Sky Q has been top dog of the home entertainment scene since it launched in February. But now Virgin Media has launched a very serious challenger in the form the V6, its first set-top box in over five years.
It's certainly an impressive piece of kit. It's equipped for 4K viewing, can record six channels at once, and lets you stream shows to other rooms of the house.
But how does it stack up against Sky Q? Let's have a look.
Serious video recording prowess
When Sky Q was announced at the end of last year, we were bowled over by its recording powers. Record four channels while watching a fifth? It seemed like the future had arrived.
How times change. The V6 can record a frankly ridiculous six channels while you watch a seventh.
Never ones to be outdone, Sky has announced the same power will be coming to Sky Q in the new year, courtesy of an update.
However, Sky hasn't said when in the year this update will land. So we're giving this round to Virgin Media.
Both the V6 and Sky Q are 4K compatible. That means they can display content with a resolution that's four times as sharp as Full HD. But the V6 has an extra power.
It will be compatible with High Dynamic Range (HDR) content. This has a lot more depth than a standard image, making for a more lifelike picture. The thing is, we don't know exactly when this capability will be enabled. According to Virgin Media, it will come courtesy of a software update, which will be "automatically downloaded in due course".
Sky, for its part, has said it will explore HDR once the format has "settled down" – i.e. had enough standards put in place. So it could well land on Sky Q in the near future.
Admittedly HDR content is even thinner on the ground than 4K content, which is to say, very thin indeed: Netflix and Amazon Prime Video offer some HDR content, but that's about it.
And you'll need an HDR-compatible telly in order to reap the benefits. But still, it's another string to Virgin Media's bow. Or will be, when it arrives.
Sky Q's Fluid Viewing feature lets you start watching TV in one room, pause, and continue where you left off in another room of the house. And the V6 lets you do exactly the same.
Just like the Sky Q app, Virgin TV Anywhere brings the same functionality to your phone, so you can start watching on your TV and carry on on your smartphone.
In other words, this one's a draw.
Sky Q's menu is a lot more image-heavy than the old Sky+ one. And Virgin Media has taken a similar tack with the V6.
The layout is a lot more visually appealing than the TiVo of old. However, it's not quite the departure that Sky Q was.
Sky Q puts on-demand and catch-up content before the electronic programme guide, for example – Sky says it's recognising that how we watch TV has changed. Whereas Virgin described its UI as "reassuringly familiar".
Which is better? It all comes down to personal preference. And we won't know until we've tested the V6's thoroughly.
Sky Q's aim is to find your search term within three characters. The Virgin Media V6 has two new features called Smart Search and SeriesLink+ to help you find your favourite shows.
SmartSearch throws up suggestions based on what you've typed so far, while SeriesLink+ records series across all services and channels.
So if you're recording a series, it will find you older episodes available on on-demand services like Netflix too, and put them all in the same folder. Very smart.
Just like its user interface/menu, the V6's remote control could be described as "familiar".
It looks just like the existing one, but it is slightly smaller. There's also a new search button to help you find what you want quicker.
Sky Q, however, tried to reinvent the remote with a touchpad and pressure-sensitive points replacing some of the physical buttons. It divided opinion. Virgin Media is staying on safer ground.
The V6 box looks a lot better in the flesh than it does in photos. While still quite tall, it's a lot smaller than its predecessor. But we prefer Sky Q's glowing logo in the style stakes.
Sky offers two versions of the Sky Q box – 1TB and 2TB. There's only one V6 – it has 1TB. That's enough space for 500 hours of standard definition content, or 100 hours of high definition.
The V6 can be yours for a one-off fee of £99.95, or £49.95 if taken with a top-tier Virgin Media bundle.
Sky doesn't charge for the Sky Q box, but you will need to take Sky Q, which starts at £20 a month. You're only leasing the Sky Q box too, so you will need to return it if you cancel your contract.
The V6 looks like an impressive set-top box. It's taken some of the best features of Sky Q and packaged them in a slightly less glamorous package.
For those with less of an appetite for cutting-edge bells and whistles, and a slightly smaller budget, it could well be a tempting rival to Sky Q.