Is Virgin Media's Tivo any good?

samantha smith
By Samantha Smith

virgin media tv tivo v6 remote control© Virgin Media

VIRGIN has recently launched a new upgraded box for their TV customers: the Tivo V6 1TB box. Here's what you need to know about the features, prices and how it compares with the older Tivo.

The new Tivo V6 box offers 4K Ultra HD viewing and is 10 times more powerful than the older Tivo box, which should alleviate complaints of previous sluggish performance.

V6 doubles the storage of the older box to 1TB, allowing customers to record up to 500 hours of standard definition programs, or up to 100 hours in HD.

And in line with Tivo's "smart viewing" platform, the V6 box now allows customers to search all services including Netflix for their favourite shows.

Special offers

But before we get into any more of the box specifications, let's take a quick look at the special offers Virgin Media is currently offering new customers who sign up for their TV service:

Virgin Media Offers

Get a free 6 month Netflix Subscription with Virgin Media Bundles

Hurry! Offer ends 18 December 2017.
12-month contract. £20 activation fee.

Which Virgin TV packages come with Tivo?

Virgin Media are still offering the Tivo 500GB box and it will work in conjunction with the newer box for multiroom setups.

New customers signing up for any standalone TV package as well as the budget Player Bundle will receive a Tivo 500GB box.

Customers who take any other premade bundle, including the Mix Bundle, Full House Bundle and VIP Bundle will receive the newer Tivo V6 1TB box.

Package Includes Tivo box Contract term Upfront cost Monthly price
Virgin Media Player Bundle 70+ channels
Up to 100Mb broadband
Tivo 500GB 12 months £20 £33
for 12 mths,
then £48
Virgin Media Mix Bundle 150+ channels
Up to 100Mb broadband
V6 1TB 12 months £20 £46
for 12 mths,
then £55
Virgin Media Full House Bundle 230+ channels
Up to 100Mb broadband
V6 1TB 12 months £20 £56
for 12 mths,
then £70
Virgin Media VIP Bundle 230+ channels + Sky Cinema + Sky Sports (in HD)
Up to 300Mb broadband
2 x
V6 1TB
12 months £20 £91
for 12 mths,
then £125

Tivo 500GB box vs Tivo V6 1TB box

Box Comes with Recording Features Upfront cost
Tivo 500GB Standalone TV, Player Bundle 250 hours SD, OR
50 hours HD
Three tuners
HD and 3D compatible
£20
Tivo V6 1TB Mix, Full House and VIP Bundles 500 hours SD, OR
100 hours HD
Six tuners
HD, UHD and 3D compatible
HDR ready
£20

Tivo 500GB box

virgin media tivo 500gb box Virgin Media Tivo

The 500GB Tivo box is the original Tivo and while it's likely Virgin will continue to phase this box out, as mentioned, it's still provided to standalone TV customers and Player Bundle customers.

This box has three tuners that allow customers to record one program at the same time as watching another. The 500GB hard drive can store up to 250 hours of standard definition viewing or 50 hours in HD.

It's also 3D compatible.

Tivo V6 1TB box

virgin media tivo v6 1tb box Virgin Media Tivo V6

The upgraded V6 1TB Tivo box boasts six tuners allowing customers to watch and record even more programs at the same time, and the hard drive storage is also doubled.

Despite the extra storage however, the V6 1TB box is much smaller and more compact than the older Tivo.

Virgin Media have clearly addressed the common complaints of the older Tivo box with this upgrade. By improving processor performance by ten times the new box should alleviate one of the biggest criticisms levelled at the older box: that it's slow and sluggish.

And without doubt to keep pace with Sky's new Sky Q box, the Virgin V6 box is 4K Ultra HD and HDR (High Dynamic Range) ready - giving customers the chance to watch even more realistic images with greater clarity than ever - albeit when that content becomes available.

The new V6 box's remote also sees an upgrade: it uses radio frequency rather than infrared to communicate with the box which means it no longer needs a straight line of sight.

And if it does end up a little too tucked away, it also has a call when lost feature too.

Aside from the standard activation charge for Virgin Media TV of £20, neither Tivo box require any additional costs.

What's so good about Tivo?

Pause, rewind, record

The new V6 box allows customers to record up to six channels at once, while watching a seventh recording, or alternatively record five channels while watching a live program.

That's currently only beaten by Sky Q's 2TB box, which allows customers to record six programs while watching a live seventh.

But Sky Q 2TB comes with a £199 setup fee, whereas the default £20 setup box - Sky Q 1TB - only allows customers to record three shows simultaneously while watching a fourth live.

That's only slightly more than the older Tivo 500GB which allows customers to record up to three channels, while watching a fourth prerecorded program.

And if six tuners still isn't enough, the new V6 box also offers the ability to bolster the number of simultaneous recordings even further by using a second V6 box with a multiroom subscription.

4K Ultra HD and HDR viewing

While the Tivo 500GB box is HD and 3D content ready, the newer V6 box also offers compatibility with 4K Ultra HD and HDR content.

Depending on which Virgin Media TV package customers take, they'll get at least 10 HD channels, mostly from the free to air broadcasters, and up to 68 HD channels with the larger bundles, when including Sky Sports and Sky Cinema.

For 3D viewers Virgin offers 3D movies on their pay to view collection.

While there isn't a lot of 4K Ultra HD or HDR content available yet, customers who take the V6 box will be ready when it is.

Personalised selections

The intelligent recommendation function is where Tivo really differs from Sky.

Both Sky and Virgin's TV guides offer suggestions based on what we've previously recorded or bookmarked, but Tivo goes one step further.

Tivo learns from both the positive and negative ratings we give shows - so as well as offering us the chance to say we like or even love a program, we get to slate the stuff we wish had never been commissioned.

We can give as many as three thumbs up to the TV we love (Sherlock) and a maximum of three thumbs down to programmes we can't stand (TOWIE).

Like Netflix and Amazon, Tivo should then learn what we like and can work out what else we'll enjoy - and just as importantly, what we really don't want to see, and will suggest and even record the ones it thinks we'll like.

For example, if we like and record Family Guy, the Tivo box will probably record American Dad! and The Cleveland Show for us.

For those who also have a Netflix subscription, the magic doesn't end there. The Tivo box should search both the channels in our TV subscription and the entire Netflix catalogue to find recommendations from both, and keep them by.

Those of us who keep odd hours, then, or who have been left bereft by the end of yet another Scandi crime drama, will always find something in our "suggestions" folder regardless of what's on live TV.

Like Sky Q, it has a wish list feature, based on simple search terms.

The most obvious example is the title of a show that's vanished from the mainstream channels - say Friends, Jonathan Creek, Marvel's Agents of Shield.

As soon as any of the channels in our subscription - even the really obscure ones buried in the depths of the channel list - shows a program matching that search term, the box will flag it and record it.

Alternatively, we can search by actor or director, so Scorsese buffs and Channing Tatum fans alike will never miss out.

TV Anywhere and mobile remotes

Customers with iPhones, iPads and iPod touches, Android mobiles and Android tablets featuring v4.1 or above, can live stream some - but not all - of the channels in their subscription to their mobile devices using the Virgin TV Anywhere app.

In addition to this, Virgin TV Anywhere allows customers to use their mobiles as remote controls for the Tivo box - so when we're out and a friend reminds us of that new series we fancied watching, no problem!

Tivo's intelligent suggestion facility means this shouldn't be as much of an issue as it might otherwise be, but it's a great back-up system.

If it turns out that our box's storage is running low, we can use the app to delete those old episodes or its less accurate suggestions as well.

Catch up TV

People with Tivo have two ways to access the free-to-air channels' catch up services: through individual apps for BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and My 5, or through the TV guide.

With the 500GB Tivo box, there have been complaints about lags and lower quality content when using the apps, and the fact that the apps themselves are difficult to find in a tricky-to-navigate system.

The alternative is, as mentioned, using the TV guide to scroll back through the past seven days' listings. Any program available through catch up will have a little C symbol next to it: select that program and it'll load up for you.

Multiroom

There's also the option to plump for additional Tivo boxes, five maximum, via Virgin Media's multiroom service with prices starting at £7.50 extra, per box, per month and an activation cost of £49.95. Although additional activation costs may apply to those taking more than one extra box.

Multiroom viewing allows subscribers to watch content recorded on one box on another and as all boxes have access to the same channels, other people in the house can watch a different show at the same time on a different box.

Find out more about Virgin's multiroom service in this guide.

Back-to-back recordings

Unlike lesser set top boxes, Tivo is capable of recording back-to-back programs without losing the final moments of one or the starting moments of another.

When we record two programs, one straight after the other, there's a brief period when the recordings overlap - for this brief period we're recording two things at once.

Tivo will keep recording each channel using the already assigned tuner, and separate the programs after the fact.

As mentioned in the comments below, this means that even with the three tuner box it's technically possible to have six recordings going at once - with the end buffers of the earlier programs all recording at the same time as the opening buffers of the subsequent programs.

When one of the back-to-back recordings is on one more channel than Tivo can handle, it will ask which recording to risk - and if it's going to be a repeated issue we'll be given the chance to reprioritise future recordings.

If we're not in, we'll need to use TV Anywhere app on our mobile to reschedule one of the recordings, or hope that the box really does know what we like.

Known problems with Tivo

Attention required

One of the main gripes about Tivo is that the interface is not quite as intuitive as it might be.

We are always looking at ways to improve our Tivo services and offerings, including regular software updates and the introduction of new content and apps.
Virgin Media statement

Most of us want to dive in and start playing with the new box straight away - but this is one toy it's worth taking our time with.

Read the guide that comes with it, otherwise there's a very good chance of spending ages doing things the slow way and missing out on half of what Tivo can do.

Slow to react

While it seems Virgin have addressed previous complaints about the slow and sluggish performance of the older Tivo box by improving the processor power of the new V6 Tivo box by ten times, we mention it here for anyone concerned about performance.

As you can see in the comments below, we've heard from a number of Virgin customers who've had issues with the speed at which the Tivo 500GB box reacts to commands, from loading menus to simple commands like "play".

As the apps aren't the easiest to find, this can make loading a program from Netflix or BBC iPlayer more frustrating than we would like.

When we raised the issue with Virgin last year, they said that despite it being frustrating for those it affects, "the numbers complaining of this problem is actually very small."

They went on to say:

"We are always looking at ways to improve our Tivo services and offerings, including regular software updates and the introduction of new content and apps."

All we can say to anyone concerned - or currently experiencing the issue - is increased speed has been addressed by Virgin as one of the main selling points of the V6 box.

However, if you have upgraded to or recently taken out a Virgin subscription with a V6 Tivo box do share in the comments how it performs compared to the older box.

You can't go back

Finally, there is one more very real danger with Tivo: it'll leave you unable to watch linear television ever again.

Got a point of view on Tivo? Let us know in the comments below.

Comments

1
24 September 2017
Mark Cantell

It's rubbish.

2
23 August 2017
david towers

The Tivo 500 is extremely slow due to the numerous firmware updates to resolve issues. Virgin already know this, you only have to pop over to the community forum to see it's the most complained about issue , so to deny it is very counter intuitive - it is also the same problem with Huawei TalkTalk Youview boxes as well.

I have opened up all of them and repaired many of them as well as imaging the hard drives and analysing the Linux systems they are based on and they are quite reliable until the hard disk starts developing bad sectors especially on track zero - then it's game over and everything is lost.

The fact of the matter is that both these variants are out of date - slow processors and low memory don't help - they have less memory now than a new smartphone!

It also caches and stores thumbs and other system personalisation which I believe becomes fragmented on the drive. It also doesn't help that the Tivo 500 uses the slowest WDC drives, Green 5400rpm ones, instead of the proper Black , Purple 7200rpm drives they should use.

The price of Virgin now is almost as bad as Sky.
Whilst the TalkTalk Youview boxes may be poorer by comparison, if you are looking to save money the equivalent TalkTalk subscription costs half of the Virgin entry "M" level at £22.95 and for some reason it has far more channels on Freeview than the Tivo basic which doesn't have Horror Channel, CBS and many others that are available even on your Freeview tuner equipped telly!

The end game is the Tivo functionality and learning smart which beats anything else on the market.
As the reviewer has said, once you start using a Tivo or TalkTalk or Sky box there isn't any going back!

3
8 July 2017
Greatdane

Absolute rubbish, previous box was much better. Clearer screen, more logical. This new one has text that looks as though it been written by a 3 year old. Ridiculous pastel colours, making it difficult to see the important stand out options. A wishy washy dolly mixture mess. Slow. Don't subscribe. I just want the old TiVo back, but unable to do so. If it wasn't for the spectacularly ugly Sky dish I would opt for that! Thank goodness for Kodi...

4
16 May 2017
Pete Helliwell

No 'back' button to undo whatever inappropriate selection you just made because the box just caught up, or to return to the previous channel. You cannot just set a program to turn over . The menus are far too complex and laggy. The upgrade path does not allow preservation of recordings from old V+ box.

5
15 May 2017
Catherine White

Our TiVo box is a disaster. We had an old V+ box that worked very well, then we had a letter from Virgin saying that unless we upgraded to a TiVo box by April 2017 then we may find our service would stop working. ... so we got the TiVo box. Biggest mistake ever.
It's slow, even for the most basic functions. A lot slower than our old V+ box.
For most of the past month we haven't been able to get Channel 4 catch-up. Countrywide problem with TiVo apparently! There are glitchy problems with it that are intermittent so we haven't been able to persuade Virgin to replace it. We are constantly resetting it!

6
25 November 2016
Jim Hobin

Had Sky for 8 years. Very few problems but broadband speed was pretty awful at times. Deserted them and had Virgin installed. Big mistake. Broadband speed great. TiVo box absolute rubbish. Compared to Sky+ box it's in the dark ages. Far too much clutter in it. Far too slow. Simple things like deleting a programme. Press delete and it then asks if you want to delete this programme. Think that's why I pressed delete in the first place! Numerous other examples.
Yesterday I lost the signal for the whole day. No broadband or TV.
Never happened with Sky.
Unfortunately I am on an 18 month contract but will be ditching it at the first opportunity.

7
29 September 2016
Alistair Gilbert

Lots of problems, e.g. slow and locking up.
V+ was miles quicker - do a search for 'slow Tivo', even on the virginmedia community site there are loads of comments on this. Go with another provider or get Freeview/Freesat or just get Virgin Broadband, nothing wrong with that.

8
29 September 2016
PPH seller

We've had a Tivo for a few years now and I wouldn't be without it. The machine records series for us and upcoming films, etc. Even the recommendations it records for us are reasonable. So that side is great.

On the downside.. over the years it's got slower and slower and the UI has become more and more complex. It can take a long time to switch between functions, it can take ages to navigate through the menus. It's a pain. It's lag-city.

The box is clearly under-powered for what it's being asked to do. When we first had the Tivo I didn't feel this way, so I think it's just been over-developed for the hardware. The underlying technology is pretty old now, I would think.

We have an Apple TV too. It doesn't do the same things as the Tivo, but every time I use it, it's snappy - delay free and a joy to use. Often it makes me think how good it is compared to the Tiko.

Tiko needs an overhaul and I think Virgin will probably release a new box at some stage that supports 4K.

Would I suggest people have a Tiko? I would - but prepare for the slowness and spend a little time getting to know the interface. It's not that hard, even if the lag is frustrating.

9
30 August 2016
Tony Webster

Dreadful - leave well alone. Never really worked out how to use it and Virgin never seemed keen to explain

10
19 August 2016
Richard

Absolutely awful. It was bad when it came out and now it is actually even worse thanks to the terrible and bloated updates. VM will not hear a bad word about it, so no chance of getting a good box like Sky, BT or TalkTalk offer any time soon. Don't do it, if I had an easy phone line option away from VM, I would jump ship in a heartbeat.

11
16 August 2016
Ron Wheeler

Virgin's Tivo is a clunky slow trainwreck. Support for third party apps like BBC iPlayer is unusable. On an internet connected device, why can't it tell if a sports programme is delayed / extended? No 4K. Regularly fails to record upcoming shows. Slow - slow - slow, nasty unresponsive 90s tech still being flogged in 2016..

12
26 June 2016
Jo

We've had Virgin in the past, then went to Sky and got on fine with both the V+ and Sky+ boxes. We moved back to Virgin for better internet and thought the box would be an upgrade of V+.... but Tivo is useless. I find myself watching things on demand by running iPlayer and the like off my laptop and using my tv as a monitor, rather than dealing with Tivos awkward and slow menus.

13
13 June 2016
Roger La Haye

We have the upgraded Tivo and I agree with Chris - it's a trainwreck. The delay in bringing up the news is astonishingly slow. I definitely prefer Sky even if it isn't so "intelligent" - at least it doesn't suffer from a self deluded belief that it can do things that it then struggles to complete.

14
10 February 2016
TaxiMike

The Tivo box is soo pants compared to Sky.
It's fine once you are watching what you want, but going in and out of the menu's is a mess and really really slow. They need to fix this, especially with Sky launching their new box.

15
7 February 2016
Arnet Donkin

I just quite simply don't understand how to use it!!!!! I wish that I could cancel but I can't (which isn't what the Virgin salesman told me when he called to persuade me to upgrade my package from broadband only - a broad-faced lie!); When I try to stream a film it continually buffers so I've given up doing that.. the rest of viewing I get on freeview anyway. Stay away from Virgin

16
2 February 2016
JB

TiVo is a million times better than SKY+, granted some people have issues (this will always happen with mass use of technology) . Do you think every sky customer is happy with the performance of their box..of course not! options are convoluted, agreed. However every step of the way you have options where as with sky it's do or don't. Sky have had over 20 years to finesse their user interface whereas TiVo has been in the UK for 5/6 years only. it's like trying to compare an old analogue (brick) phone to the latest smartphone. TiVo can do soo much more therefore it's bound to be more complicated until you get used it. I've had it for 2 years now and still find new stuff it can do. I agree with those that say it has a speed lapse but remember it has a platform that has to be compatible with different companies products ranging from apps/games, On demand, catch up players and also Windows and Apple platforms. Most of the issues mentioned below sound like faults that people are putting up with rather than getting fixed (if you don't do anything about it, stop complaining about it). Oh and Virgin Media don't charge for call outs or replacing equipment whether you are in a contract or not! If you're not in a contract with sky and don't pay them a monthly amount (rip-off alert) they will ask you for your hard earned money to fix THEIR service and products!
For the lady that mentioned the popping sound annoying her...you can switch it off love, that option is there for people with vision impairments.

3 June 2016
MBA

I absolutely agree with JB. I have been using a 500Gb Tivo box for about 4 years now and I wouldn't be without it. I've tried BT's offering, and that truly was pants! I have also used Sky and of the 3 of those services that I have personal experience of, Tivo is by far the most superior.

17
24 January 2016
Margaret Gilfillan

Just got a Tivo box yesterday { its middle of the night now } and in the middle of a film it goes off and the words "Starting Up" appear on screen. Then it kept going back to the start of a 5 minute countdown and flashing The words "Starting Up" again and again. So not even a day or night of use out of this piece of junk and I want to bin it already. Virgin Media can have it back now I know why they were paying me to take it hmmm!!!!! Yep, my bill went down in cost so long as I took this joke of a box and the new Modem for my internet.

18
14 January 2016
Rebecca

All of the below - plus! Unbelievably slow, totally unintuitive - insult added to injury by that b----y popping noise. It drives me demented. Whose idiotic idea is that?

19
6 January 2016
Hazel Bishop

I would join Virgin media, only if i could get a V+ box and not a tivo. Seen them working in friends houses, I have seen first hand how bad they are, would avoid like the plague.

20
28 December 2015
Chris Feltham

It's a train wreck - steer clear. I am on the verge of cancelling my subscription due to all of the problems listed below by others. The box is slow, unreliable, unresponsive, frustrating... the "intelligence" in program recording is a joke - the box insists on recording programs I have zero interest and have consistently "thumbs downed"... I'm starting to think the thing is possessed. Maybe I should try an exorcism.

9 May 2016
Graham John Hunt

I don't have any of the above problems so must be a setting problem in settings.

21
27 December 2015
Jon

The review mentions about back-to-back recordings not meaning 3 programs at once, but actually 2. This isn't quite right - if back-to-back recordings are scheduled, TiVo will realise this and use the same tuner to record them, stitching them together within its "brain". So actually you could feasibly record 6 programs at once in this scenario. All while watching something else either recorded or via iPlayer streaming if you fancy - or you could record two channels back-to-back and use the third tuner for live-TV.

31 December 2015
Choose team

Thanks for your comment - that's really useful to know. We've updated the article to incorporate your points.

22
22 December 2015
m1kes

The original TiVo was great but unfortunately Virgin's implementation of it has just gone from bad to worse and almost unusable. Just search for slow Virgin TiVo on Google.

It's just OK for just watching live TV and recorded stuff, but the menus are slow, accessing catch up is bad, and the apps like Netflix and youtube are unusable, painfully slow and unreliable.

If you want to watch catch up services or use Netflix then any smart TV tablet or PC will do it much much better, don't bother with the TiVo it's just painful.

Virgin are in complete denial about the state of their TiVo service, it needs new updated hardware and/or a complete rewrite to improve performance.

Meanwhile they just tell you to reboot it constantly as a short term 'fix'.

23
12 December 2015
Mikey123

We ordered a Tivo to replace the older Virgin box. We are tempted by the significant monthly savings. Unfortunately the response times when pressing buttons are unsettling. Most of using iPlayer via the app was painfully slow and it kept pausing to catch up during playback of catch up TV. All very annoying and we had to send it back as unfit for purpose. The downside being we also had to go back to the old higher tariff. Shame they have made a pigs ear of what was a great reliable catch up service on iPlayer.

9 May 2016
Graham John Hunt

Don't have any of the above problems.

24
30 November 2015
john

More complicated than Sky even watching a film on demand if you pause it longer than 10 mins it goes off and you have to start the film again or fast it forward again and who ever designed the remote needs a slap.

25
14 March 2015
kuffs2205

Tivo UI is like pulling teeth but more painful. They must have worked so hard to make it as slow as it is. Every button press results in a 3 to 5 second delay minimum before it responds. I gave up on the catch up. Ridiculously convoluted to use. The Netflix feature you mentioned has never occurred for me.

26
6 March 2015
moggie63

Great isn't it? Except it isn't. Compared to the Sky+ box the Tivo is ridiculously convoluted, you need to press 10 buttons where one will do on the Sky box and you can't record catchup TV to watch at a later date. It's perhaps the MOST unintuitive object I have ever had the misfortune to try and use!


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