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BUDGET SATELLITE RECEIVER

 

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PACE MSS-200-1

 

INTRO

Once again Pace set the standard for Astra receivers with the MSS-200, the newly arrived replacement for the PRD-800

 

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IN THE FAST-CHANGING and often unsettled world of satellite television Pace have been a little island of stability, churning out a succession of  well designed receivers over the past dozen or so years. Pace receivers are normally reliable, usually easy to use, sometimes innovative, moreover they generally perform well and are sensibly priced. The MSS-200 has got a lot to live up to then, more so as itís a replacement for the very popular PRD800 which has already become something of a design classic in STV circles. The MSS-200 looks quite different to its predecessor, this has altogether more conservative cosmetics, bland even, almost indistinguishable from a score or so other black boxes.

 

The front panel is divided into three sections. The left third has a covered card slot, the moulding suggests there could be a version with twin card slots somewhere down the line; the centre section is blank apart from four buttons, for channel up/down,  pay-to-view authourisation and power on/standby. The right hand panel houses the three-digit channel mode and status display, plus the infra-red receptor. Around the back thereís a fairly standard assortment of socketry, including three SCART connectors, a pair of phonos carrying the stereo line-audio output, a single LNB F-connector and the aerial in and out sockets. The RF output is adjusted from the set-up menu, itís set to channel 38 by default.

 

All operations are controlled from a menu-driven on-screen display. The initial set-up routine is very straightforward, in most installations the only thing you need to mess around with is the  time and date setting. The tuner is factory set for all current Astra channels, plus those that will be used by 1D; the LNB menu can be configured to work with a range of LNBs, including wideband, dual-band, DBS and Telecom models. Virtually all tuning parameters can be customised, channels can be re-allocated and re-named, and thereís a search facility for those who want to do a little exploring;  a compatible positioner is available.

 

The on-screen display is fairly easy to use, and read; the background colour can even be changed, plus thereís a contrast control and plain background option. In addition to the more exotic user-adjustments for tuning and audio modes (mono, stereo, frequency, radio blanking, de-enphasis -- J17, 50 or 75uS -- and bandwidth) there are pre-settable bass and treble tone controls, and volume. Settings can be stored, either globally, for all channels, or as one of four user-defined sound Ďshapesí. It has a parental lock, protected by a 4-digit PIN, which can lock out any selected channel and disable menus; it should be sufficient to discourage most determined juvenile hackers, just remember to cut out the part in the instructions, about how to reset the PIN....

 

Two other interesting features of the on-screen display are a simple help feature, available on most menus, and an unsusual favoutite channel selection. This one is different, instead of a bank of pre-set channels the MSS-200 has all of its channels ready sorted in to eight subject categories (films, sport, news, light entertainment, etc). All the user has to do is pick the kind of programme they want from the favoutrite menu, then choose the specific channel from the list that appears on the screen. The selections can be altered but this is definitely a sit down and read the instruction book sort of job. To round off the features the receiver has an 8-event/28-day VCR timer, sleep timer and provision to download the program memory to another receiver, handy if it develops a fault.

 

We would have been concerned if the picture performance was not up to Paceís normal high standard. Sensitivity was very good with no sparklies on troublesome channels like UK Gold. Colours were accurate and well defined with noise only visible on highly saturated reds. Overall picture noise levels were very low. Sound quality from the Wegner/Panda 1 decoder was good too, very little in the way of background hiss, the volume and tone controls are a welcome bonus.

 

Pace appear to have adopted an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary approach with this receiver, which isnít dramatically different to PRD-800 in general specification. Nevertheless it looks and feels like a new receiver and once again sets a benchmark for others to beat.

 

DATA BOX

PRICE -- £230 (with 60cm dish)

FEATURES -- Astra receiver/decoder, 199 channel memory (1-64 pre-tuned to Astras1A, 1B, 1C and 1D, 65 to 105 assigned to radio channels); menu-driven on-screen display; built-in Videocrypt decoder; Wegner stereo/Panda 1 NR;  sleep timer; variable bass and treble; audio presets; favourite channel selection; 8-event/28-day VCR timer; parental lock

 

PROS -- flexible, easy to use, good performance

CONS -- single card slot and LNB input

 

Pace Telephone (0274) 53200

 

RATINGS

Performance                  9

Looks                           8

Ease of use                   9

Features                       8

Value                            8

Total                      42/50

 

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R. Maybury 1994 1609

 

 

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