Review Price free/subscription
With the Border and West Country regions already switched and Granada up next (the Winter Hill switchover starts November 4th), the process of digital switchover is well underway. But there are still many people who have analogue TVs and recorders and don't have the money to replace them, so the most affordable solution is to buy a Freeview receiver and hook it up to their existing kit.
UK-based manufacturer TVonics has a wide range of Freeview receivers for this purpose, the latest of which is the MDR-240. This model not only delivers free digital TV but it's also one of the first to meet the Government's 'Core Receiver Requirements' that ensures equipment is suitable for 'vulnerable' users, such as the elderly or people with disabilities (the full list of these requirements are found here.
Sadly, these requirements don't say anything about how the receiver should look, otherwise TVonics might have made more of an effort. The MDR-240 is a rather dull-looking black box, with a plasticky finish and no eye-catching embellishments to speak of (apart from a green/red power LED). We know it's designed to be a functional Freeview receiver and not a work of art, but a little more pizzazz wouldn't have gone amiss - after all, TVonics has launched some pretty good looking products in the past.
On the plus side, it's amazingly compact (196 x 89 x 31mm) which means it can be easily tucked under your TV without the need for a major reshuffle.
On the back is a basic range of connections, which makes this better suited to simple systems. There are two SCART outputs, one of which outputs RGB, S-video or composite to one device (most likely your TV) and another that only outputs composite. This second SCART is intended for connection to a recorder, but as most DVD and hard-disk recorders support RGB input, the picture quality of your recordings might end up looking quite poor if you use this output. The Core Receiver Requirements list RGB from the second SCART as optional, but TVonics decided against it. Shame.
TVonics also keeps it simple by leaving out an HDMI output, which eliminates upscaling and resolution issues that the unit's target audience may not understand. There's also no digital audio output, probably for similar reasons, but you do get a 3.5mm analogue stereo output. Completing the socket line-up is an aerial input and loopthrough socket, but UHF modulation of digital signals is only optional in the requirements and once again TVonics chose not to include it.