Virgin Media Vivid 300 broadband review
VIRGIN Media have recently introduced Vivid 300 and now claim to offer the UK's fastest widely available broadband service.
Boosting the speed of their top tier package from 200Mb to 300Mb, Virgin have surpassed even their own superfast standards and cemented their position as the UK's fastest internet service provider.
But how necessary are such high speed packages, what advantages do they offer and what are the potential drawbacks? These are questions we aim to address in this review.
We'll also list the basic price of Vivid 300 and look at the other services we can get with it.
Prices & offers
Before settling on any one product or service, potential customers should review all available offers to make sure they are getting the most for their money, especially as Virgin are known to run some great deals from time to time to try and lure in new customers:
There are certainly many incentives to bundling services, in terms of both price and convenience, for this reason we've laid out the prices of the various packages currently available with Vivid 300 broadband:
Prices do appear to be on the steep side at first glance; Vivid 300 on it's own is more than twice the price of many cheaper up to 17Mb deals.
Yet as the UK's fastest internet service by a long stretch, it's difficult to compare Vivid 300 to any other broadband deal out there.
For instance, if we look at it's nearest competitors in terms of speed, Vivid 300 looks like a much fairer deal. It's only a few pounds more expensive than BT's Infinity 2 service yet more than 3 times faster. For more details on how these two services compare check out our review of BT Infinity and Virgin Media here.
Sky's Fibre Max may offer a more competitive price still, but it's only available on a longer 18-month contract and costs more in the way of upfront fees.
While bundling Vivid 300 with a phone service doesn't really seem to make much of a difference to the overall price, if it's a service we already pay for then it may make sense to switch.
The basic add-on phone service, included in the above packages, comes with free weekend calls and line rental is included in the monthly price.
Additional phone packages are also available as add-ons, offering free or reduced rates for evening calls, mobile calls and calls to frequently dialled numbers.
Please note Virgin do not offer standalone phone contracts and so the prices seen here are extra monthly charges that will be added to total package costs.
The provider is well regarded for it's generous channel counts and great value TV packages, so if customers are interested in getting a pay for TV service then it might be beneficial to bundle broadband with one of Virgin's TV packages.
This may be a way to make our money stretch a little further, as the cost of bundling Player TV, Vivid 300 and weekend calls is the same as if we take just Vivid 300 and weekend calls but we also get a TV package thrown in.
To take a more generous TV package such as Mix TV, which offers over 150 channels compared to Player TV's 80 channels, the price only creeps up slightly.
While the larger TV packages and bundles, Full House and VIP, with their premium channels, may seem expensive, they are fairly competitive to similar packages offered by Virgin's main competition for pay TV, Sky, especially when considering the speed of the broadband package included.
Can you get it?
One of the biggest criticisms of Virgin's broadband packages, and the company in general, has been their lack of availability.
Virgin Media's services are currently only available to around half of UK households. What's more their faster broadband plans, 200Mb and 300Mb, are even less widely available.
Expansion plans, via Project Lightning, aim to increase coverage to another 4 millions homes by 2019, taking total coverage to 60%.
Another criticism in respect to availability is the fact Virgin's services tend to be more widely available in densely populated areas. In response to such complaints, Virgin has now expanded their plans to roll out their services to smaller communities where there is sufficiently high demand, via their Cable My Street project.
Having said all of this, it's important to note that due to the lack of competition in terms of speed, Vivid 300 is still the UK's fastest widely available broadband service.
To check if you live in an area covered by Virgin Media simply enter your home postcode into the box below.
Enter your postcode above to check availability in your area.
However, please note that due to slightly complicated reasons, which we explain in more detail here, we don't have enough data to ensure our coverage information is completely accurate.
For best results we advise you check via the Virgin Media site too.
How fast is Virgin 300Mb?
While ISP's are keen to advertise the top speeds of their packages these are not always the speeds that customers get, especially during peak hours when speeds slow down considerably as most users head online.
Even though Vivid 300's advertised speed may not always be possible it's average speeds are still pretty impressive, even by the high performing standards of Virgin's other fast broadband packages:
|Package||Average over 24 hours||Peak (8-10pm weekdays)|
SOURCE: SamKnows and Virgin Media. Available here.
Unfortunately it's not possible to see how Ofcom rate Virgin's 300Mb service just yet as the data for the watchdog's latest report was gathered in November last year, shortly before Vivid 300 was launched.
However, the May 2017 figures sited above are just as accurate, having been compiled by SamKnows, the same company that produces the data used in Ofcom's reports.
To see how Vivid 300's average speeds compare to the top tier speed packages of other ISPs we can use figures from Ofcom's November 2016 study.
|Advertised speed||Average over 24 hours||Peak (8-10pm weekdays)|
|Up to 76Mb||57.9Mb - 60.7Mb||57.0Mb - 59.8Mb|
|Up to 76Mb||54.3Mb - 59.9Mb||53.0Mb - 59.1Mb|
Please note the time difference between the sets of figures. Vivid 300's are much more recent and it's likely that the other companies have seen improvements in their average speeds between now and last November.
Yet even allowing for a significant boost in speed for these services since then, Virgin's 300Mb service is still way ahead of the competition.
This is another area where Virgin have come in for some flack in the past. However, in recent years Virgin have relaxed their traffic management policies so that they no longer penalise downloaders. And while restrictions remain in place for uploaders on Virgin's slower broadband plans, customers of Vivid 300 have been exempted from these.
Meaning that with Vivid 300 users can download and upload as much as they like without having to worry about running out of data or being punished for exceeding data limits.
Virgin Hub 3.0
The Hub 3.0 is Virgin's latest router, which they boldly claim to be their "fastest hub ever". It is an "AC" router and is capable of handling data transfers up to 1.3GB.
While transfer speeds aren't the same as download speeds, a useful rule of thumb is the higher stated data transfers are, the closer actual download and upload speeds will be to advertised speeds.
Providing dual band wi-fi on the 802.11ac standard, the Hub 3.0 offers increased coverage throughout the home. In fact, Virgin state that even without wired connections, households can use up to 20 devices at once and at good speeds. Meaning better connections for users as they wander from room to room using their laptop, tablet or mobile to surf the net.
The Hub 3.0 is also wireless and comes with a QuickStart, self-instalment option for added convenience.
While those worried about online safety will have added peace of mind thanks to this hub's wireless encryption technology and parental controls.
To see how this device compares against the hubs provided by the other main ISPs visit our detailed review here.
Verdict: Do we need it?
While 300Mb broadband sounds impressive and comes with completely uncapped download and upload limits, it's also more expensive than other packages and may be totally unnecessary depending on your internet usage.
Light internet users who simply go online to check and send emails, do the odd bit of Googling and maybe even stream the odd programme or two are unlikely to need such high speeds and data limits. It's probably much more economical for such users to opt for a slower speed and lower usage broadband plan.
However, heavier users who regularly use Netflix, BBC iPlayer and other similar streaming services, as well as gaming addicts, are likely to benefit more from Vivid 300's faster connections and unlimited data allowances.
Internet habits have drastically changed over the past few years, according to Ofcom, with the average household now using over 132GB of data every month. As this trend increases, we expect the demand for superfast broadband like Vivid 300 to grow too.