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SONY SLV-SE700/£157

Apart from the slightly tiresome application of the word 'Smart' to just about every aspect of the SLV-SE700's operation it is actually very civilised and well appointed, budget-priced (for Sony that is…) home cinema VCR. The styling is functional but uninspired; there is a black version, which we think looks a lot better though for some bizarre reason it appears to cost £10 more…


In addition to NICAM and stereo hi-fi sound it has all of the usual convenience features, like auto installation, Video Plus+ with PDC and so on, plus a fair assortment of extras. They include a tape library facility, multi-brand TV remote, multi-speed replay, a personal ID code (in case it is pinched), super quick rewind and a couple of picture enhancements. In fact the only things separating this machine from mid-range VCRs is the absence of any satellite recording facility and things like front-mounted AV input sockets, otherwise it ranks as a very well specified machine.


The SE700's Smart Search tape library system automatically logs the date, time and channel number of every recording the machine makes (up to 24 per tape) and it stores the information inside the VCR. It's quite basic and unlike a lot of rival systems it doesn't list the name of the programme, or whether you've watched it or not, for example, but it does have a useful blank space remaining indicator and it is a great deal simpler to use and it doesn't cost anything, unlike Sony's ill-fated Smart File system, which recorded programme details on microchips embedded in tape cassette spine labels that sold for just under £1 a throw…


Trick play options are brief and to the point. There are two picture search speeds, 2x and around 10x normal speed (in both directions), forward and reverse slow motion, still frame and frame advance, but when it comes down to it what more do you need? The only small quibble concerns the fact that the slomo and 2x fast play buttons are hidden away under a flap on the remote handset, which we'll come back to in a moment.


The picture facilities mentioned a moment ago are Optimum Picture Control (OPC), which is a tape tuning system that adjusts the machine's recording and playback circuitry according to the type of tape used, and the wackily-named Reality Generator. This is a sophisticated picture sharpness control that sharpens up the picture on replay, but without introducing the sort of harshness that blights a lot of other machines.


SmartLink takes care of channel tuning in a trice when the machine is connected by SCART cable to compatible SmartLink.MegaLogic/EasyLink/Qlink/NextViewLink TVs, otherwise auto installation is slow but steady, our sample took a little over three minutes to tune and sort all five terrestrial broadcasts and to set time and date. The 'Flash Rewind' is quite quick and it makes a most impressive noise, a bit like a jet aircraft taking off, but with a rewind time for an E-180 of 60 seconds it's not the fastest by any means. The remote handset is mostly good, the buttons are a decent size and well spaced, but there's a little flap at the top hiding some secondary controls, which has a habit of coming off in your hand if you're not careful.


It's hard to say what impact the Reality Generator has since it can only be switched between 'high' and 'normal' but overall picture quality is very good, one of the best we've seen lately, as far as replaying pre-recoded tapes. Our reference tapes and copies of movies like Robocop and Star Wars never looked better with clean colours and very little noise. Trick play is smooth though it's not always possible to eliminate jitter on recordings made on other machines. The stereo soundtracks are wide and clean with no more than average levels of background hiss.


An impeccable pedigree, above average facilities and performance and it's good value too, check it out!


Verdict 5


Sony (0990) 111999, www.sony.co.uk



Overall              5

Picture Quality            5

Sound Quality            4

Features                       4

Ease of Use                  4

Build Quality                  5

Value for Money            5



AV performance and a useful selection of convenience features and facilities



None really, but watch out for the fly-away handset flap


Rival Buys

Aiwa HV-FX5100 £160

JVC HR-J680, £160

Panasonic NV-FJ610 £175



'..the only things separating this machine from mid-range VCRs is the absence of satellite recording and things like front-mounted AV input sockets..'



MAKE/MODEL            SONY SLV-SE700

£                                  £157


VERDICT                      *****

COMMENTS            Excellent performance, good selection of features, great value

NTSC                            yes

SAT CONT                    no

SCARTS                       2

COMP OUT                   no

AUD IN                         no

ISSUE                          90



Ó R. Maybury 2001, 0803



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