Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Virgin Media TiVo installed: First impressions

  • My install took the best part of 2 hours, the 1st box installed was faulty and the 2nd box wasn't using the correct IP address to download the TiVo software. Once all that was sorted, it was time to play!
  • Wow, the TiVo is small compared to my TV Drive/V+ HD.
  • Speaking of which, Virgin offered to re-locate my V+ HD for no extra install charge and no monthly charge. Needless to say, I gladly accepted their offer. A few customers on Cable Forum have reported being offered this offer, but there doesn't seem to be any consistency regarding what kind of customer gets contacted by Virgin for this 'free multi-room' offer.
  • I guess I need to write a 'forgive me please?' letter for my V+HD.
  • I had a surreal moment a few minutes after the install, when TiVo thought that BBC 1 was an adult channel and insisted on me entering the PIN in order to watch the 1pm News.
  • The Standard-Definition picture from my TiVo is a little bit softer compared to the SD pictures delivered by my V+HD (this is on my Samsung 40" C650 TV).
  • As for High-Definition picture quality? Maybe just a little bit better compared to the V+ HD.
  • Wishlists truly rock! I wasn't able to create series links for the new seasons of Warehouse 13 and Haven because their not being shown in the next 2 weeks - but I was able to set up Wishlists to record future episodes of those programmes.
  • Its a little jarring to go from a HD user-interface screen, to a SD user interface screen while using TiVo. The Home screen for instance, is in HD but the page for editing Wishlists is in SD and doesn't look great by comparison.
  • At the moment, the majority of 'new' premiere dates for programmes are based on the USA premiere airdate. Hence the default for recording being 'New & Reruns'. This isn't as bad as it sounds because TiVo won't record an episode if its already been recorded within 28 days of its broadcast, thus keeping the chances of duplicate recordings to a minimum. In the mean time, hopefully, Tribune (who supply the EPG data for Virgin) will get the premiere dates issue sorted out.
  • As customers have posted recently on Cable Forum, there seems to be an issue of VOD content not showing up from 'Search & Browse' searches. For example, I could locate Smallville manually in TV Choice On Demand, but searching for Smallville from 'Search & Browse' only gives me the option to watch it live or create a Series Link.
  • Actually, no, I take that back, I was just able to search for NCIS and watch an episode from VOD. And now, a search for Smallville locates VOD episodes. I guess the TiVo was downloading more data in the background as I was typing. Either that, or its watching what I type.
  • There are times when using TiVo, that you come across too many screens while attempting to do certain things. For instance, I've located an episode of Smallville to watch from VOD. There's one screen which gives you the single option to 'Watch Now', that's followed by another screen which has the single option of 'Play'. Why the extra screen? Shouldn't 'Watch Now' play the episode?
  • I couldn't wait to give 3 thumbs down for The X-Factor! I'll give it 6 thumbs down if I could!
  • So far, the performance of my TiVo has been excellent. Nice and speedy.
  • I gave 2 thumbs up for the underated NCIS (the superior original, not the inferior NCIS Los Angeles) and, I'll give TiVo its due, the Discovery Bar was updated with CSI, Burn Notice, Cold Case, and yes - NCIS Los Angeles.
  • Any doubts I had regarding inferior video quality from the BBC iPlayer app not using the legacy VOD streams have been blown away. I watched EastEnders in HD from the app (purely for research purposes, honestly!) and the picture quality was superb. But what about the audio? That (according to my amp) was PCM 48Khz - I don't know if EastEnders was broadcast on BBC HD/Legacy VOD in 5.1 or not.
  • A shame that, for now anyway, you can't watch any BBC iPlayer content directly from the Catch-Up EPG. I suspect that the change in the BBC's syndication policy pulled the rug underneath Virgin's plans to do that. However, you can watch some VOD from ITV, C4 and Channel Five directly from the EPG. I say 'some', because on occasion, you'll get directed to the Catch-Up Menu instead of directly being able to play the content you selected.
  • Being able to buffer content on all three tuners (and rewind any of them) is, well, cool. I can see that being very useful for sports fans if for instance, Sky Sports 1 & 2 are simultaneously showing live football games on the final day of the season. Watching SS1 and missed a goal on SS2? No worries, switch to that tuner and rewind, sorted.
  • Nice - unlike the V+, you can watch Delayed TV while accessing the TV Guide and other menus. Heck, you can even watch VOD content while accessing the Guide.
  • The TiVo is a quiet, little, powerful box. Its just sits there, watching you watching it, while it silently adds a thumbs up you anything you record, constantly on the prowl for suggestions you'd like and Wishlisted content to record (if you let it). If it and the thousands of other installed TiVos ever develop Skynet-like intelligence, and decides to give the Human Race 3 thumbs down, were so fracked.
  • How polite of the TiVo to ask me if it was OK to switch a tuner over to Watch to record an episode of No Ordinary Family. Now, here's the thing: Why did it ask me in the first place? Nothing else was being recorded at the time.
  • The assignment of EPG categories to channels needs some work. For instance, the HD category reveals the Sky Sports HD channels, but the Sports category doesn't. This is the same EPG limitation as on the legacy V+ HD, could have sworn it would be fixed for TiVo.
  • The Discovery Bar is great, and context sensitive. Add the cast information and you've got the closest thing to IMDB on your TV. For instance, I did a search for Gossip Girl (again, purely for research purposes) and the Discovery Bar had an entry for cast member Leighton Meester. You can then view what other shows she's been in, right down to individual episodes, like Series 2 Episode 20 of Numbers. Or, a better example - you can search for Smallville, select Laura Vandervoort from the cast info, and oh, what's this? She's in V and I can watch that from VOD? Excellent!
  • Virgin, as a fan of live sport, I beg you, please add reminder functionality. It won't harm anyone who believes that everything should be recorded, will it? At least then I'll have the choice, like I have on my V+ HD. If England are playing football and they score a goal, I want to watch it as close to live as possible, not 30 minutes ago or even 30 seconds ago via time-shifting/recording.
  • Channel-changing speed looks the same to me, compared to my TV Drive/V+ HD.
  • I had to reset my TiVo before the channel logos appeared in the EPG. And they look good.
  • Yes, its worth every penny, especially if Virgin offer you free multi-room. Even if they don't, TiVo is in a different league to any previous STB supplied by Virgin. One of the installers mentioned that Virgin were only expecting around 2,000 pre-registration requests - so far its 65,000, I can see why. Don't forget that the more affordable Baby TiVo is on its way next month for existing customers.


Carryonvending said...

Great first impressions. Totally agree about REMINDER facility.

Plus I noticed that if you are on a TV Prog, and skip to say Radio 4 Extra, there isn't a blank screen like V+ Box - It stores the last screen shot.

Its speed of learning is amazing.

The apps so far are kool, but Twitter needs a drop down alphabet rather than the lower case only numeric pad.
One week on,very happy with the box. but VERY UNHAPPY with VM Customer services not attending to my lost time, and the way the operator offered me 30p commensation for all my problems. The longer I wait the more venomous I will become.

Jason (Admin) said...

I dunno how they wasted your time (did they not turn up for an install?) but, 30p? Are they taking the piss?

I've read far too many stories about people taking time off work for installs, only for VM not to turn up, so I was kinda relived when they phoned and offered to do my install early.

Carl said...

Love the "Skynet" comment. So true! In fact, it's a nicely-balanced review overall. Can't faut it.

RetryOrCancel said...

You shouldn't ever need reminders. If you ever intend to watch something - record it. Thats the way TiVo works. Just trust it!

Jason (Admin) said...

No thanks, I have no interest in watching recorded sport, not when I could watch it live.

Anonymous said...

I am having my TiVo installed on the 27th April. Interesting how you mentioned keeping your v+HD box free of charge, as I had a telephone call from VM offering me the same deal, needless to say, I snatched their hand off....Great stuff!

Kevin Lloyd said...

Good summary. Our installation was yesterday afternoon and went smoothly.

On the whole I'm quite impressed - the picture quality in HD is superior to the V+ box but I do agree that the SD is softer which is disappointing. I have played around with the scene settings on the TV but in practice with the Tivo (as with a blu ray player) the setting has to be either 'theatre' or 'cinema' (pretty much equivalents). Otherwise it looks simply garish.

The softening seems in part due to a slight zoom effect - I may still be acclimatising but the screen ratios do seem different to the V+. I noticed watching (the utterly wonderful Crimson Petal) on HD in the BBC iplayer app that this effect was particularly pronounced.

Anyone else feel the same or is it just me?

Sound quality on the other hand seems better (but we only use the TV speakers).

Ken said...

Had my Tivo for a few days now and still quite impressed. Just switched from Sky+HD and whilst a lot of Tivo functionality is superior, it does seem to take more steps to do the simple things. but the benefits mean I'll take the time to get used to the changes :-)

I've also noticed that anything recorded after 1900 seems to require a PIN...!! Most odd

Nialli said...

I think it sounds better too: I was listening to BBC6 Music's Adam and Joe via the iPlayer and it sounded fantastic. I also watched Skyline on FilmFlex yesterday and the sound on that was fab, too.
Agree about the softer SD: not unwatchable but something of a disappointment.
Overall very happy. I've had the box for 24 hours now and I'm delighted. Finally getting to grip with the new remote (although I still hit the central Pause button too much!) - much better than the big flat one I was given for my V+.

Jason (Admin) said...

Kevin, I glad you mentioned the aspect ratio issue, when I first tested the iPlayer app, I noticed that the BBC DOG logo was partly off the screen. I've just switched the aspect ratio on my Sammy TV from 16:9 to Screen Fit and all of the DOG is on there now.

Ken, I had an issue the other night when TiVo insisted that I entered a PIN to watch NCIS on FX HD, which starts at 7pm. If I went to another channel and came back to FX HD, I had to enter the PIN again. Eventually it stopped asking me. I admit I was playing with the buffering functionality on the 3 tuners at the time.

Nialli, glad we've both got our TiVos (grin). You watched Skyline? My commiserations, I rented that from Lovefilm the other week, god, after watching it I couldn't put the DVD in the post quick enough.

I was getting used to using the TiVo remote, but I've since programmed my Harmony remote to control TiVo. I admit, its probably not as comfortable to hold as the TiVo remote.

I still find it odd that you have to press record to get extended info on the programme you're watching, I'll get used to it I guess.

bacus said...

Jason. Your statement in reply to RetryOrCancel, that you'd rather watch sport live, suggests that you may not realise that you can indeed watch something live whilst recording it on the VM Tivo. IE, If you're at the front of the recording buffer, it is just as live as if you weren't recording it.

As well as being live, with recording you also get the advantage of being able to pause longer, or rewind further than the 1 hour buffer of just watching live TV.

In actual fact, you may not realise but everything you watch live on Tivo is actually recorded anyway. If it wasn't, you would not be able to pause/rewind live TV.

It's a case of old habits die hard. People have gotten used to reminders and so miss them when they're not there.

I'm of the 'record everything' school for a reason. If I were out of the room for instance, when a 'reminder' kicked in to change channel, I'd miss the start and wouldn't be able to rewind as there was no buffer bacause I was on the other channel.

Hope this makes sense.

Nialli said...

off topic: Yeah, I had to sit through Skyline. Outvoted 2-1 by the ladies. Have a horrible feeling they'll vote for Prince of Persia tonight, too... Can TiVo feel my pain??

Jason (Admin) said...

bacus, I know I can watch live and record etc. But, ask any football fan if they would want to watch a game timeshifted opposed to live (especially if their betting on it).

Live TV events are almost becoming social events, especially when used with Twitter.

Besides, the feedback TiVo have had from VM TiVo customers means their going to add reminder functionality anyway, so win-win for everyone, regardless of if the functionality is used by you or not. :-)

Nialli, LOL, surely TiVo has got some good suggestions for you to ease your pain by now. :-)

Kevin Lloyd said...

On the aspect ratio, I've now played around with a few different arrangements and found one which both ensures proper fit and as a result also serves to improve quality. SD on some channels such as BBC4 now acceptable but still I think a little less sharp than on the V+.

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