Also, using services like on-demand TV is a rather arduous experience. It takes many seconds to navigate through each menu, and the content you want is often several layers deep, making for an even more plodding process.
During our three-month review period, we only had one problem with our Virgin service. At an early stage, something went wrong and the box reset itself. When it had restarted, it showed an error message: 'LD30'.
A call to the customer-service department proved painless, and the staff were helpful and friendly. They booked an engineer to visit us, check the box and fix any problem. Unfortunately, the appointment was nearly a week away, and we're very impatient. We searched the Internet instead, and, after some sniffing around, we found a forum post that told us to hold down the power button until the box reset, and then press the 'down' button on the front of the unit. The box then happily reset itself again, and resumed working perfectly.
If Virgin wonders why it's not making as much money as it should, perhaps it ought to try and eliminate unnecessary engineer appointments. It would be a trivial matter to alert the customer-services staff to the problem we encountered. The technical experts at Virgin certainly know about the issue, because we asked them about it in the official newsgroup, which is now, incidentally, closed in favour of an Internet message board. The experts confirmed the problem and solution, and explained that a bug fix was on the way.
We've made a fuss about how Virgin doesn't have as much HD material as Sky, how its HD pay-per-view movies cost more than Sky's, and how slow the V+ HD box is. But none of these issues made us dislike the service. Its picture quality is excellent for the most part, and what HD material there is looks brilliant. For the record, the 50Mbps broadband is also stunningly good -- we enjoyed blisteringly fast speeds and suffered no downtime in our test period.
We also love the availability of on-demand catch-up TV from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. This alone will be worth the subscription fee for many people. You get all the advantages of the Internet-based services, but with broadcast quality, and there's no need for a laptop.
It's important to note also that Virgin's offering could get better and better. Virgin's broadband will reach 100Mbps at the end of the year, and 200Mbps in 2011. The TiVo interface should be a boon for the company too, adding a user-friendly front end to a powerful back-end system.
Whether or not Virgin's plans come to fruition, the services it currently offers are still excellent. If you're in a cabled area, the V+ HD service is likely to prove a blessing. If you're desperate for HD content, though, you might want to consider the alternatives, because Virgin just doesn't have quite enough.
Edited by Charles Kloet