Other useful features include a parental control lock too keep wee Jimmy from watching the Channel X previews of an evening, the option to have the TV make a bleeping sound whenever a remote control command has been accepted, and the ability to bring the unit off stand-by using the EPG timer - handy if you want to hook it up to a video recorder and make timed recordings.
A well-filled package for £40
For a budget device, the MDR-250 is very fleet of foot when it comes to reacting to commands. The EPG, programme information, digital text, subtitles and audio descriptions all flash up almost instantaneously with none of the drag or delay all too often found on cheaper Freeview boxes.
Of course, there are some things you simply don't get for forty quid and these include a picture-in-picture preview facility, an RGB output signal from the second Scart slot, or an HDMI port.
What the MDR-250 does have though are solid environmental credentials: on stand-by it draws a parsimonious 1.7W while when in use it only draws 5.1.
As a simple and straightforward way to get Freeview, the MDR-250 has very little in the way of faults. It's extremely easy to set up and no less easy to use, while the inclusion of an RF modulator means you can have digital telly on even the most ancient box. Combine that with the smart design, nice remote control and excellent value for money, and we'd say TVonics has a winner on its hands. ®
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If you'd do normal DVB-S...
...budget would be 10 pounds, like in the rest of the world. This whole "let's make our own little market with Freeview and Sky" really raises the prices.
The interactive / MHEG functions on the MDR-250 worked just fine for us. While not quite as quick as the Freeview tuner built into the Sony Bravia that was used for comparison we certainly had no cause for complaint.
"some things you don't get for forty quid"
"an RGB output signal from the second Scart slot" - apparently not, i've used about four different sub-£25 boxes that all provided this facility. this seems a bit gash to me, especially with the apparent MHEG problems and this "no signal" error which i've also never encountered on any of the cheaper ones.
Digital Switch Over
Technically we still have analogue in South Devon for now, well until Wednesday this week. Finally I'm hoping I'll be able to pick up more than 10 channels on my DVB-T card in my PC (I can pick everything up on a Freeview box or our LCD TV with Freeview built in so I guess it's just the DVB-T card being picky).
I was going to say it's a bit expensive really for a Freeview box but I guess the fact it has an RF modulator built in has to be a good thing for those people with old Scartless (or even AV input-less) TVs, On the other hand you could probably get away with connecting a Freeview box to an old video recorder (maybe even an old Betamax) via scart or if there is a lack of scart connections, AV inputs.
I guess the on street price of something like this will be more like £25 to £30.
When you can get a freeview box for £20 in Tesco, this £40 box is not "budget" IMHO.
It's a reasonable box, your review concentrated on picture and EPG though and, while important, one element was really missing... MHEG performance.
These "press the red button" MHEG applications are becoming more and more prevalent. I tried one of the boxes in store and the performance on BBC News (Channel 80) was dire. Not much time for an extensive test, however, it could explain why the box does not also support picture in picture - they have scrimped on the electronics - the web site won't quote the processor, it just says "32 bit Fast responsive" !
Can El Reg carry out some further (i.e. comprehensive) tests or open up the box and reveal what processor and other components are used?