original UK Series 1 machines were made by Thompson and although a handful of manufacturers picked up an option no-one else made anything for the UK market.

Sky bought an exclusive UK deal in 2003, but only used it to keep TiVo out of the UK market while they tried to get Sky+ established.

Sony have a worldwide license, but have only used it to produce machines for the North American market for some reason.

I'm guessing that this new venture is intended to allow TiVo to re-establish their brand in the UK, but it's highly likely that Virgin will have exclusive rights for a few years so they can make sure they recoup their development costs.

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It won't be a Sky+ killer for me..

..until/unless VM install their cable service in my town.

The box functionality sounds nice though. Sky's EPG needs updating in the way it handles series links and the fact it can't offer alternates. I dread seeing back to back showings on Sky because it makes avoiding clashes far more difficult. Oh for an SL that could select an alternate viewing all by itself.

Overall though - nice box, shame about the service.

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Any chance of an unbundled version?

I'm a big fan of TiVo and loved my UK series 1 before it shuffled off this mortal coil. Sadly I don't live anywhere near a Virgin cable network so this won't work for me.

Does anyone know if Virgin have an exclusive deal with TiVo or is there any chance that other companies will be bringing out TiVo Freeview/sat boxes?

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Old dog, new tricks

From memory TiVo and Virgin have an exclusive deal in the UK. The S1 isn't dead just yet. There is still life in the old dog. Contrary to popular belief, old dogs can learn new tricks.

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Anonymous Coward

Meh

Had a Tivo series 1 when we got it my wife questioned why I bought it but soon grew to love its simplicity. My wife and I mourned it's loss as we moved to Freesat integrated TV to get BBC HD. It made sense then to get a FoxsatHDR than have the Tivo recording one channel of SD from a HD feed as we'd still need a Freesat box anyway

That was 2008.

Fast forward to 2011, We have Virgin Media, we have the M level TV (Freeview effectivly) but we don't even have the TV box powered. The only reason we retain the TV is if we remove it our phone/broadband/tv bundle price goes up (I know go figure).

Now Tivo's interface is head and shoulders above the Humax. Using the Humax was a step backwards but we're used to it now.

So will I get one. No not really.

The thing is with the advent of the iPlayer on Humax, and ITVplayer, supposed to be coming to Freesat soon (and 4OD and Demand 5 may make it in the future) why would I want to pay Virgin an extra £8 a month for a Tivo? It's a great box, but the world has moved on, with all the +1 channels and the repeats on the challen groups such as More4, E4, C4+1 it's not often we ever miss anything now as it's repeated so much.

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No Source Direct mode

So long as they force SD content to be "upscaled" to 720p via their deinterlacer in the box I won't even consider their service.

Soft, crappy picture for SD is a sign that their deinterlacer is rubbish; they should offer the option of putting not-messed-with SD signal out so that decent TV or other AV processor can produce a high quality picture.

Virgin Media should offer a 'source direct' mode so that SD content is output at 576i and HD at 1080i and downloads/streaming at 720p. I looked at their forums and see these options are available in the menu, but they don't do anything; the best you can do is HD at 1080i and SD at 720p.

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SD picture problems

Going from the posts on the VM forums it seems that the SD upscaling problems are due to TiVo assuming that PAL SD broadcasts are interlaced in the same order as NTSC ones, so the line order is swapped. VM have stated that they're waiting for a firmware update to fix the issue.

http://community.virginmedia.com/t5/TiVo/Virgin-Media-TV-Powered-by-TiVo-Picture-Quality/td-p/500443

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Oops!

Meant to add a second link. This is the thread where the cause of the problem was identified, with pics to show what's happening. See page 8 onwards for pics.

http://community.virginmedia.com/t5/TiVo/TiVo-Picture-Quality/td-p/460293

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Padding handling not as good as Sky+

I've had one for 3 weeks now, after having Sky+ for years, and generally I think it's very good. My biggest issue is that the way it handles padding isn't as intelligent as Sky+.

The first issue is that if you are recording, say, 2 shows that are on at 8-9pm and 2 more at 9-10pm, and you'd like a couple of minutes padding at beginning and end then you're going to get one of them clipped (according to the priorities you've got set-up). That's because it doesn't see padding as any different to the rest of the recording, so it just sees a 4-way clash between 8:58 and 9:02, and with "only" 3 tuners it will have to clip something. Probable outcome is that both the earlier programs will record from 7:58 to 9:02, one of the later programs will record from 8:58 to 10:02 and the other one will only record from 9:02 to 10:02. Note that the clipping eats into the actual showing time of the later program! The Sky+ would just drop the padding from one of the earlier shows (or actually both, as it only has 2 tuners).

What makes it worse it that it can't do the trick the Sky+ does, where it can make two recordings from the same channel using only one tuner. In the above example, if the earlier and later shows were on the same channels (e.g. 2 on BBC1 and 2 on Sky1), then all the padding would be recorded OK, even with just 2 tuners.

Together, that can make a series link for "Peppa Pig" with padding use up 2 of the tuners for large chunks of time. I discovered when there was a "Peppa Pig Weekend" on Nick Jr the first w/e we had the Tivo. If I'd not been paying attention it might have lost me my Doctor Who recording. Once I'd put Peppa Pig at the bottom of the priority list we were OK, though.

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Great with a few niggles

I was a long time TiVo user and also already on VM XL TV so as far as I'm concerned the VM-TiVo is well worth the £149 install (intro deal for existing TiVo owners) and £3/month. From my perspective its very similar to the old TiVo in usage and as it has its own tuners there's no longer the issue of an IR blaster in front of the STB to do the channel changes which seemed to have a ~5% failure rate!

Couple of niggles which I hope will get sorted out in upfates

- would be really helpful to have a "global padding" option so that the default recording options could be "start 1 minute early, end 3 minutes late" to cope with the vagueries of BBC schedulung where early start/overrun is often "intentional".

- parental control system is, I think, designed for the US situation where broadcasters are, I believe, legally required to provide age ratings for everything so in the UK when it probably gets no age ratings it falls back to a default "after 10pm could be rated 18 so assume that it is" setting.

Anyway, should succeed in the UK this time ... TiVo haven't made the mistake this time of partnering with a company that's about to bring out a competitor (the original TiVo was marketted by Sky and came out about 6 months before Sky introduced Sky+)

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Unhappy

cost?

More than happy with v+ but would like more disk space with more and more HD channels coming on line. Don't see any particular advantage in the TiVo other than disk space and I don't want to increase the monthly payment again (already xl with 2nd box)

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Anonymous Coward

It's just like my Series 1...

...but with a decade's worth of unnecessary UI bloat, and considerably slower response.

Mine too went back after a week.

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Pint

Nothin' o

"Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on". Sums up their offer

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Unhappy

The small print - "minimum term contract applies"

Make any change to your current package and they tie you into another 12 months.

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Anonymous Coward

80%?

What does a PVR need to do to get a really good score from The Reg?

The Humax Freeview+ HD box got 85%, the Humax Freesat box 80%- are you really saying that this isn't better than either of them? My Humax Foxsat box usability is pretty poor - it's niggles and interface inconsistencies, even after updates, sound more problematic than this box.

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virmin

want to charge 50 quid to 'turn on' the HD service.. which is being transmitted by BBC for free under a public broadcast license doojit..

and the SD quality is unnutterably shite ('scuse french- it actually makes me want to swear)

not that they care.. i only spend 450 quid a year with them..

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Why no comparison with the BT Vision box

I don`t live in a Cabled area but I have the BT Vision Digital Freeview / PVR / Video on demand over broadband box and it has improved alot from the original software. I`m not sure if it has 2 or 3 tuners. You can record 2 channels and watch a third I think. The record and record series options work well for busy work schedules as I never miss programmes now, just watch them when I want and the video on demand often saves a trip to the DVD shop.

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RIP Off Britain again

Have a look at Tivo's pricing structure in the USA compared to the UK, and I don't just mean currency conversion:

Tivo USA - http://www.tivo.com/products/tivo-premiere/index.html

Tivo UK - http://shop.virginmedia.com/digital-tv/set-top-boxes/tivo-box.html

Nuff said

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UK cheaper?!?

Bloody hell...not often that the UK pricing is better than the US model. I suppose the advantage there is that it's a standalone product!

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Alien

Land of the free?

You're talking about the USA, where everything is more expensive except the oil. Think mobile phones are bad here, trying being charged for receiving calls as well as making them (the US pricing model)

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I refuse to enoble a simple forum post!

I found this an interesting read. I had a Virgin V+ HD box but I've not had one for 2 or 3 years, I got rid because I found I was paying for stuff I simply wasn't using. I do love the use of technology for this kind of stuff tho'

Anywhooo... a couple of things..

What is this fascination with something being an "x-killer" ? choice is good people and competition for services is even better.

This box sounds quite remarkable in its capability but I just can't imagine TV being *that* important ni my life. Most of the time I struggle to find 1 thing to watch let alone 3.

Still I imagine in a household full of kids I suppose it'll be quite a useful tool.

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Anonymous Coward

What's so good about Sky+

Apart from getting extra sky channels what's so great about Sky+?

The UI is a royal pain in the arse to use, my cheapo generic freeview/freesat PVR is easier to use. Oh and it has a larger hard disk. Sky+ also has a lot of shortcomings in it's operation. Take for example the series link feature. It's amazing how many series won't series link. For example Clone Wars is currently showing on CN, but my son has to manually set each episode to record because there is no series link. I've never come across this on freesat or freview.

I know Sky put a lot of money into convincing all their hired celebs to rave on about Sky+ being the greatest invention since the motor car (especially Clarkson) but IMHO it's overrated and over priced.

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FAIL

Get one from Spain!

http://en.wikinoticia.com/Technology/internet/74641-ono-decoder-tivo-presents-hd-dvr-8685dvb-cisco-media-center

Nice, this one from spain has DLNA turned on. Good old virgin holding back on features.

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Big Brother

Nope

Dont like murdoch, don't wanna pay for sky, can't even get virgin here.

So Humax HDR-FOXT2 HD PVR and Freeview HD is fine for me!

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Anonymous Coward

best pvr... ever

Toppy with mystuff installed. Simply brilliant.

(providing you don't need hd or sky sports)

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Anonymous Coward

Not bad...

... but not a patch on a custom MythTV build.

A custom build will definitely cost more - at least £300 for a reasonable rig.

It'll also more than likely take you an entire weekend to get up and running, assuming you've got the chops.

Built myself a MythTV box 18 months ago and it's still going strong - hooked up to Telly via HDMI.

I'm running Boxee and XBMC on it too, so it covers all the bases.

Copy stuff across the network, schedule TV recordings (remotely too), watch from any computer in the house (with mythtv frontend), or share folders via Samba and watch recordings on any device (android mobile for instance) - plus it's yours to hack away on and install whatever else your heart desires. I use mine as an SVN repository and home Apache dev server too.

Highly recommend this route if your geeky enough to be able to do so - and this being The Register, I'm sure most of the readers here are.

The fact that your not in any way locked down by the hardware or vendor, that you can add more storage space, more ram, run anything you want on the box - is awesome.

Never looked back.

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Unhappy

And some people wonder...

"Sky bought an exclusive UK deal in 2003, but only used it to keep TiVo out of the UK market while they tried to get Sky+ established"

And some people wonder why Murdoch has a bad name in some parts...

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