Although the Virgin TV V6 box was far from a surprise when it was announced in London in November, not least because the company itself had tweeted teasers, a partnering 14-inch tablet device most definitely caught us off guard. Virgin Media has never been in the tablet hardware business before so this is an all-new direction.
Now we've had some time with the Virgin TV TellyTablet and it makes a bit more sense. It's not really a tablet in the conventional sense and should be seen more as a 14-inch portable Smart TV, one that complements the new V6 box well. It is possible to use it as a tablet, with Android on board and such like, but the weight and size mean you're more likely to watch Birds of a Feather on it than play Angry Birds.
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Virgin TV TellyTablet preview: Specifications
It has a Full HD (1080p) 14.1-inch IPS touchscreen, octa-core Mediatek processor and 3GB of RAM running the show, with Marshmallow (6.0) being the particular flavour of Android installed on launch.
It comes with 32GB of internal storage with a microSD card slot for expansion, and there are full-sized USB ports for additional storage or accessory use, such as a keyboard or mouse.
There are four speakers, two at the front, two on the rear, which combine to provide 5W of overall audio muscle, and an HD front-facing camera (5-megapixels) with autofocus is provided for video calling and more.
A 12,060mAh battery provides up to three days of standby time and Virgin Media claims it should last between seven and eight hours for TV viewing.
We don't have the exact measurements to hand, nor weight, but can say that it is hefty and will be most used sat on a desktop, kitchen surface or cabinet, using the built-in kickstand, than held. Hence our thoughts about the TellyTablet being more telly than tablet.
Virgin TV TellyTablet preview: Software
Being spec'ed especially for Virgin Media use, the tablet comes with Virgin TV Anywhere and the provider's other streaming apps - Kids and Virgin Media Store - when they become available.
Virgin TV Anywhere is already available for Android tablets, smartphones and iOS devices, so if you've ever used it on any of those, you'll know what to expect. It gives you access to live TV, catch-up and on demand services from Virgin Media and all of its channels, also sending you to the dedicated apps for Sky Sports and Sky Movies, if you subscribe to either.
What's been recently added is the ability to also view recordings stored on a Virgin TV V6 box in your household (and on the same home network). Alternatively, you can download the recordings to watch offline, but we doubt you'll be lugging the TellyTablet around on the Tube with you.
As you can even set recordings from the app, it effectively turns a TellyTablet into a Full HD portable Smart TV, one that can catch-up with pretty much any show you care to name, access box sets and movies on demand, watch live TV from the same channels your V6 or TiVo box offers, or even watch your recordings in the home.
And as it is Android based, you can also download plenty of other streaming apps, games or anything else Google Play has to offer. We found, for example, that we couldn't watch Netflix through the Virgin TV Anywhere app but we could always download it separately anyway.
There's no denying the fact that the TellyTablet won't be for everyone. It isn't really suitable as a family tablet device and you're not going to spend time browsing the internet, reading an ebook or shooting zombies on one.
However, as a modern alternative to a bedroom TV it is ideal. It'd be even better if it came with a remote too.
As it stands (pun entirely intended) it will suit teenagers and younger family members superbly. They can enjoy a personal TV experience around the home, without the constraints of another Virgin Media box.
The TellyTablet, for our brief play, is speedy enough to serve its purpose well and reasonably priced - at £299 - to be attractive. Yes, there are cheaper standalone televisions out there, but you'd have to match them with a decent media streamer to get anywhere near the same functionality - and even then you lose out on many of the Virgin TV integration features.
It won't replace an iPad, Surface or dedicated Android tablet in a household, but we do see where Virgin Media is coming from with the TellyTablet. And should it ever come bundled with specific top level plans and packages in future, we think it would be a nice extension of the overall Virgin TV offering.