When you power up the box for the first time, its innate user-friendliness is apparent from the start. The first screen prompts you to start a full channel search, and our box found 61 TV channels, 23 radio stations and nine data channels in about a minute. Helpfully, the unit retunes itself every night to ensure that you always have the most recent channels, and does the same after every system upgrade, which means you won't lose channels during the switchover process.
Overall, the MDR-240 is incredibly easy to use. The main menu is a neat semi-transparent box superimposed over live TV, with the current option highlighted in green. The text is easy to read and the options are sorted into logical groups that make it easy to find the right setting. Among the adjustable options in the 'Settings' section are aspect ratio modes (widescreen and 4:3 normal/letterbox) and a choice of SCART output options.
The Edit Channel List menu lets you swap channels into your preferred order, as well as hide channels you don't watch, while the Timer menu lets you programme the box to switch to a certain channel at a given time (to record it on an external machine, for example). You can set up to nine events and a dialogue box lets you know when the channel is about to change.
The user-friendly flavour continues with the eight-day EPG, which boasts a stripped-down design that's easy to digest. It populates instantly and works like most other Freeview EPGs, displaying programmes in a grid, nine channels at a time, with the current programmes highlighted white and subsequent programmes grey. Programmes scheduled as a timer event are coloured red. You can scroll up and down or jump forward or back 24 hours using the four coloured keys on the remote, or get a synopsis by pressing the Info key. Simple.
Hit Info while watching live TV and the onscreen banner gives all the relevant details. But here's a nice surprise - you can use this banner to search through forthcoming shows on any channel without leaving the programme you're watching or entering the full EPG.
The beauty of the MDR-240 is that you don't have to keep referring to the manual if you get stuck. The Help button on the remote brings up a series of text pages explaining many of the unit's functions and how to use them.
The remote is almost as big as the box itself and although it looks a bit tacky, it's actually borderline genius - the well-spaced buttons, no-nonsense labelling, ergonomic shape and 'easy grip' back panel make it one of the best digital TV remotes we've encountered and will go down very well with newcomers to Freeview. There are dedicated buttons for all the often-used functions, and importantly, the EPG, Menu and Info buttons are positioned close to the menu controls.