Virgin Media TiVo review Virgin Media TiVo review

We love
All powerful search, internet apps
We hate
No QWERTY remote, need to be in a fibre area
If you can get it, you absolutely should
Launch Price

Virgin Media TiVo review

We’ve been tracking the new Virgin Media TiVo service for a full year since it was first announced, and while a lot has happened in twelve months, you can now nab one for installation underneath your telly, just as we have.

The Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo is actually TiVo’s second foray into the UK, with the first in 2000 failing to gain traction on this side of the pond. The new TiVo however, backed by big baller Virgin Media, could make amends, especially with a focus on search and internet TV. In this Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo review we will see if this next-gen box was worth the wait.


It's handsome, if not gorgeous - but the whole point is you're not supposed to be looking at it, right?

Featuring three tuners, which allow for watching your favourite program, whilst recording 2 others, a 1TB hard drive for up to 500 hours of SDTV or a very respectable 120 hours of HD, and 1080 resolution, this box is packing some serious clout.

On the back you have connections for HDMI and SCART as well as slots for your Virgin card. There are also two USB ports, which are currently for service only, though may hopefully be opened up at some point in the future, for expandability of storage or external peripherals. Another useful inclusion is the optical audio port, which gives the highest quality digital audio quality currently available. Most users won’t use it as the HDMI carries both sound and picture, but it is a nice inclusion for those who want it. There is an Ethernet port, but as all internet activity is accessed directly through the cable, this again is for service use.

No surprises on the back of the box , and no crucially missing connections

Design-wise, the Virgin Media TiVo is a thing of understated beauty. Gone is the fingerprint attracting, piano black finish of the Samsung V+ box, replaced instead with subtle matte black plastic. Also notably missing are the plethora of lights and LCD displays that became a massive distraction when using the aforementioned Samsung V+ box. Instead they are replaced with a simple display of LEDs that indicate both power and connectivity, as well as number of tuners in use.

Overall the box is really well built, and though it is unlikely it will ever move from where it sits, it’s still good to know that it won’t fall apart in a weak breeze. It also runs as quiet as a mouse, and apart from the occasional click from the hard drive, you won’t even know it’s there.

What’s it all about?

It's easy to use and even easier on the eye

The Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo is a wonderful thing to use. From the moment you turn it on you are bombarded with colourful images, easy to use menus and interactive content that just makes you want to sit and play all day – in fact, we did!

Thumbs up

The TiVo approach doesn’t just fire random TV your way, it learns your viewing habits over time and suggests TV it thinks you will like.

Using a system of giving thumbs up or thumbs down to a program, actor or series, the TiVo learns which shows you like and makes them more readily available to you. It also keeps tabs on what you watch, but the thumbs up system is a good way to fast track to relevant TV.

The Virgin Media TV makes recommendations based on what you watch

On the front page you are presented with something TiVo term the ‘Discovery Bar’ – though a slightly overindulgent name, this bar is actually pretty clever.

Using the aforementioned thumbs up system, over time the Virgin Media TiVo box shows you programs and movies from both live TV and on demand services at the top of the page. This is a great way to easily find new content without having to search.

Search on Steroids

Virgin Media Tivo groups together shows in to collections as well as intelligent recommendations

One of the coolest things on the Virgin TiVo box is how its search works.Say you are looking through the TV guide and you see the movie ‘Fight Club’ is on; you click through to see more info and it takes you through to a cast list. You select Edward Norton.

The TiVo then shows you all the TV and movies that Ed appears in. Now for the really clever bit – Edward Norton was in ‘American History X’, so you decide that you would like to see it. You can either rent it from on demand or add it to a ‘Wishlist Search’.

After using search on the Tivo, you won't settle for anything less

The Wishlist Search is the single greatest invention in TV planning we have seen. To use our previous example, you can add ‘American History X’ to a wishlist search and any time it is on, on any channel, at any point in the future, your TiVo will record it – Isn’t that flipping awesome?

It also works with actors and crew too, so you can tell the TiVo to record anything that Edward Norton appears in, across all channels – ad infinitum.


Several apps and games come included - BBC iPlayer will likely be the one you use most

As well as amazing TV, the Virgin TiVo comes with an ever growing array of apps – at the time of writing there are offerings from eBay, Youtube and BBC iPlayer, as well as a couple of games and weather apps.

Granted, this isn’t quite as an impressive array as Sony offers on the PlayStation 3 say, but you can expect much more in the near future, as the OS is Flash based, portability of apps will be a quick process and one that developers ought to be keen to be part of.

Check out our best media streamer Top 5 right here


The remote sadly lacks the QWERTY keyboard of its US counterpart

We never saw anything particularly wrong with the old Virgin remote, however the new Virgin Media TiVo one is really comfortable at least. It’s shape like a stretched peanut and is really nice to hold and use.

It comes with all the buttons you expect as well as the thumbs up and thumbs down functions. It’s a shame Virgin didn’t see fit to include the QWERTY keyboard remote that ships with equivalent TiVo units in the US, but it’s a fault that we can quickly overlook at the moment. In time as more and more apps come on board, I think there will be a number of users looking to upgrade to a more feature rich remote.


The Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo is one of the best TV innovations we have seen released into the UK market, and it easily trumps the Sky+ HD box in both looks and functionality.

At a £199 install price, and only a few pounds more a month, it’s comparatively reasonable in price too.

It should be noted that you have to be on the Virgin XL TV pack to be eligible for TiVo at present, but we are sure this will change over time.

If you are already an XL customer, we highly recommend upgrading to the TiVo service – it really will change the way you watch TV forever, and if you are a Sky customer coming to the end of your contract – maybe now is the time to ditch the dish and enter the world of fibre optic.

  • Anonymous

    I love my new VM TiVo.

    I have had the old Thomson Series 1 TiVo for nearly ten years and have lived with poor quality SD pictures just to hang onto the functionality it provided. I have lived in fear of it dying for years and am thrilled to get a replacement.

    To the doubters, it isn’t just an alternative to V+/Sky+, it is a totally different way of watching TV.

    One thing I would point out is that the software is a little buggy still. Has been updated a couple of times since I got the TiVo so things should improve soon methinks.

  • Eman Zaman

    How quick does it run? Sky have always had the edge in terms of speed (eg moving through channels or accessing menus, etc) so does this box at least match that speed?

    • phil howard

      yes it is as fast as sky+, but the plus is tivo offers you the chance to rewind one of three tuners,or you just change tuner and rewind that.
      change tuner and if the program is half way through, just rewind or hit record, and tivo will record the whole program.
      rewind and fast-forward are a lot faster than sky+
      you can record programs you missed last week.
      iplayer app is fast, tivo has its own 10mb broadband connection, that will not interfere with your other broadband connection.
      EPG needs some minor tweaks,but you can go forward by day or hour and back to last week. catch-up is shown in the EPG. so hit a button aand watch a program on catch-up,and with its own 10mb broadband connection, no buffering.
      I better stop as this is getting to long.
      PS: I helped beta test tivo

  • phil howard

    Its faster and with all the remote shortcuts easier to use than most new boxes.
    The sky box may be faster but has a lot less to offer than VM Tivo.
    Also with the up and coming updates, it can only get better.

  • Tome

     I have had a Thompson series 1 Tivo since prototype days. I have just switched over to the Virgin Tivo box three weeks ago – Mostly I’m very happy but with one or two niggles – How do you stop it asking for a pass code every time you want to view a recording made after 9 pm? – shame they didn’t include an analogue audio interface as my HiFi  doesn’t have an optical input so I need to get a D 2 A converter to use the external audio.
    The series 1 Tivo programme guide always started from the channel being viewed the new virgin unit always returns to the top of the guide – a little annoying if you’re on ch 601 and just want to know some programme  detail and you end up at guide 101 and have to scroll back to 601 

    Otherwise its great! Three tuners solves the arguments in my household about what gets recorded!

  • Ashlajempa

    record a series function is very poor indeed.
    clunky at best, come on virgin,  two button press for series link.
    overall not a bad piece of kit, but some glaring inconsistances.

  • Doug Gordon

    I have to say I am amazed at your review. I have been a Virgin media customer since beforetheir takeover of Telewest.
    The original Virgin V/V+ box UI (user interface)
    was far superior to the new Tivo box UI. Why?
    [1] The original menu deign and navigation was
    simple, easy to remember and required few steps.
    [2] You could set multiple channel/time reminders (one of best and most useful features of the box/IU).
    [3] recording was simple and easy to cancel.
    it’s only miss giving was that the box was old and the UI a bit slow.
    Apart from that it was extremely easy and clear to use.
    The new Tivo box UI is almost the exact opposite.
    The menu design and navigation is clearly the implementation of a power
    point presentation and have never been used by its designers (else they
    would not have released the product with such a painful UI).
    The channel/time reminders feature has vanished! How mind numbing
    annoying is that. I mean to say you would think that that would be a
    prime requirement of such a *wonderful*
    box UI? and in software
    its a such a no-brainer to implement. In-fact if you hit the ‘ok’ button
    on the remote, it will mark the program to record. If you hit the ‘ok’
    button again it will not cancel the recording. The only way to cancel
    the recording is to leave the TY guide menu completely, navigate to
    ‘your planed recordings’ menu, find the planed recording, hit the ‘ok’
    button there, hit the ‘ok’ button again to ‘confirm’ and the go all the
    way back through the menu system to the TV guide. How rubbish is that!
    I could go on and on about the Virgin Tivo UI
    and it’s horrible design and navigation. Best you try one out for ‘real’ before you upgrade.
    I am moving to Sky……….

  • Lauren

    Can anyone tell me if it’s possible to transfer any programmes I’ve recorded on my V+ box, over to TiVo? I want to upgrade my box to TiVo, but I have a lot of programmes recorded on my current box, some of which I wanted to keep but don’t know if it’s possible to do so.

    • Bill

      No its not possible but I had the same problem and fortunately they installed it in another room for free! Still have to pay for multi room which is a downside

  • Cahurved

     I set my TiVo box to record a program,when program starts a box pops up saying i have to change channel to said program or it wont record why is this ???

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