Equipment and Set Up
As Virgin is a cable TV service there is no dish or other receiver required on the outside, instead the property is connected to the main cable in the street and a TV box - and a router if you take broadband too - is connected inside by an engineer. These days there is a choice of 3 different boxes - the V HD Box, the 500GB TiVo Box and the 1TB TiVo Box.
V HD Box - this is the basic Virgin box which is both HD and 3D compatible but has no pause, rewind and record functions. HD activation is free.
TiVo Boxes - TiVo is like Sky+, and what used to be V+ on Virgin, but more advanced in that it can pause, rewind and record live TV but it also connects to the web and lets you search and record programmes by keyword, even recording shows it thinks you may like as 'Suggestions'. The TiVo box is available with a 500GB or 1 Terabyte memory - more below.
Channels on Virgin TV
Virgin TV packages are organised into 3 sizes - M+, L and XL - with 175 channels available on the largest, XL. Each can be taken on its own, with a Virgin phone line or with phone and broadband as a triple bundle.
TV M+ Over 75 channels including all of the free to air ones plus subscription channels including Sky 1, the Universal Channel and Sky Arts - More details...
TV L With over 115 channels L has all of M+ and more. The main benefits are in documentary, as you get most of the Discovery family and Animal Planet, kids TV with the addition of Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon and music as TV L includes MTV and VH1. You also get access to TV Choice L, which is on-demand content. More details...
TV XL At just over 175 channels this is the top package. The benefits over size L are in extra channels - notably ESPN, National Geographic and Disney - and more on-demand content with TV Choice XL and Sky Anytime available to you. More details...
HD and 3D
Virgin Media has just over 20 channels in HD as opposed to around 50 on Sky Digital, so the choice is quite a lot smaller, but HD on Virgin is included in the price of your package. Virgin used to charge an HD activation fee of £49.95 but now it is done free, giving them the edge over Sky who charge an extra £10.25 a month to get HD TV. Some 3D movies are available on demand on Virgin but there is no dedicated 3D channel - this may come when 3D becomes more popular.
Subscription HD channels on Virgin include;
- National Geographic
- Comedy Central
Like Sky, this depends on the channels in your package - if you have ESPN in TV XL you can also get ESPN in HD. Sky Sports and Movies are also available in HD (apart from Sky Sports 3 and 4) if you subscribe to either pack.
Sports and Movies
Both Sky Sports and Sky Movies are available on Virgin Media apart from the HD versions of Sky Sports 3 and 4 which you can only get from Sky. More about Sky Sports here and Sky Movies here.
One of Virgin's strong points is catch-up TV, with the BBC iPlayer and the other main players from ITV, Channel 4 and Five all included with all TV packages. Not only this but if you have the TiVo service you can scroll back through the EPG for the last 7 days and any programme that's available on catch-up has a little symbol to identify it so you can select it for viewing.
TV On Demand
There is a variety of on-demand content on Virgin depending on the package you have, from TV Choice to pay-per-view movies and more. TV Choice is the Virgin on-demand service where you'll find whole series of popular TV programmes like House and Heroes - this comes with TV XL and in a more limited version with TV L. Also with TV XL you now get Sky Anytime included, which is on-demand content from channels like Sky 1, Sky Arts and Sky LIVING. There is also sports and movies content available if you subscribe to the Sky Sports Collection or the Sky Movies collection. Other on-demand content includes pay-per-view movies on FilmFlex and Bollywood and monthly subscription movies from Picture Box.
Originally an American service, TiVo was adopted by Virgin Media in the UK in late 2010. The TiVo box is an advanced PVR (or personal video recorder) much like Sky+ and V+ with some very useful extra features. The TiVo box is available in 2 sizes, one with a 500GB hard drive to store around 250 hours of standard TV and one with 1 Terabyte to store twice the amount. The 500GB box is now given with no set-up fee or activation and the 1TB model comes with a one-off activation charge of £49.95. Here are some of the key points about TiVo and you can find out more on our Virgin TiVo page.
Searching You can search TiVo using keywords for title, actor or director and it returns results from live TV, catch-up, on demand and YouTube at the same time, so for an actor you may get a couple of TV series, a movie and some clips on YouTube.
Recording A bit like Series Link but cleverer, TiVo has a function called Wishlist where you use the same keyword system to tell it to record anything featuring that actor or by that director. It then goes one step further by recording Suggestions for you, based on your previous viewing, which are saved in a dedicated folder.
Internet As well as YouTube you can also use Facebook, Twitter, eBay and other apps on the TiVo box, which has its own 10Mb broadband connection built in so as not to affect the main home broadband.