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TVonics continues its crusade to get the nation switched over to digital TV with a new Freeview box that fits the bill no matter how old your TV is. The MDR-250 was originally developed to meet the requirements for the UK government help scheme for the elderly and disabled, which imposes stringent requirements on performance, ease-of-use, energy efficiency and connectivity, and it’s currently the only Freeview receiver to have earned full marks in Digital UK’s ‘scoreboard’ certification scheme. All of this suggests that the MDR-250 could be the ideal entrée into free digital TV.
At just 196mm wide, the unit itself is tiny by normal Freeview receiver standards, which is good news if you want to hide it behind the TV, and there’s an infrared extender in the box that allows you to do so. You might be tempted to keep it on show though as it’s an interesting looking little box, with a gloss black top section, a silver circle containing the TVonics logo and very little on the fascia besides a small power LED indicator.
The connections panel on the rear is par for the course, sporting two SCART outputs (for simultaneous connection to a TV and video recorder) and aerial input/output. But unlike the vast majority of receivers the MDR-250 features an RF modulator which sends digital TV pictures from the aerial output and to your TV’s aerial input over a coaxial cable – great news for owners of museum relic TVs with no SCART sockets. Simply rig up the cables, retune an empty analogue channel on your TV to 38 (or a channel of your choice) and away you go. Elsewhere on the rear panel, you’ll find a 3.5mm jack, which outputs analogue stereo or optical digital audio to your AV receiver, and an input for the IR extender.
On the downside, the MDR-250 only offers RGB output from one of its SCART sockets, with the other supplying just composite pictures. If this second SCART (labelled ‘VCR’) is hooked up to a DVD or DVD/HDD recorder with RGB input, you won’t be able to record Freeview in the best possible quality unless you swap over the SCART cables, which is a bit of a nuisance. It’s a common bugbear but one we still find inexplicable.