After digital switchover has been completed, DVD recorders and VCRs with built-in analogue TV tuners will be next to useless, but their lives can be prolonged if you buy an external Freeview receiver and hook it up to the recorder's SCART input. The trouble is most Freeview receivers only come equipped with a single tuner, which means you can't watch one channel while recording another. The ideal solution is to upgrade to a twin-tuner PVR, but if you'd rather stick with your existing recorder, then French company Metronic has a cheaper alternative - the Gemini twin-tuner receiver.
So how does it work? The Gemini features two SCART outputs on the rear, one of which you connect to your TV and the other you connect to your VCR or DVD recorder. The picture from one of the unit's tuners is output from the TV SCART and the other tuner signal is sent from the ‘VCR' SCART, which means you can change channels to your heart's content while independently recording the signal from the second tuner.
Aside from this twin-tuner arrangement, the Gemini looks and behaves just like a regular Freeview set-top box. Its dull dark grey styling makes it look like an 80s throwback and the construction is a little lightweight but thankfully it's compact enough to hide away inside your AV cabinet. The front display panel is rudimentary, showing only the channel number and a green power LED, and there are a few buttons dotted about for up-close control.
Aside from the two SCART outputs on the rear, there's a surprisingly generous array of connections by Freeview receiver standards. They include composite video, S-video and stereo audio outputs, plus optical and coaxial digital audio outputs to transfer stereo audio to your AV receiver. There are two aerial inputs (one for each tuner) and you can pass the aerial signal through using the supplied coaxial loopthrough cable. Also useful is an on/off switch on the rear, which means energy conscious users can shut it down completely when they go to bed.
On board is a seven-day EPG that enables you to browse the channel line-up and choose what to watch. You can skip through the days using the colour-coded keys on the remote or set the eight-event timer, which will change the unit to a specified channel at the programmed time. While you surf, the EPG displays live TV in a box at the top of the picture so you don't miss anything, and it even allows you to preview another channel.