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Okay, well that's a lie and I wouldn't recommend that, but TiVo is great entertainment!
About 6 months ago we decided to have Virgin Media’s Tivo box installed. My parents have had Sky Plus for years and I’ve always liked the idea of being able to record and pause television shows, but with our basic Virgin box we had none of these features. Virgin offered us a deal of £49.99 for installation of the new box (normally £99.99 including activation) and £3 a month for the service. I wasn’t particularly happy about paying extra for my partner convinced me that it would save us money in the long term because we wouldn’t need to go out as much!
The box and set up
Set up was relatively painless after the two week wait for a technician to come round to install it. Two weeks later on a Saturday morning it was finally our installation date so we just had to wait in for half a day. When the guy did turn up he was in and out within 20 minutes and gave us a quick run through the features and how to work the new system. Sadly he didn’t know the answer to many of my questions with it still being quite new. There are a number of wires behind the box connecting it to the TV, mains and also to broadband. TiVo runs off its own internet rather than through router so doesn’t slow down our laptops and computer that we have running off our wireless broadband. TiVo was all set up for us but it is easy to connect it and work out which cord goes where.
The new TiVo box is very different to the old silver and black square Virgin Media box which had a display indicating which channel it was on. The new box is quite slick and looks a lot more expensive. It is all black with no screen but lots of buttons on the top including standby, record, and forwards and backwards flick. It is shaped a bit like a Playstation but with no obvious Virgin logo I wouldn’t know what the box was! It comes with a remote control which is also different to the old one. I won’t patronise anyone by describing it as it’s pretty standard for a flicker, however there are some extra buttons that you wouldn’t normally see. The first is the ‘Home’ button which takes you to the home screen which I’ll go on to describe later. The ‘My Shows’ button is one of the most commonly used in our house. It takes you directly to all the programmes and films which have been recorded. There are also a red thumbs down button and a green thumbs up button which you can use to indicate which programmes you like and don’t like so that TiVo can recommend shows to you and record these shows if there is space to do so.
Virgin Media’s TiVo box stores around 250 hours of television programmes (500GB of space). There is a newer box which can store 500 hours of television so no doubt this figure will grow and grow. High definition television channels take up much more space which I didn’t know until recently. The box can only store 100 hours of high definition television.
When you first turn on the TV you are greeted by the Home screen. From here you can go to the TV guide, catch up, search and browse or access any other parts of TiVo by going to your favourites, to movies, sports or kids etc. You can also go to the Catch Up TV feature which is a pick of the week’s television available for seven days after the showing. Other features include ‘On Demand’ where you can watch new films and television programmes but these can be expensive at up to £4.99 each. The home screen also links to an Apps and Games section which allows you to play Who Wants to be a Millionaire and watch YouTube along with other similar applications.
Recording programmes is simple with TiVo. As you scroll through the channels or down the TV guide you can see what shows are on next and simply hover over them and press the record button on the remote control. You can record up to 3 programmes at once which is handy but very rarely necessary! However, the best thing about TiVo for me is that you can set up a series link to record every episode of your favourite programmes. For example, I have a series link for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, my guilty pleasure and something I watch if I’m in by myself or have some spare time. CSI is shown on three separate channels so I link to them all meaning that I currently have 50 unwatched episodes waiting for me! It will automatically record any episodes that I don’t already have saved and if for some reason it can’t (if I’ve turned off the set top box at the wall or if three things are already recording) it will remember that episode and record it the next time it is on.
Even more interesting and something that sets TiVo apart from Sky Plus and other set top boxes, is that you have a ‘wish list’. The feature enables you to search for your favourite films and find out next time they are on so you can record them in advance! You can ‘search’ or ‘browse’ by pressing the Home button and then searching or browsing for the name of the film or TV show or even by actor\actress and see all of the shows or films that they have been in and when they are next going to be shown. It’s always exciting when I come into the house and there’s a new film recorded which I’d forgotten all about. Not like I ever get round to watching them! The wish list also allows me to search by a particular word and record anything which has that word in the title. One time I tried to record the film Orphan but instead managed to ask TiVo to record everything with the word orphan in the title. I ended up with a South Park episode, a documentary and the film itself all saved within a folder named ‘Orphan’ in My Shows.
As I previously mentioned there is an option to give a thumbs up or down to shows which you have strong feelings about. Based on this TiVo will give you recommendations when you click into My Shows. It also records programmes that it thinks you might like and will save these until space is required. When you click on My Shows it says how much space has been taken up by recordings so that you can delete accordingly. If it gets to around 90% of the space used, an egg timer icon will appear next to the recordings to warn that it will be deleted with 3 or 7 days. TiVo can also rewind the programme you are watching or even pause it so if you are distracted for any reason you don’t need to miss any of your favourite shows!
The main issue I have with the TiVo box is how long it takes to turn on! If it has been switched off overnight at the plug socket it takes around 3 minutes to initialise and a screen appears to tell me “Just a few more minutes”. We have been using TiVo for over six months now and have had very few issues. Occasionally when I turn it on the home screen will tell me that there is a problem with the network and that features may not run as they are supposed to. The channels themselves will be fine but ‘my shows’ might be slow to run and might not display the information about the shows that have been recorded or how long they are.
Another fault with TiVo is that you cannot press the red button on the BBC or news channels! This normally wouldn’t bother me but those two weeks a year when Wimbledon is on and I take as many ‘work from home’ days as possible, it’s a nightmare not be able to decide which match to watch! Why oh why did they not consider this when they gave each of the red, green, yellow and blue their own functions? According to Virgin’s website red functionality will be coming in the future to TiVo service.
The other thing that bugs me about TiVo is the sound that it makes when you change channel and select things. It makes a fairly loud annoying beeping noise which as far as I can tell can’t be switched off!
I am really pleased that we made the switch to TiVo and think it has been worth every penny. Despite the few niggles I have referred to I have been very happy with TiVo and its features and I would now struggle to live without it! Living in London we are often out and about but paying the extra £3 a month for TiVo has saved us a fortune as we often plan nights around a film we may have recorded earlier in the week or on a rainy Sunday morning we might watch 5 episodes in a row of a show on series link! I think the features are easy enough for anyone to use, although it can take a while to work out what does what. It can do all sorts from recording and watching newly released movies to pausing or rewinding shows so that you don’t miss things if you need the toilet! I would recommend TiVo to anyone as I think is has something for everyone, unless you really don’t enjoy watching television! I think it’s great but it loses a star for needing to be set up by a technician and all the minor issues I mentioned. 4 out of 5!