Spending time at Tesco

What do you buy the woman who has everything? A box to put it all in? The wife bought her main Christmas present at the airport on the way to Chicago, and it’s been tucked away ever since. It’s a handbag… can’t remember what make… Gucci or something like that. I’m about as interested in handbags as she is in catadioptric telescopes. Anyway, being a generous sort of guy, I recognise the need to purchase some Christmas surprises for the current Mrs Adams. But what…?

Okay, I have a small list. Then I saw the Technika Viewbox. Excellent, the wife loves her iPod and likes to download music videos from iTunes. And it was reduced to 75 quid. Perfect. So I decided to get down to Tesco to have a look at the technology close-up.

One thing you should be aware of is that we’re only 7 minutes away from the nearest branch of Tesco (which is located right next to one of the UK’s largest branches of Marks & Spencer). Yes, 7 minutes… if you drive there at 03:00. On a Saturday afternoon a few weeks before Christmas it’s a marathon trek. Anyway, I arrived, I parked in the nearest possible parking space to the entrance of Tesco (about half a mile away), bumped into my frolleague Jon Adams (no relation, but we have an amusing story about both walking through the door of 10 Downing Street), and found the Viewboxes. And then it struck me… maybe I should have bought an iPod with me.

After returning home and seeing to a couple of errands (including the usual father-chauffuer weekend job) I made some excuses and returned to Tesco. I parked half a mile from the entrance and walked through the rain, got to the Viewboxes, and stuck in Lauren’s iPod nano (because she has more movies than I do). After 5 minutes of fiddling about I worked out that there’s a setting on the iPod to tell it to output a video signal, and this successfully displayed a movie on the Viewbox’s screen. Pretty good… not Sony / Panasonic quality, but we’re talking 75 quid. At this point I started to over-analyse whether this would be something the wife would use, so decided to return home and do some subtle investigations.

Later – during a commercial break in Get Me A Celebrity, I’m Out Of Here – they showed an ad for the Viewbox. “Terrific” said the wife, “I’ve always wanted something like that”. Excellent. “Darren, pop down to Tesco tomorrow and get one”. Oh great.

So by 10:30 this morning I was back down at Tesco. As there’s fewer places for people to go on Sunday, the traffic was worse (even with my local-boy knowledge short-cut). I parked half a mile away from the door, and made my way to the Viewboxes. Hmmm, less in stock than yesterday, but still quite a few. I tried the wife’s iPod touch on the display model… slightly different procedure for getting it working, but fine nevertheless. I queued, I paid, I walked back to the car, and drove home.

Back in the kitchen the wife removed the Viewbox from the packaging, plugged it in and docked her iPod. She selected ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ by the now botox-ridden Mariah Carey. There was Mariah’s dulcet tones but no image… just some jumping lines. I ensured the iPod was docked properly. I tried my iPod. I tried the wife’s again. Nope… out of all the Viewboxes piled around the display model I’d picked the one that was kanckered.

Back in the car, back down to Tesco, parked slightly more than half a mile away from the door (everyone in Surrey was there now), walked back through the rain, through the door and to customers services. There was a small queue, which got longer as an elderly woman went through the process of a new mobile phone being activated. I was a hair’s breadth away from shouting “blimey love, go home and read the effin’ manual” when her transaction ended. After two more people it was my turn. They swapped it without an argument (that concerns me, I wonder how many more had been returned) and I asked if I could test the new one rather than be subjected to a fifth visit in one weekend. I got it out and plugged it in, and then docked my own iPod. At this point it’s worth noting that I only have one movie on my iPod – the DVD of ‘Incubus Live At Red Rocks’. And thus at full volume, the first song ripped out across the store with the delightful lyrics “Hey mega-lo-maniac, you’re no Jesus, yeah, you’re no f***ing Elvis”. Thankfully this was accompanied by live footage of California’s finest, so I repacked the Viewbox, walked back into the rain and returned home.

The Viewbox is now installed in the kitchen, the wife is extremely happy, she’s downloaded lots of music videos for Christmas songs… but I still need to get her something for Christmas.


  1. Ah good, so it isn’t just me that has a major problem with buying any kind of surprise for the Mrs.

    Zoe is the most helpful kind of wife who will go out shopping, come back with armfuls of stuff and then suggest that I put some of it away for Christmas for her.

    And then, lo and behold on Christmas Day, I get a small complaint that I never surprise her with anything. If this sounds even vaguely familiar to any of you chaps out there, I’m sure you will let me know. It can’t be just me.

    On the other hand, I always get surprises as I never ask for anything in particular and would never dream of buying my own pressies.

  2. Traditionally I’ve never really wanted for much… a few DVDs (which I never get a chance to watch), day-of-the-week socks, that sort of thing. It was only last year that I broke from tradition and wanted the Archos, and this year it’s an Xbox.

    In a complete role-reversal, this year the current Mrs Adams doesn’t really want much, saying the handbag is enough… apart from a couple things she does want which are really outside the boundaries of sensible spending.

  3. I hear that Tesco have… ? No ?

    Ouch. I hate shopping. Thank god for the internet. Out here in rural scotland, it saves me travelling 30+ miles to experience the same awful experience.

    And the nice thing about being married to a mad sociopathic scotswoman is that she TELLS you what she WANTS… 😉

    —* Bill

  4. I want to get one of these for my boyfriend for Christmas although at the moment they’re completely sold out online.

    Apart from the initial problem of the video not working has the replacement been ok? Would you reccommend it?

  5. “this year the current Mrs Adams doesn’t really want much”. Daz, if you don’t buy something, even if outside the boundaries of sensible spending, the thing she’ll want for the next Christmas will be a divorce 🙂

  6. Katy, it seems okay. I wouldn’t have paid £150 for it, but £75 seems more than reasonable. I think the sound quality is not quite as good as the JBL On Stage circular speaker or the iHome we have in other parts of the house, so it depends whether music or video is the important factor.

    Rob… I will buy something. I have a list, it’s just one a long one.

  7. Hey, you have made me sit and chuckle out loud.

    Love the ramblings – how true … you sound like a real gem. Thoughtful, patient and trudging.

    Found you through looking for a review for the viewbox which I came upon having never heard of it previously in Tesco and after some deliberation and musing I searched the pile, found the only one that didn’t seem to have been opened – is this an omen of returned ones..and bought one as a present for the just-left-home- got burgled – moved-back-home daughter.

    I have kept the receipt !

  8. Darren, my Technika Viewbox arrived today and looks really good. I had a quick play with it although as it’s a present I was careful not to remove the screen protector etc. But so far so good, I haven’t got any videos on my ipod at the moment but put my memory card in from my camera and the picture quality seems pretty decent. The sound quality is good and I think the max volume is at a good level too. I have an ipod nano 1st generation I think it is (the one that is long but with a smaller screen than the current one on the market), my boyfriend has the one that looks more square and displays the album pics. Does the screen display the album pic when used with these ipods?

    I haven’t had an ipod dock before so can’t compare the sound to others on the market but I was thinking of either getting my boyfriend an ipod dock or a digitial photo frame to put our travelling photos on and then I saw this advertised on TV and I thought perfect!! And for £75 it’s really good value (don’t think I would have paid £150). Would definately recommend it. I just hope my boyfriend likes it, if not I’d be happy to keep it for myself :-).

  9. When it’s playing just music the Viewbox screen doesn’t show anything, it’ll be blank. When it’s showing a video the iPod screen will just show a thumbnail of the movie, all the video output will go to the Viewbox.

    Haven’t tried the photos from a memory card, I should do that.

  10. Hi Darren.
    Am I right in thinking you live near a town beginning with C? There can’t be two towns with this combination. At least when you go there it doesn’t feel that at least the world as we know it isn’t coming to an end, as people seem to be there to spend money and keep everyone in jobs. Also that the Viewbox won’t work with an iphone? (Nothing does.)
    I won’t get into husband/wife ‘surprise me’ tales; except to say that my husband surprised with a hoover once and because I wasn’t delighted with it, (if it had been an upright I might have shown a bit more enthusiasm) vowed never to suprise me again. I decided not become bitter and vowed never to organise anymore special surprises for him all of which he thoroughly enjoyed!

  11. Hi

    So does your wife’s iPod touch work with the Viewbox? I only ask because according the to the Tesco catalogue, this machine doesn’t support video on the touch – only on Nanos and Classics


  12. @12 – not only does the Viewbox work with an iPod touch, the instruction manual actually has a section on getting it to work (as it’s slightly different to a nano or Classic). Whoever wrote that in the catalogue must have tried, done it wrong, and decided it doesn’t work. It does. Probably the sort of person who writes up specs in other shops like ‘2 gb RAM memory’ – think about it…

  13. Hi Darren,

    Could you tell me if the “youtube” client will play through the screen?
    Ive searched hi and low for information on this and cant find it anywhere. Would appreciate it if you could let me know.

    Big thanks 🙂

  14. @14 – oh yes, the YouTube thing is excellent… watched Slade (Merry Christmas Everyone)… during my lunch break of course… and then Greg Lake (I Believe In Father Christmas). And then I recommend ‘In The Meantime’ by Spacehog.

    @16 – BBC iPlayer… I’ll have a go later.

  15. The wife tells me they’re sold out in our local Tesco, so good luck getting one. And my advice would be to check it’s in working order before you leave the shop (but only based on my own experience… I mean, I was bound to pick the duff one). Merry Christmas.

  16. can anybody tell me how to get my ipod touch to work on this technika view box. i had one for christmas and can not get the video to come up, i can get sound on it but no video to come up on the screen. i followed
    the instrutions and even the troubleshooting page but still nothing even with my 3rd gen nano when I put it to tv out it comes up with please connect video accessory.I NEED HELP.

  17. @22 – turn it off. Dock the iPod and turn the Viewbox on. The menu screens comes on… use the direction button to navigate to another item and then back to iPod. Press the play button – a message will appear on the screen, something like ‘Authen’ (whatever it is it’s short for ‘authenticate’). Wait until that message disappears and then select a video from the iPod.

    Having said that, if the nano is not working when you’ve switched it to tv output, perhaps the Viewbox is knackered (as per my first one).

  18. Hello again.

    Did you ever try viewing photos from a card on it and if so do you know whether is it possible to get it to play music simultaneously, thus allowing a basic slideshow to music ?

    Many thanks

  19. @24 – okay, tried it with an SD card. Works fine, but not quite as good quality as our Toshiba photo frame. Remember to go into the setup and set the picture size to ‘Original’ otherwise it squashes or expands the photos to very odd dimensions.

  20. did as you said still nothing , I just can’t understand why it will not play the video’s from my ipod’s, but it will play film’s and photo’s off a memory stick.

  21. I hate to say it Kevin, sounds like the connection for the iPod is knackered but okay for the media slot. The first one I bought back from Tesco didn’t play any iPod videos either and required a swap.

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