This is a letter I’ve received from Virgin Media about a week ago, telling me that the price of my package is about to go up (by £3.99) after my special offer has finished. Special offers usually apply to new customers, but Virgin do occasionally run special offers for existing customers. And this is where things become very blurry…
.. I want to leave Virgin Media. After 7 months use, the Tivo 6 box is pretty rubbish. Stuck recordings. Recordings that have failed to record correctly, and so on. And it’s not just the box – that Virgin doesn’t carry Sky Movies fully in HD is a persistent problem that is not going away anytime soon. And where is the 4K / UHD content?
Broadband has been fine for the most part, but I question whether I really need the 300Mbs and the contention that I have to fight with on a daily basis to get it. The telephone service has been okay, but I don’t use it that often. So if Virgin were going to offer a cancellation fee-free way to get out of the contract before the price goes up, I’d take it. I’d look to move to a broadband-only account – no more TV subscriptions. I’ve decided that I’ll stick with the Apple TV 4K and various streaming services. That’s more than good enough for me these days.
As I’ve been told three times now by various phone operatives at Virgin Media, I can’t cancel the entire package without penalty as I’m still within the first 12 months of my contract, plus the fee isn’t going up until my special offers run out next year (they run alongside the minimum contract length).
So have Virgin Media contradicted themselves? Could I still leave Virgin Media without a penalty fee now? Could I pay the penalty fee and then pursue them through the courts? I have no idea. But when I see a letter like what Virgin Media has sent, it does suggest that I could.
Here’s the letter. I was testing out the scan document feature in iOS 11, and I didn’t do a very good job of it. You might need to click on the image to read it properly…
Odeon Limitless – I’ve not been to the cinema in months, so this has become a money waster rather than a saver. I’ve preferred to either watch movies on Sky Cinema, or buy movies on iTunes.
Virgin Media – The HomeWorks 300Mbs package has proven itself a most worthy purchase. It’s quite amazing to watch things download over 200Mbs. A 5Gb movie is downloaded in a matter of minutes. Good Wi-Fi coverage throughout the house.
What’s less impressive is Virgin’s presentation of Sky Cinema. There are titles that aren’t available in HD, and watching them on the Tivo V6 in SD is probably like watching a very badly pirated movie. Additionally, Virgin doesn’t update their What’s New This Week movie section daily with each new movie Sky Cinema adds each day. So I’ve removed Sky Cinema from my package, and upgraded my landline package to Talk More Anytime.
I’ve added Sky Cinema to my NOW TV subscription which costs half of what I’d be paying with Virgin. The downside is that the LG app only offers 720p resolution, but upscales far better than Virgin’s offerings – and to be honest, you won’t see much difference in quality between 720 and 1080p. In short – if you want the proper Sky Cinema experience, you’ll really need to take out a Sky satellite package. But with Sky Q allegedly going broadband only next year, I’d be interested in checking out again then (but keeping the VM broadband).
BT8160 Call Filtering phones – Working like a treat. VIP numbers won’t be filtered, but everybody else has to announce themselves before the phone even rings. That’ll stop a lot of automated diallers for starters. I do find the blue status light on the base station is a bit too bright at night on the handset I have in my bedroom. Nothing a bit of gaffer tape can’t fix, though.
UPDATE(November 2017): Having switched to Virgin Media back in February this year, I’m terminating my Virgin contract early and heading back to Sky. This involves switching back to Sky broadband (Sky Fibre Max) and Sky Q Multi-Room (2Tb box with 1 Sky Q mini box). Stay tuned for more blog posts on this.
On Saturday Virgin Media came and installed their new kit.
This included the Superhub 3 (powered by Intel’s Puma 6 SoC which also contains an Atom x86 CPU), a chunky beast with considerably more ports than the Sky Q Hub. They (for there were three of them) also installed the Tivo V6, a box that’s considerably smaller than the Sky Q Silver box and old Tivo combined.
Superhub 3.0 and HomeWorks (up to 300Mbs broadband)
There are many reports of performance issues with the Superhub 3, all thanks to the Intel chipset. It mainly affects gamers, so I haven’t had a chance to properly reproduce it – all I know is that I downloaded a 52Gb game file on the Xbox One in super quick time – I was up and running within 10-15 minutes. More testing is needed when playing multi-player games. I’ll report back soon.
A speed test after installation resulted in 330Mbs download, 21Mbs upload. A speed test during the day when things are bit busier yielded a result around 278-286Mbs down, 19Mbs up, which is very reasonable. A 5am speed test shows great results again. I’m very happy. With Sky Broadband Fibre Pro, downloads maxed out at 71Mbs (uploads 19Mbs).
HomeWorks offers a number of benefits to the user – the up to 300Mbs download being one. The other is non-traffic managed uploads. I’m currently uploading 275Gb worth of data from my MacBook Pro to Crashplan and it averages around 15Mbs – which is very reasonable given the distances involved (to my knowledge, Crashplan has no European datacentres). The other benefits of HomeWorks includes next business day engineer visits if things go wrong, access to a general IT support desk, and F-Secure’s internet security suite.
The Superhub 3’s admin interface leaves a lot to be desired, however. Passwords are shown in the clear when entered, and the whole UI is exceptionally sluggish. Changing the client password was a bit of a pain – the unit enforces a specific password policy which cannot be overridden. It meant that even though I changed the SSID to match that of my old broadband Wi-Fi, the password had to be changed. So I had to reset all my gadgets Wi-Fi settings.
Oh, 802.11ac wireless coverage is good in my little place. Upstairs is covered adequately and there is no need for any extenders.
Back when I originally had a Tivo from Virgin Media many moons ago (we’re talking about 3 years ago, just when I was going through the divorce), I found it to be the most sluggish thing ever. And that’s why I moved to Sky. Four years later and I’m back with Virgin, and the Tivo V6 fixes all the sluggishness. It’s now super, super fast. Navigating anywhere is a pleasure. With Sky Q, it was the biggest pain in the arse imaginable. Nothing has changed in 12 months – shame on Sky. Even Sky’s internet based NOW TV (which I use to pick up Sky Atlantic stuff now) has a better UI than it’s premium satellite sister. Madness.
The Tivo V6’s UI is the same UI as seen on the older Tivo. Coming from Sky Q, it’s all a bit strange and new, but as I say, it’s about 65,000 times better than Sky’s offering. With the Tivo, it’s not a case of downloading on-demand content – it’s streamed in real time via the Superhub 3 (live TV comes in via the co-ax cable). Older Tivos had a dedicated 10Mbs cable modem connection for on-demand stuff – this one doesn’t need it other than for live TV. 10Mbs these days means nothing in the 4K / UHD world, so it makes sense to get on-demand and internet related stuff from the Superhub. I am interested to see where Virgin takes 4K TV, however. Will it be live via co-ax? Will it be live streamed over the internet?
The Tivo V6 does come with a few problems, however. I’ve come across a couple of super scrambly, artefact-laden picture quality issues which tend to go away if you pause/unpause playback. It seems to affect on-demand – I haven’t come across it on live TV yet. It’s not happened often, but I’ve definitely experienced it. A few others have noticed it on the Virgin community forums, so we’ll see what Virgin has to say about it. Not a big issue for me as yet – but I’m keeping an eye on it.
The second problem is video output. By default the unit will attempt figure out what modes your TV supports. In my case, it knows its a 4K TV and sets it to 2160 resolution. However, some content (notably standard definition (SD)) appears blockier than usual, and some 4K content (under Tivo’s Netflix app) looks to add weird motion oddness that’s not present on the TV’s own Netflix app.
Tivo V6 offers a number of pass through modes that forces the TV to do any upscaling and other fancy video doodads, but I’ve found that occasionally – especially when using YouTube which can offer 4K, HD or SD content depending on the uploader – the TV loses the signal and I have to turn the TV off and on to get the picture back. Again, I mentioned this on the forums – it seems that it is a bug, and the Tivo is due a 4K firmware update at some point. I’ve left the unit in 2160 mode, no pass through and will just use the TV Netflix and YouTube apps which work perfectly.
The Tivo V6 is still new, and there are gremlins. Just as there were (and still are) gremlins in the Sky Q system. They aren’t bad gremlins, as it so happens, and doesn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the device. My favourite thing about the Tivo is the remote. It makes the Sky Q remote look like a simpleton’s plaything. I had to stop using the Sky Q touch remote because I found my thumb was aching a lot, and it was too responsive, resulting in too many mistakes. So I gave up and went for the more sensible remote. But even the Sky Q sensible remote wasn’t that sensible. The Tivo remote has a proper home button like the Sky Q, but more importantly, has a Guide button that takes you to the TV guide. And it’s so easy to filter the guide from the remote.
In short: the Tivo V6 is everything Sky Q should be, but isn’t. Better UI, better remote, super quick access to everything, and super fast. It lends itself better to discovering content more than Sky Q does. With Sky Q the Top Picks were just not relevant to my tastes. I can find and discover stuff much faster with Tivo.
I’ve gone for a Virgin phone line. So far, my experience is better than my previous Virgin phone line in that whoever had the number last was the target of phone spammers galore. Fingers crossed his new number (which I love, BTW – they did a good job in picking it) will be spam free.
As my contract with EE is at an end in April, I thought about consolidating everything with Virgin. But the ordering process for Virgin Mobile when signed in as a Virgin Media customer is the biggest pain in the arse in the universe. It told me that I had no Virgin Media kit installed (I do) and refused to give me the offer of 20Gb for £15/month (better than my £19 for 16Gb with EE, which runs out in April and goes up to £34.99). So I try to call, but end up running around in circles with the operator. This clip from the cartoon, The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, sums up my experience:
Just as well I didn’t go through with my Virgin Mobile order, however. It turns out that they don’t allow mobile tethering – something vital for my job. So I’ve found a great deal with Three (30Gb tethering – unlimited data on phone) and will be moving to them soon – I’ll be porting my number from EE, so that number will not change. For my iPad SIM, I’m considering pay as you go. I don’t use anywhere near the data I’m currently paying monthly for, so it seems a bit of a waste.
For the past year, I’ve been pretty happy with Sky Fibre Broadband Pro with its static IP and IPv6 address. But with anything that works well, I get restless. Actually, what I’m not so happy about is Sky Q, and Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox wanting to buy Sky. But I can’t do anything about Sky Q until the end of August/early September.
So I’m intending to move to Virgin Media in small increments, starting with broadband and finishing with their TV service – albeit with a few changes.
The first is that I’m not going to have the Sky Cinema channels. I find it’s better to rent (or in most cases, buy) movies on iTunes. I’m also not as keen on the numerous TV channels out there – I barely watch more than 1% of them, so I don’t need the full TV package anymore. My viewing mainly consists of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube (there are some surprisingly good vloggers out there). So I’ll probably take out the basic Tivo 6 package come September. For watching Sky Atlantic shows, I’ll probably just buy them on iTunes (Westworld, Game of Thrones) – cheaper than a subscription in most cases.
So I’ve ordered the Virgin Media HomeWorks package that delivers up to 300Mbs download and 20Mbs upload, with no traffic management. The additional feature is that if things go wrong with the broadband connection, there’s next day engineer on-site call out available. Plus a 24/7 helpline. Designed to cater for home workers, it seems the perfect package for my needs (I usually work from home at least once a month – plus there are all the times I’m on-call).
I’m switching my landline back to Virgin too (since Sky have increase line rental). While the vast majority of calls are made and received on my mobile phone, I find it’s still handy to have a landline.
So we’ll see how things go. In particularly, I’ll be interested to see how well the Sky Q kit works with Virgin Media broadband. I’ll write up my experiences, as always.
After nearly a full year of Sky Q, I’m almost ready to give up. Except I can’t – not until August (blasted 18-month contracts).
The biggest problem with Sky Q for me is the user interface – requiring far too many actions to get to where you want to go. I’ve barely used the Sky Q minibox. I’ve had to power cycle the minibox a couple of times as there are a few Wi-Fi devices upstairs that rely on it and stopped working after the box went a bit wonky (technical term).
I detest Sky’s series record. It doesn’t work very well at all. I often find it records new episodes and repeats of the same episodes, completely stops after a series ends and never picks up the next series, and all manner of silly things. I use Sky’s web-based Never Miss to fill in the blanks, but honestly, this just isn’t good enough.
I gave up using the fancy pants Sky touch remote a while back. Scrubbing through adverts is too sensitive – often going way beyond where I want to end up. The IR remote also supplied works well enough.
UHD 4K content is still sadly lacking too.
I also find that adding/removing packages is horribly inconsistent too. Sometimes you can use the web interface to manage this, other times you need to speak to somebody by phone. Why can’t we manage our account entirely online?
The only good thing about the whole package has been Sky Broadband Fibre Pro. Rock solid, with static IP and IPv6 address and everything.
But I think that come August I’ll be switching to Virgin Media. Now they offer upload speeds up to 20Mbs and download speeds up to 200Mbs, with IPv6 coming later this year (apparently) – and a new, faster (and tiny) Tivo box that offers even more simultaneous live channel recording than Sky Q, albeit with a smaller capacity hard drive (doesn’t bother me – I’ve barely filled the Sky Q box HD). I’d be happy to get rid of the Movie channels. I don’t watch them as often as I used to – I find these days Netflix & Amazon take up most of my viewing time.