In a few years the heady days of analogue will be over, and we'll all be forced to watch TV via digital. That's all well and good if you have a state-of-the-art flat panel TV with a built-in digital tuner. But there are still a vast number of TVs in the country that don't have a digital receiver, and throwing all these old sets away would be an environmental catastrophe -- not to mention a stupid waste of money.
The solution is to adapt your existing TV into one that can accept a digital signal, and the TVonics MFR-300 will do exactly that. It's tiny -- about the size of two decks of cards -- so you can just chuck it behind the TV and forget about it. It plugs into your coax aerial socket, so it doesn't use up a Scart port. And you get a remote receiver on an extension cable that you place somewhere on the TV with a sticky pad, so the box doesn't need to be in direct line-of-sight of the remote.
At least part of the target audience for this product is older people, who may not know or care about digital TV, but who will be very cross come switchover if they can't watch Emmerdale and Countdown. With them in mind, the box is simple, has a remote with large, easy to press buttons and even includes audio description for people with limited sight.
In fact, the features of the MFR-300 are reasonably impressive. It supports interactive services (aka 'the red button'), and does so with a speed that's rare on such a simple device. There's an eight-day programme guide and it supports widescreen TVs. That might sound like an unlikely bonus, but there are a surprising number of analogue widescreen TVs knocking around in the UK, so it's likely to interest some.
TVonics is claiming that at 1.5W in standby, it's energy efficient. We'd dispute that -- in fact, for such a small device, we think 1.5W is rather a lot of juice to drink when it's supposed to be off.
For us, the only real sticking point is the price -- £50 is a bit much, considering how cheap Freeview receivers are these days. TVonics has anticipated this complaint, and has announced a stripped-down version. Known as the MFR-200, it loses Audio Description support and the remote extender, but costs £10 less.
However you look at it, as an install and forget device, you'll struggle to find anything as compact and easy to use as this. So it's very likely to appeal to quite a large number of people with older TVs who aren't ready to chuck them just yet. –Ian Morris