After a few teases and much speculation, Virgin Media has finally lifted the lid off its new television set-top-box, the Virgin TV V6 box, powered by TiVo.
It is half the size of the existing TiVo box, faster, contains more TV tuners and is 4K HDR enabled.
It makes up part of a new family of products and apps that fall under the name Virgin TV, and the biggest surprise at the launch event in London was the unveiling of a 14-inch HD TellyTablet, an Android (Marshmallow) powered tablet with up to eight hours of battery life, 32GB of memory, microSD card slot, two USB ports and a built-in stand so that it can double as a portable TV anywhere around the home.
Virgin Media also announced changes to its Virgin TV Anywhere app, which already gives access to live and on demand programming on a mobile device but will now playback TiVo recordings too, a Virgin Media Store to buy movies and shows, and a Virgin TV Kids app.
So here's everything you need to know about Virgin TV, the new box, tablet and the rest.
What is the Virgin TV V6 TiVo box and what can it do?
The new Virgin TV V6 box is Virgin Media's answer to Sky Q. It is a refresh of its existing TiVo box offering and sits at the top of the family tree.
It is 4K HDR ready, which means it supports 4K Ultra HD resolutions and high dynamic range picture tech. The latter is especially important as its something its rival, Sky Q, doesn't currently offer.
Netflix and YouTube will be 4K-ready from launch, with a software update coming soon after to add HDR support. Virgin Media also stated that more 4K content will be added "soon".
The box is faster than the original, with apps opening and running at "lightning speed". These currently include BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Vevo, and more will join the line-up in time.
It is also capable of recording up to six programmes at once on its 1TB hard drive, while you watch either a previous recording or streaming service. And it comes with a new RF remote, which means you don't have to point it at the box to operate.
Like the box, the new remote is smaller than the existing model and a "find my remote" function allows you to recover yours when it is lost, just by tapping a button on top of the V6. The remote will beep so you can locate it.
What about my existing Virgin TV TiVo box?
Like Sky Q, you can watch the recordings on your main Virgin TV V6 box around the home, on other set-top-boxes or tablets. However, you don't need a new Mini-style device. Your existing TiVo box can act as a second-room player. It can play recordings stored on your new V6 box. It can also pick up and play on demand or catch-up content that has been paused in another room.
You will need all your boxes connected via Ethernet or through Powerline adapters for this functionality to work. These can be provided (for a fee) by Virgin Media during the install.
What if I buy two Virgin TV V6 TiVo boxes?
Virgin Media has cleverly designed the new boxes to connect to each other and increase the storage. For example, if you have two Virgin TV V6 boxes, your storage capacity increases to 2TB (1TB per box) and you can record up to 12 shows at once. You can then play them back on either box without knowing, nor caring where the programme is stored.
Virgin TV V6 TiVo box price and release date
The Virgin TV V6 box will be available to existing customers "before the end of the year" and new customers from January 2017.
There are no extra monthly fees, but customers will need to have the Virgin TV Mix bundle or higher to qualify for the box.
There is a £99.95 one-off upfront cost for the Virgin TV V6 box. As part of a promotion though, new and existing customers on a top-tier Full House or VIP bundle can get the box for £49.95 during the launch window.
What is the Virgin TV TellyTablet?
As well as the new V6 box, the other device that sits in the Virgin TV stable is a new 14-inch HD tablet, the Virgin TV TellyTablet.
It is designed to be shifted from room to room, so you can enjoy live television shows and on demand content anywhere in the home, without needing a second box.
It is powered by Android (Marshmallow at present) and it comes with the Virgin TV Anywhere app pre-loaded, so can not only access live TV from multiple channels, including BT Sport if you're a subscriber, plus on demand content, it can also be used to watch the recordings stored on your V6 box over Wi-Fi.
The Virgin TV Kids and Virgin Media Store apps are also accessible through the TellyTablet. And as it is an Android tablet, with access to Google Play, you can also download plenty of other applications and services, such as Sky Sports and Sky Cinema - which both work with your Virgin Media subscription to each.
Virgin TV TellyTablet specifications
Here are some of the known spec for the TellyTablet:
- 14-inch HD screen
- Four built-in speakers (front and rear)
- 7-8 hour battery life
- 32GB of storage with microSD card slot for expansion
- Two USB ports
- Built-in stand
Virgin TV TellyTablet price and release date
The Virgin TV TellyTablet will be available to Virgin Media customers from December 2016 (next month, basically).
It costs £299 on its own or is available to mobile customers with different Freestyle mobile bundles, with packages starting at £23 per month for a Samsung Galaxy J3, the TellyTablet and 300MB of data, 300 minutes of talktime and unlimited texts.
What does the Virgin TV Anywhere app do?
The Virgin TV Anywhere app, which is already available for iOS and Android, not only turns your mobile device into a remote control, it gives you access to the TV channels and on demand content also available through your TiVo box. This is over Wi-Fi or a mobile broadband connection.
It is now also able to stream your recordings on your Virgin TV V6 box to watch on a tablet or phone over Wi-Fi.
You will soon also have the ability to download recordings to your device in order to watch them offline.
What is the Virgin TV Kids app?
A dedicated application for kids will be launched for iOS, Android and Amazon Fire tablets in February 2017. It brings cartoons, TV shows, games and picture books together in the one place, for children to enjoy. There will be no in-app purchases or adverts.
TV shows from Nick Jr, Nickelodeon, Milkshake, TinyPop and CBeebies will be joined by some directly licensed programming, such as Sesame Street. Much of the content will be downloadable to be viewed offline.
The app will have a child-friendly menu system and a "safe mode" will ensure kids can't exit the app and access inappropriate content on a device, by asking a question only a parent or adult can answer before exiting.
The Virgin TV Kids app will be a free download for all Virgin Media TV customers on a Fun bundle or higher.
What is the Virgin Media Store and what does it offer?
Virgin Media has long offered the ability to rent TV box sets and movies, but from February 2017 you will also be able to purchase digital entertainment to keep.
The Virgin Media Store will be able to be accessed through Virgin TV V6 and existing TiVo boxes, on a desktop PC or Mac, or through a dedicated app for iOS and Android. If you buy a movie, a copy of the DVD will also be posted to you to keep, much like Sky's Buy & Keep incentive.
Non-Virgin TV customers can also purchase content from the Virgin Media Store.