VIDEO CAMERA 1995

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

STARCK CHOICE

 

INTRO

Designer jeans, designer stubble, now thereís a designer video recorder, and guess what, itís a Ferguson...

 

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The Ďdesignerí tag is not exactly unknown on consumer electronics products, in fact we can think of numerous examples of over-priced and usually over-rated hi-fi components and systems, but no VCRs, until now that is. Mind you, it was bound to happen one day, itís just that we didnít expect a mainstream manufacturer like Ferguson to be the first to do it.

 

The designer behind the FV88 is Frenchman Philippe Starck, his biog says heís designed everything, from a toothbrush to a building complex in Japan, so how did he make out with a video recorder? Well, Ďinterestingí is the first word that springs to mind, a few other less flattering ones, come later... It would seem Ferguson didnít go so far as to allow Monsieur Starck to mess around with the innards, itís a fairly uncontroversial blend of familiar features. Itís a stereo hi-fi machine with NICAM sound, a Video Plus+ timer and programme delivery control (PDC), multi-speed replay, on screen display, auto repeat and play and index search.intro scan. Ferguson have fitted their clever satellite control system to the FV88, itís linked in with the Video Plus+ system, and a built-in infra-red remote controller. Once the Pluscode for the programe to be recorded has been entered into the remote, the VCR beams out a series of command signals from a small window on top of the machine. The commands activate a nearby satellite receiver (most popular brands are covered), switching it on, and selecting the right channel, for the duration of the programme, whilst the VCR makes a recording. Itís not really an edit deck as such but thereís a couple of items to interest movie-makers, including a manual recording level control, front-mounted AV terminal, and a syncro-start socket.

 

Burglars and neíer-do-wells are advised this VCR has an electronic identity tagging system that allows the user to enter a 10-digit security code into the machineís memory. If it is stolen, and subsequently recovered, it can be positively identified, providing the owner bothered to set a code. Fergusonís famous interactive on-screen display makes most routine operations very easy indeed, even the initial set-up is a breeze with the FV88ís Auto-Install feature. All it takes are a couple of button presses and the machine sorts out the tuning and clock-setting, it will even check the time for you, against the teletext time signal, at 7am every morning.  

 

Back on the outside Phillips Starck and his design team have certainly been busy. Broadly speaking it is a plain, sharp-cornered, grey box. The front panel is very sparse, the top half is almost featureless, aside from a row of eight tiny illuminated buttons. The lower half contains a black panel, covering the main display. Itís the sort of thing that would blend in easily with modern furniture and decor, especially if it has also been designed by Starck... Behind the front-panel flap thereís the tape hatch, if you can spot it against the grey on grey livery, and another series of buttons. This is not the friendliest VCR weíve ever seen. Itís not without its good points, though, and the recording level Ďmetersí on the display panel are quite eye-catching.

 

Now we come to the remote control handset. More words spring to mind, like nightmare and daft... Itís a sort of thick tapering stick, so it rolls well on flat surfaces. Thereís a few buttons on the top end that are reasonably easy to distinguish, but all of the important tape transport controls are consigned to a series of identically-shaped thin buttons and the labelling is such that you cannot easily tell them apart in normal room lighting.

 

IN USE

Providing you can learn to live with the odd ergonomics itís actually a quite docile machine. The auto-install feature should be a big hit with technophobes. Once it has been plumbed in, and the TV tuned to the video channel (it even helps with that), a couple of button presses gets it to set the tuner and enter the time and date. The timer is a doddle too, thanks to Video Plus+, and if you habitually record programmes on Channel 4 you might even find the PDC system earns its keep by automatically correcting for late schedule changes.

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution on our early sample just topped 240-lines, not exactly a record but the low noise levels meant the picture looked reasonably crisp and detailed. Colours were bright and well defined, so no problems there. Trick-frame facilities are very good, and even though it hasnít got many editing facilities it will give a good account of itself as a record deck, with clean, glitch-free assemble edits.

 

Off air NICAM sound is rich and detailed, with minimal background hiss. The stereo soundtracks are quite good too, with a wide dynamic rangeand average noise levels. The manual recording level control, although accessed by the on-screen display, is a bonus for those who take ther sound quality seriously, though the auto level control is fairly efficient.

 

VERDICT

Ferguson have sensibly avoided the temptation to load the price for the designer tag. The FV88 is a reasonably well-specified stereo mid-ranger, though £500 is about as much as you would want to pay for it. If you find the cosmetics and air of exclusivity attractive then itís probably an even better deal. Personally weíre indifferent about the VCR styling, the fact that the cosmetics have taken over is not a big problem, or at least it shouldnít be because all functions can be controlled from the remote handset. However, the one supplied with the FV88 is a minor disaster area and we predict even the most fashion-consious owners will end up cursing whoever designed it...

 

VCR SPECS

Make/model                         Ferguson FV88

Tape format         VHS

Guide price                      £500

 

TAPE DECK

Max playing time            8-hours (E-240 tape LP mode)

Timer                               8-events, 365-days

Remote control                full function

 

VIDEO

System                             PAL SP/LP, HQ

Replay speeds          still, variable slomo, x 2, x 5, x7 (both directions)             

Main facilities

Slow motion          yes  

Multi-speed           yes   

Insert edit:          no     

Jog/shuttle          no

On-screen display          yes   

Videoplus          yes

Index search          yes   

Intro Scan          yes

Instant timer          yes   

LCD remote          no     

PDC timer          yes   

Repeat play          yes

Record search          no     

NTSC replay          yes

Quasi S-VHS replay          no     

Auto play          yes

Auto head cleaner          no     

 

Additional facilities

electronic identity tag, auto-install, record repeat, satellite compatible Video Plus+ timer

 

AUDIO      

Stereo Hi-Fi          yes   

Audio dub          no     

Man level control          yes   

Level display          yes

NICAM sound          yes   

Line output          yes   

H/phone level control          no     

     

GENERAL

Sockets

Front AV terminal          yes   

Edit terminal           no

Microphone          no     

Headphones          no

SCART          twin  

Syncro edit          yes

 

Dimensions (mm)          441 x 316 x 97

Weight (kg)          4.8

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution         240-lines

Colour fidelity         good

Trick play stability         good

Colour bleed         none

Audio performance         good

Edit functions         fair

        

VC RATINGS

Value for money         8

Ease of use         7

Performance         8

Features         8

---end---

R.Maybury 1994  1312

 


 

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