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HEAD

SVC 1000 CCTV SYSTEM,  from £385 (control unit & camera)****

 

Why’s it here: There’s a lot of villains about, that’s why! You have a one in five chance of being burgled at some time in your life; you can improve those odds considerably by taking a few security precautions. Strong locks and an intruder alarm are good place to start, but if you want to go one step further, CCTV is a proven deterrent and a good source of evidence. However, cameras and security video recorders, that record continuously for several weeks are prohibitively expensive. Homeguard turns any VCR into a surveillance machine, a 3-hour VHS tape can last months, keeping watch on your home while you’re away.

 

Any unique features: The whole thing is unique. Homeguard is a British invention, and it’s designed to work with any VCR that has infra-red remote control. The SVC 1000 control box connects to the VCR and TV by SCART leads. There’s connections for up to four cameras. Two types are available, based around miniature ‘board’ cameras, fitted inside a door-bell casing, or a security floodlight, with a movement sensor. When the sensor is triggered (or the door-bell pressed), the control unit sends out a stream of infra-red commands, to set the VCR recording the image from the relevant camera, with a superimposed time and date stamp. A few seconds after the ‘event’ is over, it switches the VCR back to stop mode. In monitor mode the system can be set to sequence through the connected cameras.

 

How does it perform: Programming the SVC 1000 takes a few minutes, it needs to learn IR commands from the VCRs remote handset. The on-screen display system is a bit crude, but persevere and you get there in the end. Cameras are pre-wired with 25 metres of cable, terminated with DIN plugs (remember them...), and there’s a trigger connection for a external house alarm. The system can be used with a range of black and white or colour cameras, the monochrome models work well in poor light and resolution is very good, approaching 350 lines. Colour cameras are fitted with a microphone, so the VCR records sound, as well as pictures. The doorbell camera has IR illuminators, so it can ‘see’ a callers face at night. Camera switching is a bit jumpy, but that’s to be expected on a non-genlocked system.  

 

Our Verdict: Ingenious! Home CCTV systems have been proving very successful but without some means of recording images, they’re of limited use, if you’re not there to monitor the picture. Homeguard solves that problem and turns almost any domestic VCR into a sophisticated multi-camera surveillance system.

 

Homeguard CCTV System

 

Features                     SVC 1000 4-camera control unit and sequencer with alarm interface and learning VCR remote control (£235), black and white outdoor cameras with motion sensor (£150), colour outdoor cameras with motion sensor and microphone (£380), door-bell cameras (£130)

Sockets                       2 x SCART AV, fully wired loop-through, cameras and alarm interface (5 x DIN), IR wand (minijack)

Dimensions                 300 x 65 x 240 (SVC 1000)

 

Picture Quality            ****

Build Quality              ***

Features                     ****

Ease of use                 ***

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors

A big dog                    £300 plus £20 a week for food

Security patrol  £100 a day

Nosy neighbours             free...

 

European Electronic Controls, telephone (01708) 670988

 

HEAD

NOKIA SAT 800 S IRD, £180 (£220 with 60cm dish) ****

 

Why’s it here: The SAT 800 receiver has been around for quite a while, since mid 1984 in fact. Nokia have clearly decided it’s in need of an upgrade, though from the outside at least not a lot has changed. As far as we can see the only difference is some new labelling on the front and rear panels. Internally there have been some improvements, mostly to the operating software. The price has also been revised, it’s down from £250 to £220, with a 60cm dish, or on its own for £180.

 

Any unique features: The sharply styled front panel is still very eye-catching; the smart-card slot is cleverly hidden in the fascia’s shut-line, though it becomes fairly obvious when a card is inserted. Unlike models with covered flaps, cards can be vulnerable, especially with kids around. The tuner has a 320 channel memory, with 18 favourite channel selections, that’s enough to cope with present and future analogue broadcasts. The receiver is factory programmed with 199 TV channels, and 121 radio stations. One new feature is DiSEqC, which allows the receiver to control up to four LNBs, using an optional external switching module.  There’s been a few other changes, the timer now operates over 4-weeks (the original SAT 800 had a 14 day capacity) and the picture brightness adjustment seems to have disappeared.

 

How does it perform: On screen performance is little changed from its predecessor. Colours are clean and well defined, noise levels are very low, possibly a little lower than before; suffice it to say, with a strong signal picture quality is about as good as you’ll get on a mid-range receiver, and it stays looking good longer, when conditions deteriorate. Panda noise reduction is effective, background hiss levels are well below average; the response is very clean and Dolby soundtracks come through the system clean and intact.

 

Our Verdict: Hand on heart we couldn’t see much difference between this receiver and the one it is replacing. It’s a shame really, Nokia could have been just a little bolder, even revamping the cosmetics would have made it a bit more interesting. The handful of extra facilities add little to what was already a very competent, well-specified product. Whatever. It’s cheaper now, performance is at least as good as before and there’s a couple of extra bells and whistles. You can’t argue with that!   

 

NOKIA SAT 800 S IRD

 

Features                     320 channel memory, 18 favourite programmes, 32 audio modes, Wegner Panda 1 noise reduction, parental lock, 4-event/31-day timer, on-screen displays

Sockets                       3 x SCART AV, line audio out (phono), dish input (F-Connector), RF bypass (coax)

Dimensions                 380 x 240 x 62mm

 

Picture Quality            ****

Sound Quality            ****

Build Quality              ****

Features                     ****

Ease of use                 ****

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors

Grundig GRD 300      £220

Pace MSS 290      £230

 

Nokia Consumer Electronics, telephone (01793) 644223

 

HEAD

MITSUBISHI HS-761 NICAM VCR, £TBA (definitely less than £400...)

 

Why’s it here: Stand still in the VCR  business for more than five minutes, and you’re dead! Mitsubishi know that better than most, following a rather lean patch a few years ago. Lately they’ve had some really hot machines, at very competitive prices. The 761 is their latest NICAM mid-ranger, but the price is likely to be closer to a lot of other manufacturers entry-level stereo VCRs. It’s not just another re-vamp or upgrade, there’s several new features, and a completely re-designed remote handset.

 

Any unique features: Not so much unique, but ‘Excellent Picture’ is a new slant on some old favourites. It’s four picture improvement systems rolled into one, bringing together on the menu display, tape optimisation, rental playback, manual picture controls for adjusting sharpness, noise reduction and detail enhancement, plus improved copying facilities. However, the 761 is more likely to sell on its generous range of convenience features, which includes satellite control, a multi-brand TV remote, NTSC replay, audio dub, front mounted AV sockets plus a full set of trick play functions. The tape optimiser is rather unusual, instead of simply adjusting its replay and recording circuitry to suit the grade of tape, it gives a visual assessment of the tape, using a bar-graph, graduated from low, to high; this takes around 4 seconds to appear. Rental mode has three settings, with colour, sharpness and noise reduction pre-set for movies, animation or sports material.

 

How does it perform: Definitely one of Mitsubishi’s best efforts to date. If the picture quality on our early production sample is anything to go by then this machine will easily qualify as a home cinema component. Resolution is almost spot on 250 lines, and that’s good for a VCR in this price bracket, however, it’s the very low levels of  noise that give the picture an extra sparkle, especially on live, off-air recordings, which look very clean indeed. The picture controls are well worth having, though it’s rarely necessary to move them from their default settings. The tape optimiser is surprisingly astute and was able to correctly discriminate between a selection of new and used tapes, getting the grading right about 90% of the time.  The hi-fi soundtracks and NICAM are fine, noise levels are about average, the response is flat and largely uncoloured.

 

Our Verdict: Once again Mitsubishi are setting the pace in mid-range VCRs, the others are going to have a tough time keeping up with this one. In addition to being a good all-round performer, the list of extras is almost unheard of on a sub £400 VCR.

 

MITSUBISHI HS-761

 

Features                     NICAM, stereo hi-fi, Video Plus+ timer with PDC, satellite control, NTSC replay, multi-speed replay, multi-brand remote, ‘excellent’ picture tape optimisation, repeat play, index search, rental mode, parental lock, audio dub

Sockets                       2 x SCART AV, front AV in (phono), line audio out (phono), satellite control (minijack)

Dimensions                 380 x 92 x 311mm

 

Picture Quality            *****

Sound Quality            ****

Build Quality              ****

Features                     *****

Ease of use                 ***

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors

Akai VS-G735   £380

Philips VR6557            £370

Sharp VC-M60    £360

 

Mitsubishi Electric, telephone (01707) 276100

 

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1997, 3101

 

 

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