Virgin Media V HD review: Virgin Media V HD

The Good Great picture and sound quality; attractive styling; speedy performance.

The Bad Electronic programme guide and user interface are old, clunky and unpleasant to use; expensive.

The Bottom Line The Virgin Media V HD box would make a super second, or even a main, receiver for people who appreciate that the PVR is on its way out, in these days of IPTV

8.3 Overall

Review Sections

If you wanted a high-definition Virgin box in the past, you'd have to take the company's PVR, which attracts an additional fee on some packages. Now though, there's another option, in the form of the V HD box. For a one-off cost of £49 for the box, an installation fee of £35 and a monthly subscription, you can access all of the HD content on Virgin's broadcast and on-demand channels with a new, compact receiver.

We had our V HD box installed in a bedroom, to complement our V+ HD box in the lounge. If you're going for multiple boxes, then it's worth remembering that extra boxes cost £9.95 a month on Virgin, although the company will often offer a discount to long-standing customers, especially if they threaten to leave. If the V HD is your only Virgin box, then we think it's a really great way to access Virgin's HD and on-demand content. Let's take a more detailed look at this hardware, and see what it has to offer.

Looks funky

The V HD box is made by Cisco, and badged as such. Although Cisco might not sound like a familiar name when it comes to cable TV, it owns Scientific Atlanta, a company that has been making cable boxes for a very long time.

Normally, cable set-top boxes are ghastly-looking devices that appear to have travelled forward in time from the early '80s. That's not so with the V HD, which has curved lines that Norman Foster would be proud of.

The box is quite small too, which makes it ideal if you're short of space, or don't want a big, ugly box dominating your room. The only problem with its design is that you can't stack things on top of it all that easily. It will, however, rest on another device quite happily.

The remote control is pretty good too. It's long and thin, and very comfortable to hold. Its buttons have a pleasingly positive feel, and it's easy for even chubby-fingered men to operate.

Standby options

The V HD box can save you money on your electricity bill, as well as help save the planet. When you press the standby button, you can choose whether to put the box in standby mode or switch it off entirely. We like that feature because it lets you turn the box off overnight, but have the machine ready to go at a moment's notice the rest of the time.

Expanding HD

Virgin has lagged slightly behind the competition in terms of offering HD channels, but some regulatory changes and a desperate desire to beat Sky at its own game have led the company to increase its hi-def fare. Five HD has recently launched on Virgin, and the company has an exclusive deal to show Film4 HD before Sky gets the channel.

Additionally, Ofcom has recently decreed that all UK distributors should be allowed to sell Sky's HD sport, movie and entertainment channels. Keep your eyes peeled for Sky Sports HD and Sky One HD on Virgin in the near future.

There's also a selection of HD content available via Virgin's on-demand service, most notably the BBC's HD iPlayer programmes. Virgin is still the only external company that can boast access to the BBC's HD on-demand content.