Virgin Media has four all-in-one broadband, TV and phone (and mobile if you want to add it on) bundles available right now. The Player Bundle is the lowliest of the four, and as is commonly the case, also the cheapest. So is it any good?
Although it's nice to have everything, most of us aren't bothered about having a gazillion TV channels. Nor do many of us have the need for hyperfast internet speeds more suited to a medium-sized tech firm. That's where bundles like Virgin Media's Player Bundle come in, offering a decent range of TV channels and a perfectly sufficient internet speed.
The Player Bundle offers Virgin Media's most 'basic' broadband speed: 50Mbps. See the way we put the word 'basic' in single quotes there? That's because it's sort of a joke where Virgin Media's concerned. Virgin's slowest offering is faster than the entry-level fibre offerings of all other UK providers.
50Mbps, then, as Virgin's 'slowest' has to be put in context. It's still really quick. It's easily fast enough to cater to a household of 4-5 people all doing different things on the internet at the same time. You could all be streaming high-definition movies and/or TV in different rooms and on different tellies and you'd still have bandwidth left over to ignore whatever's on and muck about on Snapchat.
You're more likely to get the speed you're paying for with Virgin Media, too. Ofcom's 2017 figures show that those taking out standard broadband packages (until recently advertised as up to 17Mbps) average only 8.4Mbps at peak times. Virgin Media 50Mbps customers meanwhile get upwards of 45.4Mbps at peak times. What's more, outside of peak times it's likely you'll actually get more than the 50Mbps you pay for. Here at Cable.co.uk we're on one of Virgin Media's 350Mbps deals, but often peak at around 400Mbps. If Virgin Media has a bit of extra juice to offer you, it'll tend to let you have it for nothing, in our experience.
The way Virgin Media represents its list of channels on its own site is unutterably confusing. You can check out a much easier to manage, up-to-date list here on Cable.co.uk that also allows you to see what you’re getting in each bundle side-by-side. Anyway, here are the broad strokes.
The Player Bundle is the most basic TV package Virgin Media offers and consists almost entirely of Freeview channels – channels you could be watching for nothing either via your TV’s own tuner or through a Freeview box. You don’t get Sky One, Sky Atlantic (no Virgin Media bundle offers Sky Atlantic), any of the Discovery channels, SyFy, FOX, Boomerang, Cartoon Network (or any other kids channels beyond CBeebies), premium movies or sports. All you get are your basic BBC and ITV channels, their variants, Dave, Film 4 and a few HD ones.
Virgin Media will tell you on its own site that you get 134 channels in total. And while that’s certainly true in so far as there are 134 different numbers on the box to flick between, many of those will be the same channels time-shifted by an hour, the same channels in HD, or not TV channels at all, but radio stations.
So where’s the value? It’s in the box. Virgin Media’s V6 set-top box, as we’ll get to a little further down, is a technical marvel. In the case of the Player Bundle more than any other, that’s what you’re paying for.
This is where Virgin Media strikes an oft-fatal blow to many other UK providers. Its router and set-top box, as a free hardware proposition, are truly second to none. The Virgin Hub in its latest form is light, easy to tuck away somewhere unseen, and is one of the rangier routers of all those supplied by UK providers.
It’s also universally supplied across all of Virgin Media’s bundles, no matter which one you go for. That means that if you choose to upgrade further down the line you’ll be able to do so instantly. Sky and BT, for example, offer a lower-end router for their entry-level bundles, meaning if you want to upgrade, you’re going to need a new one, so that’s more useful than it sounds.
Then there’s the V6 set-top box. It’s the best one out there – well, that you’ll get for free at any rate. Sky offers the Sky Q 2TB, which out-specs the V6 in a couple of areas no one needs to care about, but that’ll cost you an extra £200 at sign-up. The V6 will record six programmes at once while you watch a seventh, and comes loaded with apps like Netflix, YouTube and iPlayer. It can also output in 4K (ultra-high definition or UHD), which is something you’ll see only in the top-end packages from the likes of Sky and BT.
By default, Virgin Media will throw in a landline with the ‘Talk Weekends’ add-on. This will allow you to call other landlines at weekends for nothing. You can also opt not to have a landline if you so desire, but this won’t, unfortunately, bring the price down. A physical line will need to be installed at your house and ‘line rental’ is for that, irrespective of whether you use it for broadband, phone or both.
Still, we quite like this option as we tend to rely on our mobile phones and if one thing stops cold callers dead in their tracks it’s having no phone to call.
Honestly? We like all the bundles from Virgin Media. This one is suited to a household that likes a bit of telly, isn’t fussed about the so-called ‘premium’ channels but wants a high-quality DVR/set-top box regardless. And why not?
50Mbps is really fast broadband, make no mistake. It may look piddling next to Virgin’s own top-end 350Mbps service, but that’s just an illusion of scale. 50Mbps as an entry-level offering is faster than pretty much everyone else.
All in all Virgin Media’s Player Bundle is a great place to start to see if the shoe fits. If you change your mind later, Virgin’s decision to offer only one type of router and set-top box across its whole range means upgrading to more substantial services is only ever a phone call or a few clicks away. Highly recommended.
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