Elsewhere, the unit offers all of the features you’ll need to enjoy the full Freeview experience. Digital text performance is exemplary, calling up the MHEG displays quickly and flicking through pages with minimal delay, while the interactive services don’t cause any problems. Subtitles and Audio Description are easy to turn on and off, and both work very well. You can also set the timer from the EPG, which switches to a certain channel at the scheduled time - a feature that comes in handy when using an external recorder with ‘slave mode’ SCART recording. There’s no favourite channels list as such, just the ability to hide unwanted ones.
The MDR-250’s pictures are at their best when connected to your TV’s SCART input. Colours are rich and vibrant, there’s no edge bleed to upset the image clarity and it brings a decent amount of detail to the screen. On the downside, there is quite a lot of smearing and block noise, plus the image shimmers gently when reproducing moving objects. Coverage of the British Masters golf, for instance, looked very untidy, with the green grass twitching during camera pans and a smeary outline around certain objects and text. However, to be fair, much of this is down to the poor quality of Freeview broadcasts. Picture quality inevitably gets worse via RF output, but on a small-screen CRT TV the image looks fine.
The unit also provides crisp stereo sound, and if you connect the optical digital output to a Dolby Pro Logic amp (using an optional TOSlink to minijack lead or adaptor), you can enjoy some excellent pseudo surround sound with your favourite programmes.
TVonics makes a lot of boasts on its website about the usability and versatility of the MDR-250 and we’re pleased to say that it lives up to them. People getting into Freeview for the first time will absolutely love this unit, as it makes all of the platform’s features easily accessible and goes about its daily TV tasks with pleasing slickness.
What’s more, the inclusion of SCART outputs and an RF modulator means you can watch digital TV on any type of TV no matter how old it is, and with so many ageing TVs still in circulation in the lead up to analogue switch-off, the importance of this fact can’t be overstated. It’s a shame it doesn’t output RGB from both SCARTs and HDMI output would have been nice, but overall this is an excellent digital TV box that offers terrific value for money.