Virgin is set to release its long, long awaited V6 "Powered by Tivo" box into our homes this month, and there are some good reasons to consider buying one.
There's nothing here that knocks Sky Q for six, but there is plenty of good news for existing Virgin punters and maybe just enough to tempt floating voters away from Rupert Murdoch's multi-room marvel. (opens in new tab)
1. It supports 4K and will add HDR later
Yup, the V6 could get one thing that Sky currently lacks next year, with a software update: support for ultra HD HDR (high dynamic range) images. The crème de la crème of visual splendour.
Sky only musters up standard dynamic range 4K at the moment, although who's to say whether that'll remain the case.
Of course, you don't need us to tell you that there is very little 4K content to watch so far, outside of a smattering of Youtube clips and premium Netflix offerings. And even less 4K HDR content.
But… future proofing is good.
2. It can record six shows simultaneously
Again, Sky can't do this. Well, not yet. It will be able to in 2017, we are assured.
You might well ask, "Why would I want to record six shows simultaneously, whilst watching a seventh?" However, for large households, people who very seldom leave the couch, and for those weekends that are totally packed with sport and movies, it could prove to be a handy addition.
You almost feel like deliberately setting out to record six things at once, just because you can.
3. There's an optional Telly Tablet for remote viewing
This 14-inch, 1080p beast is designed for bedroom and bathroom viewing of all that Virgin telly has to offer. It's also, as you can see, rather reflective. Sorry about that.
Given that it costs £300, we don't see this exactly flying off the shelves, mind you.
Via Virgin's app, you can also view on up to two existing tablets and mobiles.
However, this raises the question of how to watch content on other televisions in your home. And the answer to that question is "via another Tivo box"
You can experiment with Chromecast and other solutions, but multi-big-screen viewing is seemingly not an integral, straightforward part of the V6's box of tricks, at present.
4. The box is sexier than the last one
It's certainly smaller, and weighs just over a kilo. With updated innards, it's also faster.
Via this remote, you have searchable access to the usual gamut of online TV providers and Virgin boasts that it offers "the fastest access to Netflix".
Live and catch-up/on demand TV are also both integrated into Series Link +, so if you Link a show after the first episode has broadcast, it'll try to find it online.
Spec stuff: the Wi-Fi is dual-band (5GHz is supported) AC. Capacity is 1TB (500 hours SD, 100 hours HD). Dolby Digital and Atmos are supported. Connections? Yes indeed.
As you can see, there's HDMI, USB, 3.5mm and optical digital audio outs, an ethernet connection and – yes! – Scart. Really?
5. There's now a Virgin movie store and kids' channel
Virgin Media Store sells TV shows and movies, with many appearing there before they arrive on Blu-ray/DVD.
Download one, and you'll receive a DVD of it in the post, too.
Hang on, this is exactly the same as Sky!
There's also an advert-free, age-appropriate, child-locked content farm for children,
Hang on, that's exactly like Sky too!
Like we said, nothing about this really beats Virgin's big telly rival, but these additions do at least put it on the same footing as Sky.
6. It's £99
That's a lot cheaper than Sky Q's 2TB box (£200) but also a lot more expensive than its 1TB box (£15), so whether that's a reason to buy is slightly debatable.
Existing customers with Full House or VIP bundles can get a bit of a deal though, with a limited-time offer of a V6 box for £49.95.
There's also a £15 install charge, but monthly charges will remain the same as with the current Virgin Tivo box.
Virgin V6: our verdict
This is a great TV service, which stands alongside Sky Q as the best the UK has to offer. No, it doesn't really beat Sky Q in any obvious way, but it's still an awful lot of telly in a very small box.
Even though we doubt the V6 will sway many Sky fans, if Virgin can get its bundle pricing right, it should scoop up plenty of punters upgrading from Freeview, and keep its existing customers more than happy.
What is it like to use? We have no idea, as hands on demos aren't happening till next week. We have to assume it's a faster experience than the current, slightly syrupy Virgin box, though. We'll let you know.