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One company in the forefront of producing set-top boxes is the UK-based TVonics. Recently released by the company is its MDR-240 model which is the first unit I have seen that conforms to the Government’s “Core Receiver Requirements”. This initiative decrees that digital receivers should be suitable for the elderly and people with disabilities by including features such as automatic retuning when the need arises.
The TVonics MDR-240 bears a remarkable similarity to a VHS video tape with its black casing and measurements of 196 x 89 x 31mm (W x D x H). Apart from Standby (red) and Power (green) lights plus the TVonics logo, the front of the box is devoid of any embellishments that might have enhanced the product’s appearance. All the various connection points are located at the rear of the device. Here you will find two SCART sockets, RF OUT and IN connectors, mains power socket plus one for connecting an external audio device.
Using the SCART sockets you can link the MDR-240 to a television and a video recorder or DVD drive. Only one SCART lead is supplied with this kit so you will need to provide a second one for this additional connection. Other leads supplied by TVonics are those for power and a short RF lead that is required for linking the MDR-240 to the television set via the RF OUT socket. The main aerial lead, previously connected to the television, now connects to the set-top box using the RF IN connection.
Setting up this kit is straightforward, helped by the illustrated Quick Start Guide. Your biggest problem will be regarding where you want to position the set-top box in relation to the television set. On a first time connection the set-top box will run an automatic scanning process in order to detect and identify available channels. In my case 52 television, 23 radio and 9 data channels were recognised.
With no controls on the set-top box itself you need to use the remote control that comes with the box. This is one of the large size types of remote units. Good use is made of the unit’s surface area. The clearly marked dedicated buttons and navigation pad are well laid out with space between them for easy access. While some might not appreciate the size of the remote, it is not easily misplaced and will be ideal for the elderly and those with limited dexterity.
Calling up the product’s main menu gives you options to set schedules for recording programmes; edit the channel listing to suit your preferences; implement parental controls; rerun the automatic or manual tuning process; and select from settings that include subtitles, audio and picture mode. Displaying nine channels to a page, this product’s TV Guide provides an 8-day programme guide, with the ability to jump in 24-hour segments backwards and forwards, for scheduling your choice of future recordings. For more details about the current or any future programme you can use the Info button and then use the navigation pad to target a particular item. Other features available from the remote control include switching between the current and last watched channel plus turn on/off the Audio Description feature, supported by some programmes which deliver a spoken explanation of what is being shown on screen.
While the remote control might be considered large and not easily mislaid, the same can not be said to be true for the supplied Guide Book. This A6 booklet is small enough to be an obvious target for the Borrowers – that noted family of Impish creatures who move our possessions around. Fortunately there is an electronic version which can be accessed by pressing the Help button to access relevant information about many topics.
The MDR-240 is power conscious. When in standby mode the unit uses 1.5W and 3.9W when in operation. Furthermore if the set top box is accidentally left on then it will automatically switch to standby mode at 3.30am if you have turned on the Auto standby setting
TVonics has obviously opted to concentrate on performance rather than looks with this product. Picture quality is good and there is a quick response to the commands from the remote control. Expect to pay £40.00 for the TVonics MDR-240.
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