back to article TVonics MFR-300 micro digital TV set-top box

Thousands of Brits are going to find their analogue TVs incapable of picking up a signal come 2012. Clearly, that doesn't concern too many of us, since we're still buying plenty of analogue tellies. This situation may have got Parliament in a panic but plenty of punters know all they need to go digital is to pick up a set-top …

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Anonymous Coward

ONDigital

So except for the audio description and the size of the box, it does exactly the same as my 4 year old ex-ONDigital freeview box?

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oh, that looks....nice....

melted mega-drive anyone?

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Bit expensive but would do great for my Grandma

My Grandma still hasn't switched to digital. At 92 she's a bit of a technophobe but given clear instructions she's able to use her DVD player to watch her Daniel O'Donnel DVDs.

Something like this would probably do her well. Her TV has a Scart socket but unless she could get a Freeview box which automatically switched the TV to Scart when the TV was turned on she'd probably have trouble working it out (okay maybe all of them do that when wired up to scart properly, I just haven't tried a box on her telly yet).

With regards to AC's comment on the OnDigital box, I'd agree, they're probably as cheap as chips on eBay, and they have the added advantage of a top-up TV compatible slot and they can convert anything with a scart connection to RF just like a video recorder can.

Rob

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re: ONDigital

Indeed, those old OnDigital boxes have both Aerial and SCART sockets. They're slow as hell at changing channels and rendering interactive content though.

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Stu
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Its NOT hard to beat...

...even those crappy £20 boxes from Tesco have a better pic quality than this lump.

Your priorities seem reversed - I dont care whether it sits under my telly or not, what I do care about is picture quality because thats what you have to live with day in day out.

I bought a LaserKey CL850 Laser projection keyboard for work the other day from our innovation budget. A FAR more interesting thing to be reviewed than a Digital TV tuner!

Bought it from Maplins, check it out, its great fun to use, if not a little niche, difficult to find a practical use for, but at least when wired it presents itself as a USB HID keyboard and mouse. Yes, mouse!

Review that instead.

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ONDigital

Ummm, ONDigital became ITV Digital seven years ago, and ITV Digital went into administration a year after that. So your 4 year old box is many more than 4 years old.

That all said, I'm still quite happy with my near-decade old ONDigital box. Channel changes are slow, the text services it can run are unusably tedious and it just point blank refuses some of the services on non-BBC channels, but it shows a good picture and gets all the channels.

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40 quid?

TVonics stuff is always solid, perhaps a bit unremarkable and, as is the case here, overpriced compared to the competition.

No thanks.

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Arcade box

A few years ago there were rumours that TVonics had licensed an embedded version of the old Sparcade emulator and were set to start putting arcade games on their boxes. A mate of mine claims to have seen a demo and said it was pretty damn spiffy.

Sounded great... what happened?

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Stop saying overpriced!

Look, people: this unit is NOT overpriced.

Time was every AV device had an RF modulator for it's output -- VCRs, home computers, games consoles -- but it was always an expensive component. Direct, unmodulated AV was superior, so an "easy sell". The cost of including it was a couple of RCA/phono jacks -- practically nothing.

Now that most of the TVs in the country have phono and/or SCART inputs, so modulators aren't needed. That's one of the reasons DVD players and set-top boxes are so cheap -- no modulator.

Now, by removing the modulator from the majority of consumer equipment, you switch off the old economy of scale -- what was once a commodity component, yet still pricey, is now a specialist component, hence pricier.

You can get an external modulator from Maplins for £30, but adding a seperate set-top box is going to bring it up to £50 -- more than this.

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@Rob Beard

Yes, a properly wired SCART would put Granny's TV on AV1 or whatever ...

... what I did for my mother was that *and* I wired the settop box through the aerial as well and tuned channel 1 to the settop box ... (I put BBC1 on a different channel number) so that if the TV started up and the SCART hadn't done its thing, my mother knew she just needed to press channel 1 to get the settop box stuff displaying ...

... actually, once I realised you could do it, on her TV you can set a channel button to pick an AV input instead, so channel 6 is set to give her the SCART AV1 input for the settop box, and channel 7 is set to give her the SCART AV2 input (with the DVD player on it).

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Just bought one from John Lewis

I've got a little LCD TV in the kitchen which only has an aerial input, we go digital only next year, so I'd resigned myself to buying a new TV, well over £100 for even the cheapest in Maplin.

This tiny box of tricks has just saved me £60, it's easy to set up, has all the interactive services (a feature missing from some of the really cheap boxes) and the picture quality is OK on a 7" widescreen TV, even the teletext is readable (well, as long as your within a few feet of the screen)

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Anonymous Coward

7 Channel Tuner

Whats needed for the not so you and the ardent technophobe is a freeview box that inserts the main 5 or 6 or 7 channels into the normal rf signal. The same way analogue tv and analogue cable tv does it. Then there wont be no granny arguments then....

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Re: Stop saying overpriced

Sorry mate, you're talking utter rubbish.

As a private customer, I can buy a modulator for £1.50 from a reseller. TVonics will be sourcing them direct in bulk, probably for less than 50 pence each.

An external modulator in a pretty box with connectors and power supply is not the same thing as a component to be built into a product.

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Emo
Coat

OnDigital

Ah I remember a stint of selling er I mean giving away the free boxes, with the obligatory subscription of course!

Mines the black OnDigital bomber jacket, stuffed in the wardrobe with the free 'demo' card with all channels enabled ;p

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Re: Stop saying overpriced!

So you use Maplins to prove your point, Hahaha. Is there anyone else in the high street that sells cheap gadget tat for more?

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But .....

How many tellies without SCART sockets are actually still out there? It's been a legal requirement since ..... well, longer ago than any TV set is supposed to last.

Anyway, you're never going to get a decent picture via an RF connection. That's why DVD players don't have RF out. Even a cheap VHS recorder produces a noticeably better picture via a SCART connection

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Re:7 Channel Tuner

This is what you want. Not cheap though, about £400 I think, but hardly surprising since it contains multiple receivers and modulators. It's designed for hotel use, so that the hotel doesn't have to replace hundreds of analogue TVs. A domestic version could probably be develped more cheaply, but it's unlikely to be worthwhile.

http://multibox.se/6t/

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Unhappy

If only..

I remember a few years back now, when the phrase LCD TV wasn't even in consumer vocabulary, and plasmas were something that cost in excess of a couple of grand, that almost all CRT TVs being sold came with DVB (i.e. what are now Freeview) tuners built in. If only they'd kept selling them as such, we wouldn't have such a problem now, but clearly they decided to scrap that when separate set-top-boxes came out. Just seems a bit backwards to me.

@Stu

You seem to be missing the point of this review, and this device. Clearly, this product is not aimed at people like you, or indeed myself.

The general target audience of this device aren't bothered about quality, as clearly they do not have a TV with a SCART, and have no interest in upgrading to one that does. However I can imagine they probably do want something that's discreet, and doesn't take up any more space than required, so hiding it on the back of the TV is ideal.

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Unhappy

Grannies wont get it

Back when they turned off the old 405 line analogue signal they claimed the switch over to 625 line was a sucess as only a couple of people complained. Well it wasn't quite the case.

When I was a toddler we used to go round to travel to granny's once or twice a year. We'd put the TV on but I could never watch kiddies TV (which I think just consisted of Playschool back then) in the morning, because it was on BBC2 and unknown to her at that time it was a 405 line set and BBC2 was only broadcast on 625 line.

The next year granny apologised that we couldn't watch TV as it had broken, and was just displaying static. What actually happened was they'd switched off 405 line signal, and the set was working, but now as much use as chocolate teapot. She didn't realise this, and didn't watch the TV that much anyway, so didn't want to complain.

The same thing will probably happen with my mother in 2 years time when analogue is switched off. She wouldn't have a clue that one of these boxes are needed, and wouldn't want to fiddle around with the aerial lead anyway. She wont have to as I bought her a digital ready LCD when the last set stopped working, but it needs an aerial upgrade as the existing loft one doesn't pick up any digital MUXs despite having a good analogue signal.

If its left to her she probably wont do it before the signal is switched off, and I will find her sitting there knitting in the dark, because she didn't want to complain.

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Another eWaste in 6 months

Who is really considering keeping their tellys pre-Scart to the digital generation? Why not a freeview box with VGA output, so we can recycle all those quality PC monitors that are still working, but unused?

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Stop

Legal requirements.

SCART is a standard, not a legal requirement. There was nothing to stop you selling a SCART-less telly apart from the inconvenient fact that you weren't likely to sell any as anything the purchaser wanted to plug into it would most likely have a SCART lead on it.

Past tense there as I'm sure that SCART-less boxes will show up soon as HDMI takes over.

Sorry, but this one's touched a nerve. I spend waaay too much time trying to seperate the real legal requirements (i.e. it's required to do this by law) from the fake ones (i.e. we want it to do this but we can't justify it.)

Incidently, removing the RF modulator from DVDs and such is less to do with saving money and more about getting pissed off with explaining to Joe Public why their DVD doesn't look any better than their VCR did and that all their hard work in wading through the RF tuning instructions was a waste of time.

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re"Stop saying overpriced! "

(This is just a blatant AOL "Me Too!!") It cost me £60 to get a box from Maplin to convert the signal and a cheap Freeview box with separate audio out (I like running the telly output in to the HiFi).

Instead of the four and bit channels I was used to in a rural area the cheap Freeview box grabbed the lot and with a great picture.

Saved buying another telly with a decent picture - much better than a cheap 'digital' ie Freeview-equipped telly.

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The price is wrong

Nice idea, but is it really worth £40 to keep a telly going, that's so old it doesn't have a SCART socket? My mum's telly is early 1990s, but does have SCART. I expect most folks will go out and buy a new Freeview-tuner TV, once they're widely available and analog TV in their area is about to be turned off. At £15 they'd sell a lot better.

BTW the hidden cost of digital TV that they are keeping quiet about, is that something like 80% of old TV aerials won't hack it. This will surprise and upset a lot of grannies.

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Re: The price is wrong

"80% of old TV aerials"

Actually, in many regions, the original analogue channel groups will be used for digital after the switchoff. This coupled with a power boost means that no aerial upgrade will be necessary. In fact, many who've bought high gain aerials will probably see their picture disappear when the transmitter power goes up. Whilst the tech savy will realise they just need to fit an attenuator, I'm sure there will be a lot of aerial installers who suck air between their teeth and say, "you need a new aerial mate, give me 200 quid".

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Anonymous Coward

"the original analogue channel groups will be used for digital"

That may well be, and will certainly be appreciated by many. However, it will be a gamble, buying digital gear on mere trust that it will receive. No wonder they are phasing the switch-over, so that the people the state generally doesn't care about as much get screwed over first.

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