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HITACHI VT-FX980, £260

VERDICT *****

 

Whyís it here: When Hitachi launched the VT-FX880 late last year about the only thing we could find to grumble about was the LCD front panel display. It was then, and still is a classic home cinema VCR. Quite honestly, apart from changing the display itís hard to see how Hitachi could improve on it, but it has, with the recently launched VT-FX980. To all intents and purposes it is a FX880 with a few cosmetic tweaks here and there, but the most significant change is the price and the FX980 costs around £80 less than the launch price of its predecessor.

 

Any unique features: No, everything is pretty much as it was with the FX880 with the brilliant Commercial Advance system that skips through ad breaks at high speed during playback and thereís Hitachiís sophisticated Tape Navigation library system. A spin-off from Tape Navigation is a Closed Caption or MovieText subtitle reader (itís not as useful as Teletext subtitle display record and display on similarly equipped Panasonic VCRs though). Its home cinema credentials also include satellite control, a multi-brand TV remote, tape tuning and multi-speed replay. Camcorder owners benefit from front-mounted AV sockets, audio and video dubbing plus a dubious Syncro Edit feature, that on closer inspection turns out to be a manual system that uses the remote control and only works with two compatible Hitachi VCRs.

 

How does it perform: If anything resolution is a notch up on the FX880 with our sample managing a full 250-lines and thatís about as good as it gets on VHS. Colours are sharp and cleanly defined, picture noise on good quality HG tape is well suppressed and trick play is steady at all speeds. The stereo hi-fi soundtracks have a wide and flat response, noise levels are no worse than average. Commercial Advance is a joy to behold and it works on ITV and C4 without a hitch. Sadly none of the other channels have the required brief interruptions in transmission at the start and end of ad breaks, that the VCR uses as a trigger to drop in and out of high-speed picture search.

 

Our Verdict: The FX980 would be worth buying just for Commercial Advance facility but the fact that it has so many other convenience features Ė some of them genuinely useful Ė the very reasonable price and the above average AV performance puts this machine firmly back in contention as one of the most desirable home cinema VCRs.

 

Hitachi 0345 581455, www.hitachitv.com

 

UP CLOSE

 

Features            NICAM, stereo hi-fi sound, Video+ timer with PDC, auto installation, NTSC  playback, satellite control, multi-speed replay, Commercial Advance, video and audio dub, Tape Navigation library system, Closed Caption/MovieText  subtitle display, tape tuning, multi-brand TV remote 

           

Sockets            2 x SCART AV in/out, stereo line out (phono), RF bypass (coaxial. Front: AV in (phono)   

           

Dimensions            430 x 93 x 276mm     

 

Rival Buys        

Panasonic SL-FJ710, £270

Sony SLV-SE800, £250

Thomson VTH-6080, £225

 

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R. Maybury 2000, 0308

 

 

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