back to article Virgin unwraps three-tuner über set-top

Virgin Media's much-anticipated Tivo box will begin shipping "mid-December", the cableco said today, despite the fact that its own website has the arrival date down as "early 2011". Eh? The box out in the middle of this month will contain three tuners, but one of them won't work until Virgin releases a software update, which …


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  1. Craig 2

    Opportunity missed...

    Surely a missed opportunity for a tagline including "Virgin" and "3-way"!

  2. Rogerborg

    [x] I'm already a Virgin Media customer

    Hint: check that box, and you'll go straight to the back of the queue. It'll be a long, long while before they start offering this to anyone but Sky customers.

  3. Robin Weston

    I'll hold on

    I've currently got a v+ box with 3 tuners, had it for a good while now, but with the recent arrival of a decent selection of hd channels (many years after I got the v+ precursor a tv-drive with its promise they were "coming soon"), the disc just isn't big enough for me. I'd love tivo, and I'm very keen on more storage, but given Virgin's past history of products turning up either *way* later than advertised, or being quietly abandoned I'll wait until the third tuner is actually switched on.

    Still waiting for the wap by sms service on my nokia 3210.....

  4. Ian Stephenson
    Thumb Up

    Glad to see

    There is a hard power switch on the back.

    It can be a complete bitch trying to unplug and replug the power cable to reset the old PACE boxes by touch when it's surrounded by PVR, DVD, amp etc.

  5. Spikehead
    Thumb Down

    3 tuners?

    The V+ box I have at the moment has 3 tuners. Can record two channels and watch a third. OK, has a 160GB hard drive (for up to 80 hrs recording).

    So the only benefits are more storage and the ability to go back for a "best TV of the week" (which is highly unlikely to be anything I'm interested in!)

    So, I'd probly only be interested when a 5 tuner system is out so I can record those 4 programs that overlap, while watching the 5th. An added feature could be the dynamic program guide that can compensate for sports events running over, or changes in the schedule. Save me having to fast-forward through 3 hours of snooker to find out the program wasn't on in the first place!!

    1. nickrw

      Re: 3 tuners?

      I've also got a V+ HD box and can't see myself wanting one of these. You missed out one other benefit the new tivo box has over the V+ box though; it's nowhere near as ugly.

      I wonder if the the three-tuner tivo model has the same annoying bug where recording two back-to-back programs on the same channel means it will refuse to record something that overlaps on a second channel.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is the Virgin deal with TiVo exclusive?

    I can't get beardie cable in my area, but I'd love to be able to replace my TiVo series 1 with this bit of kit. Hopefully someone else will offer a regular TiVo service for the rest of us.

    1. Big_Ted
      Thumb Down

      Yes it is

      Virgin have signed an exclusive deal with Tivo......

  7. bmurray
    Thumb Up


    i wonder if virgin will adapt the american tivo ipad app to work with this box. if it could stream, content from my computer as well and back out to iphone i'd buy 12

    1. Shaun 1


      VM have confirmed the iPad app will launch in 2011

  8. deshepherd

    3 tuners

    The Virgin V+ box already has 3 tuners ... all they are doing is ensuring that this new box matches this on spec.

    Also, the monthly cost for XL package with TiVo is only £3 above the normal XL price so in effect its £3/month to get the TiVo features.

    As a VM (XL TV) user and someone whose had TiVo for ~10 years then I can't wait to get one of these! Only possible issue is whether the 2 vs 3 tuner deal is due to hardware or software restictions - i.e. is the "3 tuners coming in new year" just the result of a software uprade or is it really a new rev of the box hardware

  9. John__Doh

    Crap Looks

    Why can't Virgin ever make a set top box that looks half decent? This looks like an 80's version of the PS3! Not that the Sky boxes are the pinnacle of sleek design, but they look better than this!

    1. wondermouse

      who cares what they look like?

      The functionality is the real TiVo plus point as any TiVo user can tell you. There is a reason that TiVo is the number one DVR in the US - it's simple but immensely powerful.

      Sky + is like a TiVo that's had a lobotomy, with all the useful bits removed!

      It's good to see them back in the UK, but bad (for me) in that we have a Virgin cable run literally 5 feet from our front door in South West London, but Virgin insist that we are not in a cable area, nor will we be for the foreseeable future.

    2. nickrw

      Re: Crap Looks

      You've clearly never seen the clunky V+ HD boxes...

      (I think there are several different versions, mine is one of the ugly ones though)

  10. Martin
    Thumb Up

    Speaking as someone who still has an old Thomson TIVO...

    ...this is brilliant news.

    The TIVO software knocks spots off anything that either Sky+ or Virgin Media has done. The search facility is miles better, it automatically checkes for repeats of a program if you want to record something that clashes with a series you are recording, it records programs you might be interested in based on what you've previously recorded (and deletes them automatically to make space) - and you can tell it when it gets it wrong, too! - it can record programs based on the subject matter (record anything to do with chess, for example - you get some odd things turning up, but hey!)...

    Can't wait.

    1. SteveCo

      I'll repeat that

      This always assumes that the program data we'll be getting for this is better than the crappy data that we get on the current Series 1 Tivo. I long ago turned off the 'first run' option after missing episodes where some numpty had forgotten to tick the right box when setting up the data initially.

      Tivo is great and all that - but it's Achilles heel is the program data.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      Seriously??? Look again at the new sky boxes with the new Gui, the 1TB drive, the native 3D and HD, then check the online Sky Planner, where you can program your box remotely, then look at the Sky nevermiss which tells you of all your up and coming interesting programs and then emails you the link to remote record. This Tivo box is old tech and old hat.

  11. Valerion

    What am I missing?

    They are crowing about the fact it has a built-in 10Mbs cable modem so it doesn't affect your broadband when watching stuff... but the current boxes don't affect that either, as the TV doesn't come down your internet pipe... are they saying that with this box all programs are IP-delivered? If so, what's the point? Or is it just EPG data? If so, surely that doesn't need that much bandwidth?

    I'm not sure what it gives me over and above the current V+HD box except the bigger harddrive and a flashier interface. I can currently get all the channels, and there's tons of stuff on catchup/iPlayer/OnDemand etc, which is probably the same stuff as the TiVo will have access to.

    Some sort of feature comparison would be useful.

  12. tom 49

    What are the ports, specifications?

    What are the ports? Specifically - USB2/3? HDMI 1.3 or 1.4? Weird ethernet connector?

  13. JBH
    Paris Hilton

    That sounds great an' all...

    But will it keep chopping the last two minutes off the end of The Trip, like my V+ box does?

    Paris, because well... something about high capacity boxes...

    1. Mathonar
      Thumb Up

      then Tivo is what you need

      The V+ allows you to set padding on programs but it's a global setting to srart early and finish late and if this causes clashes you lose stuff. I.E. double episodes of a show running 8pm & 8:30 with a 1hr show starting @ 8pm. If you set padding the 2nd show @ 8:30 won't be recorded as the tuners are in use.

      If this Tivo follows Tivo Gen 1 that i had till i went HD then :

      1) You can set padding rules per season pass

      2) You can set padding rules per recording

      So in the above scenario you would go into the recording planned for the half hour show, let the 8pm one start as planned but stop on time and modify the 8:30pm one to start on time but stop recording late.

      You then end up with all 3 shows recorded with nothing missed - perfect for BBC 2.

      ofc if there's any repeats then Tivo will have already picked up on them and gone for recording the 1hr and the first 30min prog whil getting the 2nd 30min prog from the repeat

  14. Matt Devney


    so don't have to.

    ^ they

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Buy or rent?

    It's been a while since I had cable, but one of the benifits I remember was that you were loaned a box as part of the subscription. Pretty sensible as it was no use without.

    So this box is £199 + install and subscription... and it's mine so I keep the box if or when I cancel? Yet it's only of use with Virgin so I would need to sell it/give it way.... hummm...

    Decisions... A free box from Sky which at least can be used for free channels without a sub if I cancel or run low on cash, or £199 box from Virgin which becomes a paperweight..... I hope Virgin have a LOT more HD channels than Sky for the money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Outlay or price hike

      Similar to the Buy or rent theme... One thing that has annoyed me about the current V+ box and looks to be the same, if not worse, with this one is the options. Currently you have to have pay for the V+ box and get XL package to not pay any more. If on a smaller package, you have to pay extra.

      If I could've paid a one off fee and then keep the box without extra premiums and/or having to upgrade channels, I would've done so already. I don't want to get rid of Virgin and if the box only works with Virgin, surely I am committing to stay with them longer so they would be happy to offer me such a deal - in fact I would've happily locked myself in with them for a couple of years if that helped. I read about someone getting such a deal online but when I called them they were having none of it.

      So now, you would not only have to pay for this new box, but get the XL package AND pay more on your monthly payments as well. And as AC points out, it's not a box you can do anything else with but use it on Virgin so surely again, you'd be committing to stay with Virgin.

      Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of the box would love to have one but I don't watch all those channels and don't have the cash to commit either.

  16. Gareth 18
    Paris Hilton

    bloop bloop bloop

    It had better make the cute bloopy noises or I am senidng it back.

    1. Neil 7
      Thumb Up

      @bloop bloop bloop

      "It had better make the cute bloopy noises or I am senidng it back."

      Oh, it does. :)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Sounds great - but £$ expensive

    Been waiting for this for a while - but will continue to wait as just seems really expensive. Already have VM cable broadband and don't want another channel to t'internet. From the cost seems like we pay for the box + installation AND a monthly fee. Doesn't seem such a bargain.

    Considering a humax FreeSat+HD box - already have a satellite dish as a backup to cable TV. Opted for Sony LCD with built-in FreeSatHD.

    Would consider the V+HD box if it had a bigger HD, but to upgrade from my current package to the XL package seems extreme, especially as I barely watch the channels on offer with their 'basic (+SkyOne for the Sci-Fi - NOT the Police Chase #62/ParisWatch etc.) package'.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Getting as bad as the Telegraph on here for Americanisms...

  19. CaptainHaZ

    @Anonymous Coward

    You pay £199 + £40 for the installation but you dont own the box. All Virgin Media boxes remain the property of VM. Good thing if it breaks they will replace it for free, bad because you are forking out the cost of a 1TB Sky+HD box for something that you dont even own.

    Sorry VM, i really wanted this but not at that price.

  20. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Nice, but no thanks, so far.

    Not sure I'd pay ~ £460 a year (box purchase cost spread over 3 years) but maybe I could be convinced if there's something which makes it a 'must have'.

    Unfortunately it's hard to see what that would be over what I've already got; which is Virgin M basic TV (includes iPlayer), Sky FTV, plus Freeview, all tied up by an analogue PVR+DVD. Not perfect but as free as it can be, and there's so little worth watching that one tuner sometimes feels like overkill and three just pointless. Even if what is good is not on iPlayer & friends there's a good chance it's on +1, repeated three hours later, on four times in a week, and will be on another channel in a few week's time.

    It would be nice to 'integrate everything', go digital HD all round, but not at that cost.

    Maybe I'm not their target market, missing the 'couch potato gene' and not having money to burn ;-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      Main things keeping me from taking the 'free' (ish) Sky+HD are; 1) don't want to line the digger's pockets any further 2) actually happy with VM's cable broadband... it just 'works'.

      Not happy with the cost of the V+ HD box, or the new offering. Seems like massive overkill.

      Can see why they want to boost ARPU, but forcing customers to buy the top of the range deluxe TV package to get the TIVO box is crazy. Plus a £240 up-front cost is ... well... steep!!

    2. Big_Ted

      Wrong prices Jason

      I think you need to check your maths.

      Its £239 box and install + £105 36*£3 so £344 over 3 years.

      And thats without current subscriber discounts that have been confirmed but not detailed yet.

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Not wrong prices

        Just a different base-line. I priced "coming from having nothing'' whereas you seem to have only taken the extra cost of the Tivo subscription with people already paying for the package to which Tivo can be added. From the article -

        "The box is just £199, though there's a £40 installation cost on top of that ... and you'll have to cough up £32.50 a month for Virgin's XL Tivo package, though you can get £6 off each month if you take out a Virgin phone line too"

        So, £199 + £40 + 36 x £32.50 = $1409 / 3 = ~ £470 per year

        That drops to ~ £400 if you take a phone line, but add the rental cost of that phone line on and it becomes ~ £545.

        Virgin seem to like playing 'get HD for free, when you pay more for your subscription' games; there's nothing IMO "free" about it.

  21. Neil 7


    "2 tuners or 3?"

    The US TiVo has only two tuners, the VM V+ has always had 3.

    My guess is that the stock US S4 TiVo software is on the VM TiVo (with cosmetic changes) and so it currently only supports two tuners, but a few tweaks in a future update should get the scheduler working with all three tuners.

    "I wonder if the the three-tuner tivo model has the same annoying bug where recording two back-to-back programs on the same channel means it will refuse to record something that overlaps on a second channel."

    This is a TiVo not some mickey mouse Pace/NDS pile of shite, :) The TiVo scheduler has been hardened over the last ten years and can do the basics such as back-to-back recordings with aplomb!

    "Rent or own?"

    A new SkyHD box can set you back up to £250 and has only a 12 month warranty - when it fails after the warranty period (as old Thomson boxes used to do on a regular basis) then you're up shit creek and the owner of a £250 doorstop.

    At least with a rental box you have the peace of mind that it will be replaced for as long as you remain a VM customer. As the owner of a SkyHD box that developed a fault outside of the warranty period (and that cost me £300 when brand new) the rental model certainly has its appeal.

    I just can't wait until hard disk failures start to become a more common event on SkyHD boxes, I'd imagine the MTBF would be about 3-4 years - for most customers they'll be screwed and facing hefty repair bills from total shysters. Not so with VM.

  22. Jonathan Cohen

    @Neil 7

    Sky will usually replace most out of warranty boxes for just a £60 call out fee. It would take several faulty Sky boxes (which would be my property) to exceed the £199 cost to "rent" the Virgin box. In addition, Sky usually give such boxes away free or for a low cost (which become your property, like a mobile phone contract) when you sign up, so I find this Virgin model of paying to rent bizarre at best.

    Even forgetting the fact that Sky will replace faulty boxes under warranty, for a lowish fee or sometimes for free if you threaten to cancel, I'm sure those of us in the target market will have moved on and want the next big thing in 3-5 years. With Sky I can sell the old box and put the funds towards something else... or cancel and keep using the Sky box to receive regular free TV (though without most of the Sky box features).

    Is it really true that you rent the Virgin box and then have to give it back, even after paying £199? If not, what if you cancel - do you still get the free channels?

    I pay around £22 per month for my Sky HD box (all the channels except movies, sports and the premium HD pack). The box cost me £100 from Ebay a few years back and I've recently had to spend another £10 to replace the PSU capacitors (as it's a Thomson). If the hard disk dies then circa £50 to upgrade it to 1TB wouldn't break the bank.

    To be honest, I feel I'm paying far too much for what I get, compared to a Freeview or Freesat PVR but it's nice to have channels like Discovery etc and a nice HD PVR (works fine for BBC, ITV, C4, five HDetc without the Sky HD sub).... Looking at the Virgin site I'm staggered by how much something similar would cost from them.

  23. TeeCee Gold badge

    "....the box's UI is based on Adobe Flash."

    The competition to build the world's first fiber backboned botnet starts now.....

  24. Andrew 25

    Bright lights?

    But will it light up brighter than a Christmas tree even when in standby. My v+ box has more bright lights on it when in standby than not, all the way around the play/ff buttons on the front of it. I resorted to putting black tape around the buttons just so I can watch a DVD without getting sun spots in the edges of my eyeball.

    Talking of lights, why has consumer tech decided to put bright leds on everything, why do I need a flashing bright blue led on my router just to tell me the wifi is on? again, black tape on that too else the poor dog would think he was in a disco all night.

  25. Neil 7

    @Jonathan Cohen

    Sadly not from my experience, in addition to the standard £60 call out cost there was a likely charge for repair/replacement of my defective box.

    Anyway, the argument about rental or ownership is pretty pointless, they both have pro's and cons and if you want to be a VM customer you have no other choice. I just don't see the difference in such black and white terms as some people, most of whom need to get over themselves.

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