Many Freeview adapters allow you to record the channel you're tuned to using a VCR or DVD recorder. If they have an aerial loopthrough you can record a digital channel while watching another channel on your TV.
But what if your TV only has an analogue tuner and you want to record one Freeview channel while watching another?
Meet the Gemini – a dual-tuner Freeview adapter that aims to do away with the need to upgrade your analogue-only VCR or DVD recorder before switchover day.
Of course, you could plump for a dual-tuner Freeview PVR instead, but then not everyone is prepared to make the step into hi-tech recording just yet and, in any case, the Gemini is a lot cheaper than your average PVR.
The Gemini actually resembles a PVR more than a conventional zapper box in size and shape, and has a reasonably sturdy build that doesn't betray its price. We particularly like the large green LED display which displays the number of the channel we're watching.
Alongside this are separate buttons for 'OK' and 'menu' and a circular button pad for general menu navigation. There is no CI slot.
The remote has an off -the-shelf feel to it but remains intuitive enough for controlling what is a relatively basic receiver, although its buttons are generally on the small side and those for the EPG and switching between TV and radio could be more prominently placed.
The busy rear panel sports four UHF connectors with the included loop cable joining two together, plus a separate aerial input and TV/VCR out connector.
Alongside this are two Scarts, composite video and S-video outputs, and stereo phonos and coaxial and optical digital audio outs. There's also a power-saving on/off switch.
The Gemini made reasonably short work of tuning in all Freeview channels in our test area. The blue menu system is no looker, but finding what you want is pretty easy.
You can re-sort the main channel list and re-name channels using an onscreen keyboard. A maximum of 10 re- nameable favourites lists can be created for TV and radio.
The EPG displays the currently showing channel in the top right alongside a synopsis with a programme grid underneath displaying scrollable information for five channels at a time up to seven days in advance.
Recording Now-and-next information is accessed by pressing 'info' while watching a channel, and you can view synopses of what's on other channels too.
Recording of TV or radio programmes is handled by connecting the Gemini's VCR Scart to your recorder but it's a shame that, unlike its RGB TV counterpart, this only outputs in composite.
There are two ways to record. Instant recording involves switching the Gemini to the channel you want and pressing the AB button which outputs that tuner for the recorder to 'see'. Then switch your recorder over to the Scart input you've connected the Gemini to, and press record, leaving you free to turn to another channel on the Gemini.
Alternatively, there's an eight-event timer that can be set from the EPG and has once, daily, weekly, Mon-Fri and Mon-Sat repeat settings, with the option to record subtitles.
This needs to be set in sync with the timer on your recorder. Both methods worked well in conjunction with our Panasonic DMR-EX88 DVD/HDD combi.
The Gemini didn't exactly push the SD capabilities of our mid-range 32in LG5000 LCD TV; pictures looked a little soft and slightly blocky across the board.
Composite pictures from the VCR Scart were smeary- looking compared with those from the RGB TV Scart, which inevitably carried down to recordings.
We recommend sticking to the optimal quality settings on your recorder. Picture issues aside, the Gemini is easy to use and reasonably priced. But if you want greater flexibility buy a PVR.