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Virgin Media Streaming TV: Compact and convenient but you’re tied to the provider for broadband

Tech review: The loss of physical recordings is a shame but there are compensations

Virgin Media Streaming TV
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Price: €15
Where To Buy: Virgin Media

Everything is moving online. From your banking and shopping to your social life, there isn’t a single element of your life that hasn’t been touched by technology.

And now it’s the turn of TV. Not just the online streaming services; those are, obviously, born on the web. But the standard TV that you pay for has shifted online, no longer dependent on dishes to deliver digital TV to your living room.

The latest in the market is Virgin Media, with its new Streaming TV product. This compact box replaces the TV 360 set-top box that Virgin Media unveiled here in October 2020 with a more up-to-date version of the product that keeps some of the best bits of its predecessor

There are many things to love about the new format. It is smaller, for a start, with a box that comes in even smaller than the Sky Stream box and the Apple TV 4K device. That frees up a lot of space under your TV, and gives you the option of wall mounting it with a few Velcro strips (handily included in the box).

It’s more flexible too. In the past, you needed to hook up the box in a room where Virgin Media had installed a physical connection; multiroom viewing meant more connections, and it limited where you could put a TV. Now you are only limited by the reach of your wifi – and if your home has black spots, you can improve its coverage with a mesh network.

If you have internet coverage in the room, you can put a streaming box in there. Up to six streaming boxes can be accommodated on a single broadband account, which should cover almost every household scenario.

You are not limited to wireless internet, however. The plug on the device can accommodate an ethernet cable, so if you prefer to plug in, you can. This is particularly handy if your wifi is patchy and you don’t want to fork out for a mesh kit, but you need to be close to your internet hub.

You can’t record all channels, for a start. BBC is definitely out for now, due to rights issues

On the mini box, you get the usual live TV and the familiar TV 360 electronic programme guide, alongside apps for streaming services such as Prime, Netflix and Paramount+ and on-demand programming.

The only thing that is missing? Physical recordings. The new box allows you to record, yes, but its small size means there isn’t a sizeable drive hidden away inside. Your recordings are now in the cloud, and you get 500 hours of space before you have to clear out space.

There are good and bad sides to that. On the plus side, there is the obvious size advantage. Without the physical storage, the size of the set top box is much reduced. And 500 hours in the cloud is a significant amount of watching, not limited by the size of a physical drive in the box.

But there are drawbacks to this shift. You can’t record all channels, for a start. BBC is definitely out for now, due to rights issues. And not having physical recordings on a drive won’t sit well with everyone.

There is one other important caveat that you need to be aware of. Before the launch of this product, you could get broadband from one provider and TV from Virgin Media. Now before you can sign up for TV with the provider, you have to be a broadband customer too. That is in line with similar limitations from Vodafone and Eir.

If you can live with that, the streaming service might just be for you. It also means you are guaranteed to meet the minimum speed requirements for the service – Virgin’s broadband offering starts at 500Mb these days – and then some, so your TV service won’t be hit with lag or buffering.

Getting set up takes only minutes, and if you want to make things really easy on yourself, the remote control for the box can be linked to your TV too. One remote control to master them all.

Speaking of that, the remote for the streaming box is largely the same as the regular TV 360 box, if a little slimmed down. Crucially, it includes voice control, which means you can call up programmes with the touch of a button and not have to scroll endlessly.

Good

Smaller and more convenient than its predecessor, the TV 360 streaming box is a sleek, compact device that can be put anywhere in your home. All you need is an internet connection fast enough to cover it – and it works with mesh kits, too, so wifi black spots aren’t an issue.

Bad

No physical recordings, and some channels are out of the mix altogether. Also, if you don’t have Virgin Media broadband, you can’t get streaming TV. They now come as a package, which simplifies things in one way.

Everything else

Up to six boxes can be included on a single broadband account, but you’ll pay a fee for multi-room viewing.

While the picture itself is pin sharp, as with other internet-delivered services there may at times be a short delay on live sports events. In which case, you might want to unsubscribe from notifications on those live feeds on social media, because they will give the game away around 20 seconds ahead of the broadcast.

Verdict

A seamless transition to streaming TV – the convenience outweighs the loss of the physical recordings.

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