TiVo with richard branson

Verdict

The Virgin Media powered by TiVo box is a wonderful piece of kit and it ultimately wants to be held up as the best of its kind not just in the UK but globally.

Bringing TiVo's UI on board was a master-stroke by Virgin Media, but just as its US cousin is still a flawed product, the Virgin Media box is not quite there yet, something that could be fixed.

We liked:

It's fair to describe Virgin Media TiVo as a triple threat. First and foremost it is a lovely bit of hardware – three tuners, modem and a big, big hard drive.

Next, the user interface is brilliant at making it easy to find what you want to watch, quickly. It brings together material and groups it in an obvious and straightforward way and blurs the boundaries between what is on demand, recorded or live.

And last, but not least, it makes it easier to find things that you *might* want to watch. It can tell you if your favourite actor is about to make his television debut, it can tell you when the new seires of Dr Who is on and it can tell you that most of the people who love your favourite show also love something on a channel you've never venture on to before.

We disliked:

It is without doubt the most powerful set top box around, but with that power comes, no, not great responsibility, but complexities and that is either a wonderful thing or a bad thing, depending on your point of view.

The huge amount of things that you can do are well laid out and simple enough, but it's still more complicated to do simple things than its closest rival; the Sky+HD 1TB box.

Like any powerful system, there are still issues. Digging into the menus quite often brings you to some ugly standard def interface screens that are clearly not on the same Flash UI that is so gorgeous through the rest of the experience. It's a crying shame, if not a critical one, because it's like being in a beautiful hall and opening a cupboard to find a mud floor – and it surely could have been easily avoided.

The box is, by and large, quick and impressive, but there are points where it slows down. And remember that the money you pay does not mean you own this box, merely rent it.

Verdict:

Will it keep the TiVo fans and television nuts happy? Yes. Is it the most powerful box on the market? Yes. But is it better than Sky's flagship 1TB Sky+ HD box? Not yet. And it won't be until it's given a much needed polish.

We hope that the blips will be quickly wiped out as Virgin Media gathers feedback and improves its product, and we're always impressed by a product that gives you the power to do something seriously cool.

Perhaps the most important point about the TiVo box is that it takes the best points about being on cable – fast internet, instant HD on demand and the capacity to quickly suck in data, and makes them more fun, more usable and more powerful.

Sky's deep pockets, greater range of context and simpler user interface remain a powerful force in British pay-television, but finally we have a challenger with the power and the hardware to genuinely mount a challenge. And with a bit of polish, The Virgin Media powered by TiVo box will become the finest PVR on the market.