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GRUNDIG PA3 Tower Hi-Fi System £1099.99 (£998.99 with black finish)

 

INTRO

Prepare for a shock. Safe, sensible Auntie Grundig lifts her skirts to reveal something quite outrageous...

 

COPY

The Germans were clearly wise to ban imports of British beef, but it looks as though it came too late for the poor souls working in Grundigís design studio. Before tragedy struck they seem to have been working on a monolithic, one-piece hi-fi system. It appears to have started out as an attempt to create an audio system with full-bodied stereo soundfield, but without using outboard speakers. Who can say what theyíve finished up with? The only explanation we can think of is that senior management, discovering what had been going on, decided to brazen it out, slap on a hefty price ticket, and pass it off as an avant-garde design exercise.

 

The bizarre mixture of style motifs conjures up a variety of strange images, including the fins on a 50ís Caddilac, Flash Gordonís rocket and Grace Jones in a space suite... Inside the box thereís a fairly sensible assortment of mini hi-fi components, like a 7-disc CD autochanger, AM/FM tuner with 59 station presets and RDS channel display, plus a single auto-reverse cassette deck. The bottom half of the tower is taken up with a meaty sub-woofer. The main drive units and angled tweeters are mounted in what Grundig call an acoustic tube, that slots into a recess on the back of the tower. The whole caboodle is controlled from a wacky round remote that has to be used two-handed. Now thereís an innovation.

 

The first thing you hear when you switch it on -- on our sample at least -- was an annoying mains-hum. The CD autochanger does a fair job of drowning it out, thatís if you can figure out the controls. Donít loose the instruction manual or youíre sunk! The other two source components work reasonably well too, but everything hinges on those speakers. Bass performance is most impressive, and the overall tone is pleasantly mellow but the soundfield is quite diffuse and it tends to lack clear focus.

 

VERDICT

Well, it is different, and after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If it was left up to the ear of the beholder then weíd have to say £1100 is rather a lot to pay for a middle of the road hi-fi system but then weíd guess audio performance will be a secondary consideration for anyone buying a PA3

 

Features: 7-disc CD autochanger, auto-reverse cassette deck, AM/FM  RDS tuner with 59 station memory, 125 disc title memory, 70 track memory, Dolby B NR, music search, CD copy facility, extended bass,  3 sound presets (Jazz, disco, vocal)

Sockets: stereo line in/out (phono), AM/FM antennas, headphone (minijack)

Dimensions: 650 x 1200 x 465mm

Grundig International Ltd, telephone (01788) 577155

 

VALUE FOR MONEY            70%

 

COMPETITORS

You must be joking... but how about:

Sony SA-VA55

Akura Coke Can

 

HEAD

Casio QV-10BC, £800

 

INTRO

Still photography moves into the digital age with this cute little silicon-chip snapper from Casio

 

COPY

Still video cameras have been around for more than a decade but theyíve had little impact on the photographic market, and then only in specialist applications. They include news gathering, commercial and industrial imaging, where the facility to download images into computers, or squirt pictures down telephone lines, is considered useful. The Casio QV10 is also very clearly aimed at PC owners -- thereís a lot more of them about these days -- and with the growing popularity of the Internet and desktop publishing, theyíre hoping  it will find a ready market as a low-cost image capture device.

 

The QV10 is quite unlike other still video cameras. Itís no larger than a compact 35mm film camera, and itís the first one to have a built-in LCD screen. This acts as a viewfinder, and can be used for replaying recorded images on the spot. They can be displayed singly or in groups of 4 or 9 miniature sub-screens. It has just one output, intended for a Windows PC or Apple Mac via the PCís serial interface. Casio are hinting at future model with a PAL video output, that can be connected to an ordinary TV, but thatís still some way off. The camera uses JPEG compression to store up to 96 images on a 16 megabyte flash RAM.

 

Itís exceptionally easy to use,  just frame the shot and press the shutter button. The camera module is mounted on a swivel, that can be turned to face the user; the image is automatically inverted. Exposure is fully automatic -- it also has a manual override, to make the picture lighter or darker -- and a macro setting, for  extreme close-ups. The camera comes with QV Link software (for PC and Mac) plus interface cables, allowing images to be transferred to a PCís hard disc as Bitmap or Tiff files. They can be shown on the screen, incorporated into documents, Internet Web pages or manipulated using software applications. Colours are fairly lifelike but the picture is quite grainy, compared with photographic film.

 

VERDICT   

The QV10 is not meant as an alternative to conventional still cameras, itís a specialist computer peripheral for capturing images, that can be processed by computer, in that context it works very well. Photographic film will be around for a while yet, but this neat little digital camera provides an intriguing glimpse of things to come.

 

Features: 16Mb storage for up to 96 images or Ďpagesí, multiple display formats, F2/f= 5.2mm lens, 1/5th inch CCD (250k pixels), aperture priority auto exposure, manual override (-2EV to +2EV), auto shutter (1/8th to 1/4000th second), auto white balance, 10-second self-timer, 45mm LCD screen, powered by 4 x AA cells (120 min battery life), supplied with QV Link software (PC and Mac), serial interface cable and soft carry case

Sockets:            DC in, digital data output (minijack)

Dimensions:             130 x 66 x 40mm

Casio UK, telephone 0181-450 9131

 

VALUE FOR MONEY            85%

 

COMPETITORS

Canon PowerShot 600, £800, not tested

Chinon ES1000, US$ 500, not tested (not yet available in the UK)

Kodak DC 40, £1000, not tested

 

 

HEAD

Goldstar GPi 1200 Cdi Player, £1300

 

INTRO

CD-i takes to the streets again, this time with Goldstarís portable laptop player

 

COPY

The prolonged and somewhat uneasy genesis of DVD has tended to overshadow the steady development of  CDi (CD interactive) as a convenient, low-cost disc-based medium for moving video and sound. Although CDi will have difficulty competing with DVD as a carrier for feature-length movies, it has found a useful niche as a training and presentation tool, which is  precisely the application Philips targeted last year with their CDi-370 laptop player. Now Goldstar have weighed in with the GPi-1200 portable CDi player. It has all of the facilities of itís grown-up cousins, including full-motion video playback, CD quality audio plus a set of interactive controls.

 

The key to its portability is a fold-up 5.5-inch LCD colour screen and re-chargeable battery pack. It can be used anywhere, though it also has video (composite and S-Video) and audio outputs, for connection to both PAL and NTSC televisions or monitors. The player can handle a variety of other formats besides CD-i, including CD-DA, CD+Graphics, Photo CD, CD-i Digital Video and Video CD, moreover it supports standard CD-i pointing devices, keyboards and it can be connected to a PC via a serial interface port. The controls are grouped together on top of the disc cover; in addition to the normal transport keys thereís a simple cursor control and two function buttons.

 

In spite of the limited resolution and viewing angle of the LCD screen the picture is surprisingly good, itís particularly effective with coloured graphics, and the screen is large enough to be seen by two or three people at once. Moving video is fairly smooth, rapid movement or complex shapes throws up a few digital artefacts and these tend to be exaggerated by the LCD, but on a normal TV screen picture quality is comparable with a mains-powered deck. The built-in stereo speakers are rather tinny, and not terribly loud, but theyíre fine for speech. To hear it properly the sound needs to be piped through a TV or hi-fi system.  

 

VERDICT

Although itís possible to watch a Video CD movie on the small screen itís not very satisfactory. CD-i games fare a little better, though the on-board cursor control is not very responsive. The product is geared towards CD-i training and marketing material, and there it succeeds brilliantly, mainly by virtue of its portability and flexibility.

 

Features: supported formats include CD-i, CD-DA, Photo CD, CD-i Digital Video, CD+ Graphics, Video CD, 5.6-inch TFT colour LCD screen, PAL/NTSC video, 2MB system RAM, nickel metal hydride battery (approx. 1.5 hour running time), built-in

stereo speakers, supplied with power supply/ charger, AV cables.

Sockets: composite video and stereo audio output (phono), S-Video out (mini DIN), ports 1 & 2 (8-pin mini DIN), headphone (minijack), DC power in & AV in (mini DIN)

Dimensions:             190 x 172 x 70mm

LG Electronics UK Ltd., telephone (01753) 500400

 

VALUE FOR MONEY            80%

 

COMPETITORS

Philips Cdi-370, £1250, not tested

Philips CDi-210DVC, £350, HE7 80%

Philips Cdi-470, £400, not tested

 

---end---

” R. Maybury 1996, 0204

 

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