Virgin has now launched its first ever 4K UHD TiVo set-top box in the U.K in a direct effort at rivalling the consumer 4K streaming services of BT and Sky, which have been offering live and canned ultra HD content, sportscasts and movies since the summer of 2016.
The Virgin Media company has also revealed a new large tablet that customers can use to buy Full HD content (though not Virgin’s 4K UHD offerings).
For now at least, according to expert overviews of the new Virgin “V6” box, the content offered on the device in 4K ultra HD will not exactly be exceptional, or at least not on par with what’s already available from BT Sport and Sky’s 4K boxes.
According to reports from expert technology consultants, the new Virgin box still lacks premium 4K UHD content like live sports streams, on-demand premium new release movies and other similar content. This is a major setback for the Virgin box that BT Sport and Sky have managed to already get around, though the subscription packages they offer for their high-end 4K offerings are quite pricey as a result. In other words, there are slight worries that the new Virgin box is less future-proof than its competitors’ set-top boxes.
However, this argument could also be taken as a bit premature. As long as the V6 4K box comes with the right technologies for the full cutting-edge 4K video experience, the question of the content itself is only one of consumer patience and firmware updates.
Virgin’s chief digital entertainment officer himself has also downplayed the issue of future-proofing worries:
According to the Virgin executive, David Bouchier,
“The box is 4K capable and therefore future-proof. Do we see a significant demand sitting here in 2016 for a large amount of 4K programming by the majority of our subscriber base? No we don’t.
We would quite happily put the 4K football matches on if we felt that this was something that our customers were saying.
I’m not saying that it’s like 3D [which failed to catch on], but we need to wait and see exactly what people think.
It’s not something that is a must have.
What is a must-have is six-times recording [where the new box records six shows simultaneously], that’s what they really want.”
However, one worrying absence in the Virgin V6 is the fact that it does lack HDR support for now. Bouchier has said that Virgin is hoping to add the technology some time in 2017 once the chipmaker Broadcom releases a new firmware update for the V6’s processor. This however s a serious issue that Virgin will have to address if it wishes to remain competitive. While high dynamic range support isn’t necessary for viewing 4K UHD programming of any kind, the feature adds an enormous visual boost to any content and content playback devices that it is built into and the absence of HDR means a serious competitive weakness for this Virgin product.
The Virgin V6 box will retailing for a one-time purchase/installation fee of £99.95 and does not incur any additional subscription costs to existing Virgin media customers.
S for Virgin’s other device, the new Tablet for HD content viewing and purchase, it will go by the somewhat comical moniker of “TellyTablet” and will run Android’s Marshmallow version. The mobile device comes with a fairly large 14 inch 1080p touch display and comes with its own built-in speakers.
Virgin is touting the Telly as a way to watch their programming around the house and the tablet lets subscribers to Virgin Media’s internet services buy shows and movies for the tablet.
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