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ntl’s TVDrive: the best PVR going January 9, 2007

Posted by Al in : cool,gadget , trackback

I have to apologise to any regular readers of this blog for a lack of content over the last couple of weeks. There has been Christmas and New Year, both of which cut short the available time for browsing and blogging, and then I had a TVDrive installed last week and I suddenly have found some TV that is worth watching. Apart from obvious shows, such as Top Gear’s Winter Olympics, I have just spent 2 hours and 44 minutes watching Battlestar Galactica, and I have just decided to record the series because I really enjoyed it. Normally I would never have seen it as it airs on a Tuesday and that’s Winnie’s only day off, so we normally spend time together and I don’t watch any TV at all. However I recorded this pilot episode last week and got chance to watch it tonight, and it is very, very good. So I will record the series, using the TVDrive, and watch them at my leisure. This is something I never would have done if I had to put a video tape, or DVD-R, in to do so, as I would just never have got around to doing so and then would have just thought “Ah, well. Never mind” and never seen this series.

Now you may have Sky+, or a a Tivo, and think that this series recording ability is nothing new. And I will agree with you, it’s not that special, but it’s not what makes the TVDrive great. Instead there are a few features that allow it to kick some serious butt!

  1. It goes one better than Sky+ and allows you to record 2 shows whilst watching (and pausing, replaying and rewinding a third) – this is one better than Sky+, but I cannot comment on Tivo as I have never used one.
  2. The EPG is quick, and efficient and gives you 8 days visibility of programmes. Nothing special there but ntl:Telewest have always had a better system than Sky in that if you are watching one program you can use the mini-guide to find out what is on another channel (which I realise you can do on Sky), but then when you press the i button you get info about the channel you have skipped ahead to rather than the channel you are currently watching. This makes perfect sense as you already know what you are watching, but you want to find out what you are missing.
  3. if you enter the channel number for a new channel you don’t get switched to that channel until you press OK. So you can find out what’s without missing what you are currently watching.
  4. You can watch your current program whilst browsing the TV guide in a smaller picture-in-picture on all the TV guide pages.
  5. Video-on-Demand: which is something that only a cable company can offer, and so Sky and Tivo can never compete with. Basically this is a huge library of films, and TV programs, which are accessible at any time. You can watch them, pause them, rewind them, and fast forward them, just like a video or DVD. However they are streamed from a central server, rather than you needing a physical copy. Films range from £1 to £3.50, which compares favourably to renting a DVD, and the copyrighting of these is more secure than a DVD as well. So you don’t need to go to the rental shop, or order a film online and  wait for it to be delivered; and the film company has more chance of getting their money – good for everyone.

I have to say I am very impressed with the TVDrive. If you have a ntl:Telewest then you should get one. IF you don’t have ntl:Telewest, but you can get it, then this is a serious reason to consider switching to cable. And if you can’t get cable – move.


1. Justyn - January 9, 2007

Two things I need to comment on here:

1. Al is right, TvDrive kicks all sorts of ass, if all the things Al has listed are not good enough then how about High Definition as well! I have my TvDrive hooked upto my projector as well and the HD images are amazing.
I watched Kill Bill in HD last night and it was an awesome experience.

2. Battlestar Galactica is quite simply the best tv series I have seen bar none. If you think the pilot is good Al wait till you start watching the series it is even better.

p.s. I love Battlestar!!!!

2. Al - January 10, 2007

Damn! I forgot to mention the whole HD thing – probably because I haven’t got round to getting HD myself yet. You’re right Justyn, the TVDrive is fully HD compliant and there are already HD films and programs available through the Video on Demand feature. Maybe soon there will be some good HD channels – but I think Sky are starting to get a little scared and so are refusing to allow ntl:Telewest access to these at the moment.

3. Justyn - January 10, 2007

I reckon we’ll get a few HD channels this year if only from ITV and Ch4.
Sky cannot hold out forever they need to make profit from those channels as well.

4. Chris - January 17, 2007

Please help me – I’m with NTL – how do I get hold of one????

5. Al - January 18, 2007

The TVDrive will be rolled out across ntl in the next couple of months for an additional £10/month. However this might be an even better model than the current one as rumour has it that it will have a slightly faster processor and a larger hard drive – the differences will be small though.

This new box is likely to be Vigin branded and so probably won’t launch until after 14th February when ntl:Telewest become Virgin Media.

Features that beat Sky+:
160GB hard drive (same as Sky+HD) giving 80 hours recording;
Record 2 programs whilst watching a third – Sky+ can only do 1;
£10/month (same as Sky+);
box is provided by ntl without charge – you have to buy the Sky+ box;
EPG runs 8 days ahead – Sky+ is only 7;
and I think an additional box is only an extra £5/month (which is quite cheap really);

and of course the killer – Video On Demand.

Rest assured – you will have plenty of notice when this service becomes available in your area. This is the first time in years when ntl have been able to move one step ahead in the TV market with a product that everyone will want and will use (VoD is slowly being used more as people become used to it), and ntl:Telewest (Virgin Media) will definitely be pushing this product hard.

6. me - February 6, 2007

just ordered ntl v+ box available in surrey I hope not to be disapointed