Virgin Media TiVo review

Price when reviewed

The only gripe we have on the hardware side of things is the rather limited connectivity. Take a look around the rear of the TiVo’s curvaceous chassis and you’ll find only find HDMI and SCART outputs, plus an optical S/PDIF for ferrying surround sound audio to a home theatre receiver for decoding.

The component output found on the first Scientific Atlantic V+ is long gone, and disappointingly there’s no stereo analogue output either, so you’ll have to take your stereo feed from the SCART socket if you want to connect to a standard hi-fi. There’s a pair of USB ports on the rear, but these aren’t used.

Interface and ease of use

What’s made TiVo such a popular brand in the US, however, is its ease of use and flexibility. And the good news is it’s clearly an improvement over the V+ box on both counts. It’s far more responsive to commands from the remote control, with none of the infuriating delays that so dogged early V+ devices.

The front end looks nicer, too, with clean lines and modern graphics, although we do wish Virgin Media weren’t such slaves to the garish company red – it’s liberally splashed everywhere, and gets wearing after a while.

The single Home screen is a big improvement over the Home/V+ menu split on the V+ too. From this screen all of the TiVo’s options can be accessed, from recorded shows – housed in the “My Shows” menu – to the categorised programme guide and settings screens. It’s all very clear and well organised – a far cry from the confusing menu structure of the V+.

It isn’t just easier to use, though: the TiVo boasts a whole raft of features that you’ll quickly find a godsend. In the My Shows section, series-linked programmes are stored in folders, rather than displayed in a straight list, which makes browsing your recorded TV programmes a far more efficient process.

While we’re on the subject, the series link options themselves are nothing short of genius. Any parent knows that recording kids’ programmes on series link can quickly result in a box full of repeats and duplicates. With the TiVo you can keep this sort of occurrence to a minimum, by specifying that the box only keeps a certain number of episodes, deletes a programme after a set period of time, or only removes shows when you start running out of space.

Another feature that helps no end with usability is the keyword search and associated WishList. Select Search and browse from the Home screen and you can use the keyword search to hunt through the programme guide not only by TV and movie title, but also actor and director.

Creating a wish list, meanwhile, lets you to tell the TiVo to record a series or film that isn’t in the programme guide yet – handy if there’s a movie you’d like to see but which hasn’t been televised yet.

Back to the future

You can also go back in time – not literally, of course – to view the programme guide for the past week, in addition to the more usual “what’s coming up” view. That doesn’t sound all that useful until you realise some of the past programmes have a “C” symbol next to them, giving you direct access to the on-demand programming from ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

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