Record and access TV more easily
Tivo is the new set-top TV recorder available to Virgin Media customers.
It is more expensive than the existing V+ box and duplicates some of its features such as pausing and rewinding live TV, and ‘series link' recordings. But it's also much more intuitive than V+ and can cleverly ‘learn' what programmes you like.
For example if you like crime dramas and start recording some, similar programmes will be recorded in the Suggestions folder.
If the name sounds familiar it's because Tivo the company sold its devices in the UK ten years ago but gave up in 2002 when Sky+ appeared. It continued to be available in its US homeland, and has now returned as a service for Virgin Media customers.
A Discovery bar along the top of the screen flags up films and TV available to rent, which are also supposed to match the user's tastes - ‘thumbs up' and ‘thumbs down' buttons for each programme allow users to define their viewing tastes more concisely. It's not perfect but it did work.
As with the V+ box the Tivo can access catch-up TV services, but with a neat twist: users can search in the normal way by going to the catch-up TV icons but the TV channel guide allows them to go back in time to programmes already shown earlier that day. If the programme has a circled C logo it will be available as a catch-up show: clicking twice starts it playing, which is much easier than searching through long A-Z lists.
Series link records whole series of shows at a click. The Tivo marketing materials made a lot of the ability to search for programmes featuring particular actors but some of these searches were patchy in our experience.
Other features worked well, however, including the ability to watch Youtube videos through the box on the TV. Parental controls can be set for particular times, individual series or programmes.
Virgin Media has relaxed the restrictions on getting a Tivo: users no longer need to sign up to the XL TV package. Instead it costs £3 a month over the standard package price, plus initial fees (see Details). It's available to new customers too, who must of course live in a road served by Virgin Media.
The Tivo wasn't perfect: we couldn't understand why some recorded programmes cut short before their endings and unlike the V+ box users can't flag up programmes before they start. Also unlike the V+, the Tivo can't be linked to a DVD recorder to save recorded programmes.
It was temperamental, freezing and crashing at awkward times, but overall Tivo is a great box of tricks and the best TV set-top-box we've used.
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Virgin Media's Tivo is hands-down the best TV recorder we've used
Lots of useful features and apps; neater interface than V+ box; easy to get to grips with; comprehensive menus, channel listing and user guide
A little expensive; some bugs such as programme clipping; occasional crashes; can't record to DVD
Phone 0845 840 7777
£3 per month and £50 installation fee (1TB box has extra £50 activation fee)
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