Packed inside a box not much larger than a DVD season boxset is Virgin’s new Free TV V Box – a branded Freeview box – complete with scart lead, remote, remote control eye, a TV mount and a stand.
Fitting all this into such a small box is made possible by the size of the V Box which is smaller than a VHS tape.
The tiny size means the box will fit seamlessly into any home entertainment centre or sit almost unnoticed on top of your set but just incase you prefer to hide it away Virgin includes fixing pads and a TV mounting bracket enabling the box to be secured behind your set.
This is where the remote control eye comes into play, with the aid of an adhesive pad the eye can sit virtually unnoticed on your set allowing full operation of the concealed box.
If you want to make a point of showing off your box there’s the option of vertically mounting it with the included stand.
Installing the box is a simple matter of connecting it to the mains and your TV set.
Virgin win points here for including a scart lead in the box, something many manufacturers leave out to keep down costs.
Once connected the box prompts to autoscan for channels, my review box found all the Freeview TV and radio channels in around a minute and had no problems operating with a very cheap indoor aerial.
The onscreen graphics and menus are nicely styled on transparent backgrounds meaning that even when the full EPG is displayed it’s still possible to see the show you’re watching.
The EPG populates immediately, a welcome change from the older box I’m used to and interactive services also load very quickly. It took the V Box about 10 seconds to switch to the BBC News Multiscreens and moving back to News 24 was near instantaneous as was loading up ITV1’s Teletext service, again a noticeable improvement on the box I’m used to.
If you prefer not to display the full EPG it’s possible to see the listings for all channels via the arrow keys which allow the user to scroll through the whole day’s listings one show at a time. Pressing left or right displays details of the current programme on the adjacenet channel and again it’s possible to scroll through the listings.
You can also set reminders for specific programmes ensuring you can keep up with your favourite shows.
Access to the radio channels is via a toggle button on the remote which switches the box (including EPG) into radio mode.
Menu functions include the ability to hide and re-order channels plus parental controls allowing PIN blocking of specified channels.
The unit has two scart leads allowing connection to both a TV and VCR/DVD Recorder plus an RF ouput allowing connection to sets without a scart socket and the box feels solid and well constructed.
The quality and speed of operation makes the V Box feel like excellent value for money and if Virgin had a PVR model available which built on the impressive feel of this box I’d be queueing up to buy one.