Virgin Media vs TalkTalk
By Emma Woollacott | Wednesday, June 30th 2021
Virgin Media is best known for providing the fastest broadband in the land, coupled with high-quality equipment with all the frills. Conversely, TalkTalk is its opposite, aiming to offer the same results for generally much less. But which is better?
Which of the two you prefer will depend on your particular requirements, whether that's broadband speeds, network reliability, or the number of TV channels on offer. But while it's easy to get carried away by the quantity of bells and whistles on offer, it's important to remember that you may end up paying for things you don't really need. So how do TalkTalk and Virgin Media square up?
Virgin Media broadband vs TalkTalk broadband
Who's got the speed?
TalkTalk’s standard broadband service, known as Fast Broadband, is now only offered to homes where there is no fibre availability. It comes on an 18-month contract and includes both line rental and set-up. You get unlimited usage with download speeds averaging 11Mbps, which is plenty if you only have a couple of devices online at the same time, and you're using them for things like browsing social media, shopping or streaming music. It's a good-value, basic service, in other words.
TalkTalk’s entry-level fibre service is Fibre 35, which offers an average download speed of 37Mbps and comes on an 18-month contract; this will let you and your family do a lot more, streaming on multiple screens, downloading music and videos and making video calls at the same time. Alternatively you can choose the faster Fibre 65, with average download speeds of 66-73Mbps.
TalkTalk does also offer a selection of ultrafast fibre packages. These full fibre packages come with a choice of three speeds: 150Mbps, 250Mbps and 500Mbps. However, these speeds are not yet widely available. To check if your area is eligible, you can put your postcode into TalkTalk’s availability checker or call 0800 049 8888.
Virgin Media’s broadband packages all come on 18-month contracts. It offers some stonking broadband speeds that really put TalkTalk's speeds in the shade. Unlike TalkTalk, which (like all other providers) uses the Openreach network, Virgin has its own state-of-the-art network, offering speeds of up to 1000Mbps with its Gig1 package. Virgin’s speeds are now available to the vast majority of the 14 million homes on its network, making it the fastest widely available broadband service in the UK.
TalkTalk Fibre 35
£50 gift cardMonthly cost£23 p/mZero one-off cost 18 month contractSee Dealthis deal is anOnline exclusive
- 38Mb average speed +
- Unlimited usage +
- PAYG calls
TalkTalk Fibre 65
Monthly cost£25 p/mZero one-off cost 18 month contractSee Dealthis deal is anOnline exclusive
- 67Mb average speed +
- Unlimited usage +
- PAYG calls
Virgin Media M100 Fibre Broadband + Calls
No set-up feeMonthly cost£27 p/mZero one-off cost 18 month contractSee Dealor call Virgin Media on0808 168 4947 0808 168 4947
- 108Mb average speed +
- Unlimited usage +
- Inclusive calls
Virgin Media M200 Fibre Broadband + Calls
No set-up feeMonthly cost£33 p/mZero one-off cost 18 month contractSee Dealor call Virgin Media on0808 168 4947 0808 168 4947
- 213Mb average speed +
- Unlimited usage +
- Inclusive calls
This makes it the speediest broadband network of any in the UK – even faster than Openreach’s 900Mbps G.fast broadband scheme, which is only available to around one million homes in the UK.
You get upload speeds of up to 52Mbps and little perks like inclusive weekend calls to UK landlines and Virgin Mobile numbers, as well as inclusive weekend minutes to 0870 numbers. There are also 50Mbps, 100Mbps, 200Mbps, 350Mbps, 500Mbps and 600Mbps packages available. If you're unsure which speed to choose, our review on Virgin broadband can help.
However, before you get carried away, it's worth asking yourself whether you really need anything like these speeds. Even 100Mbps will allow you to watch a dozen HD movies at the same time; for most average homes, it's undoubtedly overkill.
In practice, it's Virgin's basic 50Mbps package that will be of interest to most, and this costs only a few quid more than the comparable TalkTalk option. But you don't just need your provider to talk the talk – pun intended – it also needs to walk the walk.
Before picking your broadband supplier, you might want to consider what other customers have to say. Figures published recently by Ofcom show that when it comes to customer satisfaction, TalkTalk came bottom out of all the major providers with 78%, whereas Virgin Media fared considerably better with 85%. However, 14% of both providers had a reason to complain, although TalkTalk had more complaints per 100,000 subscribers, with 87 against just 60 for Virgin Media.
It's easy to be dazzled by the sheer speed of Virgin's offering, and if you've got a very busy online household, then there's no question that it wins hands down. Let's face it, though, few of us need anything like 1000Mbps, or even 100Mbps for that matter.
Similarly, for low-level users, TalkTalk's cheapest offering will save you a few quid, but may not really be the best deal. Many – if not most – people will probably be happy to pay a little more to comfortably get more than a couple of devices online at the same time.
It's the middle ground that's probably most relevant, so it comes down to a choice between Virgin Media’s 50Mbps and TalkTalk’s 35Mbps. There’s not a lot to differentiate on price, so it comes down to the fact that Virgin has a greater reputation for customer satisfaction.
Virgin Media TV vs TalkTalk TV
Battle of the channel-count
Both TalkTalk and Virgin Media require you to take their broadband in order to also sign up for their TV packages, but that is where the similarities end. In terms of the sheer amount of content on offer, there's little competition: once again, Virgin Media wins hands down. It has more than 100 channels in its basic Big Bundle, rising to more than 190 in the Bigger Bundle and more than 230 in the Ultimate Oomph Bundle.
Virgin Media's basic Big Bundle package is modestly priced and comes on an 18-month contract, whereas the Ultimate Oomph Bundle costs more than twice as much, but comes with over 230 channels, as well as Sky Sports, Sky Cinema and BT Sport. Virgin even throws in Unlimited phone calls and an Unlimited mobile SIM.
In comparison, TalkTalk's TV offering is very simple. You get the basic Freeview channels as standard but can then choose to bolt on NOW TV Memberships.
It really comes down to what you want when it comes to TV. If you are looking for a more traditional, channel-loaded package with all the bells and whistles, then Virgin Media is the way to go, but if you are happier just having access to the best sports, entertainment and film channels via NOW TV, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix alongside the basic Freeview options, then TalkTalk is a great option.
Virgin also offers a far superior set-top box with its new TV 360 box, with voice search function and the ability to record six channels at a time. TalkTalk offers the YouView box to its customers, which enables you to pause, rewind and catch up on your favourite shows but does not record. But then if you mostly watch on demand TV, then this probably won’t be a problem.
Virgin Media vs TalkTalk
Who offers the best inclusive phone packages?
You'll get a basic landline service with pay-as-you-go charges included with Fast Broadband or TalkTalk Fibre 35, but Fibre 65 comes with unlimited UK calls as standard. You can choose to bolt on unlimited UK calls to Fibre 35 and Fast Broadband packages however for just £7 per month on a rolling monthly basis. This includes both calls to landlines and UK mobile numbers. Customers wanting to make calls abroad can add on International Max calls for £6, which allows for 1000 minutes to international mobile and landline numbers each month.
Meanwhile, Virgin Media customers get the basic Talk Weekends plan, which includes free weekend calls to UK landlines and Virgin Mobile numbers, plus inclusive weekend minutes to 0870 numbers. You can add 0845 numbers and calls to non-Virgin Mobiles for an extra £1 per month. Virgin’s Talk More International Anytime gives you calls to UK landlines and mobiles at any time as well as inclusive calls to 50 international destinations for £15 per month.
It might be worth noting that in Ofcom's survey on service quality, Virgin Media came out worst amongst home phone companies, with only 77% customers satisfied with the service, whereas TalkTalk customers rated their experience more highly, with 83% of customers satisfied.
Let's face it, few of us use our home phones much these days, and neither set of landline packages is likely to be an important factor when it comes to picking one provider over the other.
Virgin Media offers a more complex array of options when it comes to call packages – but TalkTalk's more affordable international bolt-on might just tip the balance in its favour if you make a lot of overseas calls.
Who's got the best router?
TalkTalk's latest router, the WiFi Hub Black, uses smart dual-band technology, reducing wireless interference and dropped connection, and has seven antennas and four gigabit ethernet ports, making it far faster and more reliable than the previous model. It also comes with Supersafe security software and Homesafe parental controls.
Meanwhile, Virgin now offers the dual-band Virgin Media Hub 3.0. It has five internal antennas and four gigabit ethernet ports. Wireless encryption technology, Web Safe, F-Secure SAFE and parental controls are included.
Virgin's high-speed broadband needs an appropriately high-powered router, and that's exactly what customers get. It beats the competition from TalkTalk – but not by that much.
Virgin TV 360 vs TalkTalk TV Box
Who's got the best set-top box?
TalkTalk offers the basic YouView box to its customers. You can pause and rewind live TV, and add and remove various streaming services monthly. It does not offer any recording functionality however. The TalkTalk TV app enables customers with Android smartphones and tablets to watch their on demand content away from home, including any NOW TV Memberships, Netflix or Amazon subscriptions.
With Virgin, you get a whole bunch of features automatically with its TV 360 box. It lets you record six shows at once, while you watch a seventh on catch-up TV or from a recording. There's 1TB of storage, which amounts to 500 hours of shows in SD or 100 in HD. You can also instruct the box verbally to find and play TV shows with its voice activation software.
If you want an all-singing, all-dancing TV box with voice control and the ability to record hours of TV, then Virgin’s TV 360 box is the way to go. If you just want a means to watch basic Freeview channels and your chosen subscription services, then TalkTalk’s YouView will do the job nicely.
Virgin Media vs TalkTalk mobile plans
TalkTalk no longer offers mobile plans. In comparison, Virgin Media offers the works when it comes to mobile, with pay monthly contracts for phones and tablets as well as SIM-only plans. Virgin Media's SIM-only plans come on 12 or 24-month plans, and allow you to roll over data as well as giving you data-free messaging on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter. Data allowances range from 1GB to Unlimited, with prices starting at £7 per month and increasing to £28 for an Unlimited plan at the time of writing.
For many years Virgin Media operated over the EE network, but now uses Vodafone to supply its services to customers with a 5G phone and EE to supply to customers with a 4G phone. All Virgin’s plans are available on 5G, subject to you being able to receive a 5G signal and having a 5G-compatible handset. Vodafone’s 5G network is expanding rapidly but is not yet available everywhere. You can see whether it’s reached your area by using Vodafone’s coverage checker.
Virgin Media Mobile performed well in Ofcom’s latest report into customer satisfaction, with 93% of customers happy with their service overall and 84% happy with the signal strength they receive.
TalkTalk no longer offers a mobile service, so if you want all your telecoms with one provider then Virgin Media is the way to go, although other providers also offer broadband, mobile, landline and TV, including Sky and BT.
However, there is really no need to use the same provider for your mobile and broadband – we'd advise just shopping around for the best mobile deal on offer from all the providers.
Who's the ultimate winner then? Virgin Media or TalkTalk?
While you could save a few quid by picking TalkTalk over Virgin Media, you will be getting a lot less. It might well suit if you're just looking for a fairly simple package, however, with its decent fibre speeds and straightforward TV service.
With Virgin Media, its state-of-the-art infrastructure means you can get extremely fast, reliable download speeds, which are far more widely available than even the ultrafast options from TalkTalk. If you spend a lot of time streaming and gaming, or you have numerous devices to support, it's a no-brainer.
Similarly, Virgin Media offers much more TV content than TalkTalk, and its TV 360 set-top box is in a different league from TalkTalk’s YouView box. And with Virgin Media, you're getting a far more integrated offering, particularly now that TalkTalk no longer offers a mobile service.
To summarise, if you have access to Virgin Media cabling, we'd say that you should go for it. It is a premium provider with a premium offering, both in terms of TV and broadband. However, if you really just want a more simple package, with the option to get easy access to the best of Sky TV via the NOW TV Memberships, which you can cancel from month to month, then TalkTalk may be worth consideration.